STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Pharmacy alumni, faculty and students join forces to help provide COVID-19 vaccinations to local communities.
For more than a year now, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundations of our businesses, our classrooms and our lives at home. Though the arrival of vaccine shipments to pharmacies has ushered in a new era of hope and relief, the task of administering to populations statewide has presented a daunting challenge, running the gamut of logistical and economic complications.
Thankfully, the collaborative efforts of alumni, faculty and students from the UW School of Pharmacy have helped curb these challenges, resulting in effective, efficient vaccination clinics and programs.
A primary reason for this success, according to Don Downing, ’75, UWSOP clinical professor, is that we’ve been equipped to meet this moment thanks to careful preparation and the seed of an idea that was planted more than two decades ago.
“Years ago, we noticed there were so many under-immunized communities in Washington state,” he said. “So, in 1996 we created a model and a training program that has not only impacted Washington, but has resonated all over the world.”
One program from that initiative that Don helped pioneer, Operation Immunization, has for the past 20 years provided influenza, hepatitis and other vaccines to homeless communities in King County and other nearby counties. Now, Operation Immunization feels not only timely, but tailor-made for the era of COVID. The program’s success during the pandemic has resulted in an increased interest from community pharmacies to invite SOP students to help with COVID vaccinations.
“The UW School of Pharmacy, in collaboration with the WSPA, initiated the first pharmacist-as- immunizers training program in the United States in 1996.”
-Don Downing, ’75
“Word has spread and demand has been growing – Don and I get at least 1-2 requests per week,” said Peggy Odegard, ’85, ’90, UWSOP’s associate dean, professional pharmacy education. “From the beginning, the SOP has always nurtured a culture of innovation, and Operation Immunization is one piece of many pieces that shows we’re at the forefront of pharmacy programs.”
Peggy says the success of recent COVID immunizations not only helps pharmacists understand advocacy, but also deepens and enhances their perspectives on medical care.
“There is an intimacy, sitting there with someone,” she said. “They’re next to you, and you can answer their questions, or encourage them to seek out other providers. It’s an example of what we like to emphasize at the School: proactive care, as opposed to reactive care.”
Kendra Nguyen, a PY3 SOP student and current Director of Operation Immunization, has played a pivotal role in the success of the program during the pandemic.
“This outreach experience has resulted in the School taking a leading role at the UW in coordinating student volunteers from our medical, nursing, pharmacy, social work, public health and dentistry schools,” she said. “We’ve responded to many requests for COVID-19 vaccination support that are coming in from hospitals, pharmacies, public health departments, and congregate care communities. It’s a great opportunity for students to actively contribute to our local communities while maximizing their pharmacy licenses.”
ALUMNI LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Over the last several months, in an effort to lighten an increasingly heavy workload, many statewide pharmacies operated and staffed by SOP alumni have reached out to the School for student assistance.
For Vy Cao, PY3 PharmD student who volunteered at vaccination clinics hosted by Kelley-Ross Clinical Pharmacy in Seattle, the experience not only helped bring clarity to her role as a pharmacist, but also connected her to a new network of experienced professionals and mentors.
“My experience volunteering made it even clearer to me how, as a pharmacist, I can really contribute to making a positive change and contribute to improving the public health,” she said. “Pharmacists are able to support the team effort, advocate for their patients and profession, lead impactful projects, and therefore have an irreplaceable role in the health care team.”
Kelley-Ross CEO Ryan Oftebro, ‘03, praised students for their willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work, wherever needed. “These clinics have been one of the highlights of my career,” he said. “I am particularly proud of our UW pharmacy students, without whom these clinics would not have been possible. They jumped in wherever they were needed and displayed the caring, competence and professionalism that will ensure the successful future of pharmacy.”
Kelley-Ross volunteer Uyen Nguyen, another PY3 PharmD student, believes her hands-on, immersive experience helped instill a newfound confidence in her growth as a young professional.
On the Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy vaccination efforts.
