Pharmacy student serves Navajo Nation

sara angioneAbove: Sara Angione (left) with members of the Indian Health Service team at the Pinion Health Center. (Photo courtesy of Sara Angione)

By Dan Landau and Madinah Muhammad

Fourth-year pharmacy students in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences complete a series of five-week rotations in clinical settings. In what’s known as Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) courses, students apply their knowledge and skills, developed over years as doctoral candidates, in hospitals, community pharmacies and more.

Sara Angione completed her APPE Ambulatory Care rotation earlier this semester in Pinon, Ariz., with the Indian Health Service at the Pinon Health Center from February 6 through March 10.

FDU: Why did you choose to do this “alternative” Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotation?

Sara Angione: I really wanted to experience something that a ‘traditional’ rotational setting would not provide. This rotation gave me the opportunity to experience the unique culture of the Navajo people — the second largest Native American tribe in the United States. I came to appreciate their hospitality and kindness. I was able to relate to the challenges they face as a people. Overall, it was a humbling and educational experience.

FDU: How did you find out about the job?

SA: I sought out an opportunity that would allow me to have a challenging experience and develop me as a future pharmacist. I knew that I wanted to work with the Navajo population, so I did a lot of research prior to my fourth year by contacting various preceptors [instructors] within Indian Health Services (IHS). I expressed my keen interest in pursuing a rotational placement in my final year with the IHS. I continued to follow up with potential preceptors who were interested in having me as a student for an upcoming APPE rotation.

FDU: What did your job entail?

SA: The Pinon Health Center houses an outpatient clinic, dentistry, ophthalmology, physical therapy, counseling, and nutrition and dietetics services, and traditional medical care. During my rotation, I counseled patients everyday on discharge medications and completed medication management therapy (MTM) for patients with uncontrolled diabetes. I completed presentations and topic discussions for pharmacists at the Pinon Health Center. I also educated the nursing staff on rheumatoid arthritis and presented a final project to the medical staff on inaccurately diagnosed patients receiving a Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drug (DMARD) or biologic for rheumatoid arthritis.

FDU: What did you learn throughout your rotation?

I am so glad that I decided to go to Pinon Health Center (PHC) to complete my ambulatory care rotation! I have taken away so many great skills that I will utilize as a future pharmacist. This rotation was challenging, but allowed me to obtain valuable experience that focused on patient care.

This site had so many components that were unlike any other rotation. I was able to get an understanding of Navajo culture and understand the unique aspects of unity and camaraderie among the healthcare staff.

FDU: Who was most influential throughout this experience?

SA: Jeffrey Goldstein and Karen Eisenbiegler were great preceptors who gave me the opportunity to develop my communication with patients during counseling and MTM sessions. Goldstein was attentive, approachable and helped me with any concerns I had. Without his ongoing support and positive attitude, this rotation would not have been possible. He took the time and initiative to find opportunities and experiences for me outside the pharmacy to learn more about Navajo culture.

Eisenbiegler helped me develop a deeper understanding of  how to put the patient first. She taught me how to interact with patients so they look forward to returning to the pharmacy and speaking with a pharmacist. Eisenbiegler also helped me understand the impact of teamwork within the pharmacy. She is a team player with a cheerful attitude who welcomes staff members and patients alike.