HSOP Students Make Impact at Mobile Clinic

USA Student-Run Free Clinic assists the under-served in the Mobile area

Pharmacy student speaks with a patient while a medical student looks on HSOP Class of 2019 member Paige Trawick speaks with a patient at the USA Student-Run Free Clinic.

December 7, 2017

AUBURN, Alabama – The Harrison School of Pharmacy’s curriculum emphasizes problem solving and teamwork. Three years ago, a group of first-year students on HSOP’s Mobile campus had a problem and got together in one of the school’s team rooms to discuss.

After seeing the work being done by other HSOP students at Equal Access Birmingham, a student-run free clinic where pharmacy students partner with medical students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the group wondered if something would be possible in Mobile. The students, led by Class of 2018 members Anthony Todd, Frankie Hoffman, Austin Cook, and Josh Francis, reached out to friends in other health disciplines and the foundation was laid for what became the University of South Alabama Student-Run Free Clinic.

RELATED: Photos from the Clinic | USA Student-Run Free Clinic on Facebook

Originally housed at the 15 Place homeless shelter in Mobile, the organization recently moved to a larger space at The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama, located on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile. The clinic, which includes students from several different healthcare disciplines, is open every Friday from 12 – 4:30 p.m.

Patients that come through the clinic often are homeless or are entered in one of the recovery programs offered through the Salvation Army.

“It is important for us to help this specific population because they don’t have access and they don’t have the type of insurance that is going to provide them with all their medical needs,” said Paige Trawick, a member of HSOP’s Class of 2019. “They can’t always afford to go to the hospital to get their procedures done and get medication. We can work with the patient and tell them about resources to assist all their healthcare needs without showing up at hospitals and being rejected, or going to some expensive clinic where they will have to pay out of pocket and can’t afford.”

Collaboration and teamwork are major themes in the clinic with students across several disciplines participating. Patients walking into the clinic could encounter students pursuing pharmacy, medicine, nursing, audiology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral health, social work, recreational therapy, and others.

“We are each a part of the puzzle. If a patient comes in and they have a cardiac issue, that med student can listen to their heart, they can figure things out that a pharmacist wouldn’t know, or a nursing student wouldn’t know,” said Trawick. “Sometimes they don’t always know what medications are best because certain disciplines may focus on other things that pharmacists went to school for. It really helps us solve the problem as a whole, instead of looking at just a piece of a problem that a patient has.”

Students look over information on clipboard while faculty member observes Class of 2018 member Josh Francis (left) looks over information with a medical student while Dr. Nicole Slater observes.

For Josh Francis, one of the original students who helped establish the clinic, that teamwork was a big motivator in bringing everyone together.

“This is where healthcare is moving. Healthcare is moving to where a patient is going to have to be managed by several different people,” said Francis. “We just had a patient who had a sprained ankle, and that was treated by a physician determining if it is broken, then the physical therapist discussed it, nurses managed the treatment, pharmacy was there for medication management. So, when you look at the illness, or chronic management, there are several different disciplines involved in everyday life and this is a good representation.”

His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Nicole Slater, an assistant professor with HSOP who serves as a faculty advisor for the clinic.

“I think it is really important because if you look at any career in pharmacy, you are going to be interacting with other healthcare professionals, particularly these days, it is going a lot more clinical-based, a lot more team-based, more patient-centered care,” said Slater. “You are getting a team of healthcare professionals that is taking care of a person, and that is the way healthcare is moving. It is important for students to be able to see that and learn how to work in that environment while they are in school so that when they get out, it is so easy for them to fit right in.”

Slater gets to see the students at work each week, but she also has the opportunity to see them later on, applying some of the principles they learn in the clinic.

“One thing I have noticed, especially with the pharmacy students I have had on my rotation this year, several were ones that started this clinic as P1s. Those students who have been in the clinic and working with other disciplines, not only are they doing fabulous working with other professionals as far as communication and collaboration, they also have been the best at counseling and educating patients,” said Slater. “Some of them are above and beyond a P4-expected level when you are talking about counseling and education, so that has been awesome.”

She also sees how the students are changing the perception of a pharmacist among the other healthcare disciplines they work with.

“I have amazing feedback from faculty that are in other disciplines that have nothing but good things to say about the pharmacy students and how they are teaching students from other health professions how to counsel and educate patients on their medications and how to approach a patient with proper questioning,” said Slater. “I think it is good for them to see that side of it, but also that pharmacists don’t just stand behind a counter and count pills. There is a lot more to it and this is a great way for students to build the relationships and recognize that from early on.”

Students hold a group meeting in a hallway Students from various healthcare disciplines meet in the hallway prior to visiting patients.

Having been there from the start, Francis has seen similar growth among the pharmacy students at the clinic and how others learn from them. With graduation just around the corner, he is also excited to see how the role of pharmacy continues to grow in the clinic.

“From the beginning, pharmacy has really had to define our role within the team. I think that is similar to pharmacy in general, that we are kind of isolated of all we do is fill medications,” said Francis. “We have really had to educate the other professions on what we can do, show them that we can take blood pressure, take blood glucose, measurements, counsel patients, a lot of other stuff, and once we were able to demonstrate that, what they are doing now is a lot more clinical than I would have ever imagined.

“I know the original group that started this, the goal was to get an interdisciplinary team all working together, and it is really neat to see how far we’ve gotten. We have room to grow, this is a huge step in getting here, but if we can get to a point where we have some type of medications available to further use out skills here in sort of a dispensing role. But, now, to see the teamwork between everybody is great and to see how every single discipline functions within the team as equals is great.”


About the Harrison School of Pharmacy

Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

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Last Updated: December 7, 2017