“The experience not only helped me build confidence in what I’ve learned at UW, but also enhanced my abilities in applying my skills in a real-world setting,” she said. “It was so rewarding. I feel that I made an impact in my community with the skills and knowledge I’ve worked so hard to acquire. The challenges that I’ve overcome during this time will most certainly be a positive achievement that I can look back on.”
For many students, volunteering in smaller Washington communities, like Tulalip, affords a unique opportunity to get closer to local culture and its customs, and serves as a reminder that the role of a pharmacist expands far beyond technical know-how.
“As a future pharmacist, this experience has reaffirmed my desire to help people and ensure their well-being,” said Camille Nguyen, a PY3 PharmD student. “It also has shown the full span of what pharmacists do – not only providing drug recommendations and monitoring for drug interactions, but also providing preventative care. It was great to be a part of that environment and see the excitement from patients as they received their vaccines, knowing they are protecting themselves and others.”
For Camille’s fellow UWSOP student and Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy volunteer, Diep Ngo, the impetus for volunteering hit close to home.
“Personally, I have people in my life that are a little more prone to COVID,” she revealed, “so knowing that I can actually help out in the community – and the people around me – is great.”
Jane Jacobson,’02, a Tulalip pharmacist and clinical instructor at UWSOP, had nothing but praise for the student volunteers.
“Because we use the Operation Immunization team for our flu clinics, we already had a joint effort,” she said. “As soon as we got some vaccine in and knew we were going to do some clinics, we reached out to SOP students for help. We love having pharmacy students, and they’ve been great.”
In addition to providing technical expertise, Jane noted that the student volunteers were also equipped with excellent communication skills – a sometimes unsung gift in the pharmacy field.
“All the students that have been sent to us are very personable,” she said. “They get along well and do a great job of explaining information to the patients.”
“It’s definitely a win-win. Anyone who can use students in their clinics, should. It’s a bonus.”
Invara Pharmacy: An Education In Partnership
Earlier this year, a team at Invara Pharmacy in Sultan, WA., led by owner and pharmacist Simeon Roth, ‘17, was confronted with a herculean challenge: vaccinating the staff of an entire school system. Thankfully, Simeon had great partners on hand to accomplish the goal, including Dan Chaplik, superintendent of the Sultan School District. According to Dan, Simeon and his team went above and beyond to accommodate his staff in March, hosting two separate clinics for employees. “The Sultan School District is thankful for the opportunity to have partnered with Invara Pharmacy to hold these clinics for our employees,” he said. “School district staff raved about the ease and professionalism demonstrated by their volunteers.”
Simeon and his team worked very close with Superintendent Chaplik to coordinate special clinics tailored specifically for the school district. “We have administered almost 1,500 vaccines since March 3,” said Simeon, “and we were able to provide the COVID vaccine to roughly 115 Sultan school district staff members with both vaccine doses by Early April. It has been a huge success.”
JENNY ARNOLD NAMED WSPA CEO
When Jenny Arnold, ’06, the recently appointed CEO of the Washington State Pharmacy Association, first joined the WSPA years ago, another pandemic – H1N1 – was making its presence felt. Jenny says that experience has helped equip the WSPA to deal with the rigors of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A big difference with this pandemic is WSPA and the pharmacy community had in place strong relationships with our state and local public health leaders,” she said. “COVID-19 made us re-think how we connect with members, and the pharmacy community.”
This commitment to connection began with good old-fashioned communication.
“We implemented WSPA Town Hall calls, which have been great forums to hear breaking news, COVID-19 developments, and DOH updates,” she noted. “I am excited for these calls to continue every other Wed, and they are available as a podcast afterwards so that all pharmacy professionals can access them.”
Since the announcement of her new role, Jenny has been celebrated for being the first woman CEO in the association’s history, but she has a more eloquent and contemporary assessment of the accomplishment.
“I’ve been congratulated on breaking the glass ceiling, but honestly I don’t see it that way,” she said. “For me, it just makes sense that women lead in our profession. “In addition to me, we have Lauren Lyles at the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission too, and countless women in pharmacy leadership in health systems, chains, within our schools and as owners of pharmacies who have been friends and mentors.
