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Diabetes-Education Project Honored for Community Impact

Project CHANCE 2014At the UW Medical Center Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute event on January 16th, a UW School of Pharmacy project will receive a Community Volunteer Recognition Award. The award-winning project is a diabetes-education program for homeless and low-income populations at UW Medicine Harborview Medical Center. It has been led by pharmacy students Paige Mathew, John Eckstrom and Steve Erickson (pictured in that order at left), pharmacy faculty members Nanci Murphy and Skye McKennon DeCato and multiple community partners.

This diabetes-education project kicked off in spring 2011 after then-first-year student Erickson and Associate Dean Murphy successfully secured a $10,000 Project CHANCE award from the American Pharmacists Association to implement a diabetes-care program. Project CHANCE awards help fund projects that work to promote safe medication practices and interprofessional collaboration and delivery of services to the underserved.

The UW Project CHANCE team recognized that homeless and low-income patients face additional difficulties when trying to manage their health within the constraints of unpredictable living and eating situations. So the team set out to offer diabetes-education programs tailored specifically to the needs of these populations.

Since 2011, the Project CHANCE team has worked with an interdisciplinary group of practitioners familiar with the needs of homeless and low-income patients to develop a tailored diabetes curriculum. The team implemented twice-weekly diabetes education sessions at the Jefferson Terrace Medical Respite Program/Edward Thomas House located near Harborview. The Thomas House provides recuperative care for homeless men and women who are too sick for the streets or shelters but not sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.

Session topics included "The Highs and Lows of Diabetes," "Eating and Diabetes" and "Understanding Your Medicines." The response to the education sessions has been overwhelmingly positive. The number of attendees has increased each week since the start of the program. Participants consistently rate the program as excellent. The participants' healthcare providers have also remarked that the program is having a positive impact.

Members of the Project CHANCE team plan to continue to expand their health education efforts for the homeless and low-income patients. For starters, they will be offering new education sessions focused on tobacco cessation and pain education, at the request of program participants. The team members will also be working on further engaging UW health sciences students and faculty as well as continuing their efforts to study the effectiveness of their programming.

Multiple UW health sciences students and faculty have contributed to this project along the way. Currently, other key team members on this project are Pioneer Square Clinic pharmacists Mary Kelly, Joong Kim and Elaine Pappas; Edward Thomas House manager and nurse Tamera Stone; UW Master of Health Administration student Tiffany Young; and Harborview nurse and diabetes educator Karen Adler.

The UW Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Volunteer Recognition Award is honoring Project CHANCE for being an example of a successful community-based project that exemplifies a commitment to community service. For PharmD student Steve Erickson, who will graduate this June, winning this award for a project he helped found as a first-year student is quite meaningful.

"It’s been wonderful to work with so many passionate healthcare students and practitioners over the years of this project," said Erickson. "My hope is that recognition of the team's efforts by this award will not only fuel the growth and continual improvement of the project, but will also inspire other students and practitioners to develop and sustain new community outreach and education initiatives when they see a need."

Erickson noted that his favorite part of this project has been getting to know the patients, hearing their stories and being able to be a resource to people who don’t often have the chance to participate in health-education programs. He and several of the other team members will be on hand to accept the Martin Luther King Award at the UW Medical Center tribute which takes place annually in the UW Magnuson Health Sciences Center.

~January 14, 2014