“It just makes sense a woman can lead the WSPA too!”
2021 UW School of Pharmacy Endowments
In grateful recognition of our pharmacy community’s generosity, we are pleased to share with you four new endowments for 2021:
The Kelley-Ross Endowed Student Support Fund:
Donor: Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group
Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group values community-centered pharmacy innovations and a drive to improve patient care. This gift was created to provide broad-based support for students enrolled in the SOP’s PharmD Program.
The Stergachis PharmD/MBA Student Fund:
Donors: JoAnn and Andy Stergachis, PhD, BPHARM
This gift will be used to create an endowed student support fund to provide broad-based support to students enrolled in the SOP’s PharmD/MBA program.
The Devine Family Endowed Fund for CHOICE Institute Graduate Students:
Donor: Beth Devine, ‘01
This fund was created to provide support to graduate students enrolled in the SOP’s CHOICE Institute. It is intended to create a more diverse academic community and support aspiring women researchers and scientists within CHOICE.
The Sorenson Endowment for Innovation and Excellence:
Donor: Estate of Art Sorenson
This gift support emerging areas of innovation, excellence and impact in the School of Pharmacy.
Building a Culture of Compassion
One semblance of a silver lining in the wake of the pandemic has been a renewed commitment to collaborative community service. Washington State House Representative My-Linh Thai, ‘92, an SOP alumna and passionate education advocate, knows firsthand the power and necessity for this kind of community investment, and why it’s so important now, more than ever.
The first refugee elected to serve in the Washington State House of Representatives, Rep. Thai immigrated from Vietnam to the Pacific Northwest with her family when she was 15, and her passion for strengthening communities is in her DNA, having been inspired by her experiences growing up with her grandparents.
“My grandfather was an avid gardener, growing fruit trees and varieties of vegetables, and it was common practice for neighbors to visit and take what they needed,” she remembers. “I was his helper, and spent my day shadowing him and listening to his conversations with people. I learned how a small community came together when a member in that community needed help. My grandfather’s stories, whether completely made up or historically based, were always about commitment to compassion and generosity.”
From her childhood in Vietnam to her experience as a student at the SOP – to her current role as a prominent and influential leader in our state – Rep. Thai still navigates both her professional and personal life with her grandparents’ community-first philosophies in mind. This cultural compassion is particularly integral to her work with the underprivileged and underseen, whose voices are not heard nearly enough.
“Success is achieved by many hands and hearts,” she said. “Some are seen and known, most are unseen and unknown. “I share my story to highlight the fact that as a refugee who had nothing, with the investment and support from the community, that refugees are not a burden, but are active and important contributors to our community.”
A LEADER IN THE MAKING
UWSOP’s Leticia Salvador Vieira named one of six 2021-22 Magnuson Scholar Award recipients.
Congratulations to the Department of Pharmaceutics’ Letícia Salvador Vieira for being named the UW School of Pharmacy’s 2021-22 Magnuson Scholar Award recipient. Each year, the scholarship is awarded to six outstanding students nominated by each of the Health Sciences Schools.
“I am extremely grateful to have been selected as a Magnuson Scholar,” she said. “This award provides me with a unique funding opportunity and boosts my self-confidence in completing my PhD research.”
Also a Levy Endowed Fellow – a graduate fund created by Pharmaceutics Emeritus Department Chair, René Levy – Leticia was nominated on the basis of outstanding academic performance and potential contributions to research in the health sciences.
“Letícia has a natural talent in leadership,” said Joanne Wang, Professor of Pharmaceutics. “She is extremely talented, self-driven and passionate about research. She takes pride and ownership on her thesis research and always stays on top of her academic work and research projects.”
A native of Rio Claro, Brazil, Letícia studied Pharmacy and Biochemistry at the University of São Paulo. During her undergraduate study, she was awarded a scholarship at UC Davis where she worked on drug delivery research. In 2018, she was recruited to the University of Washington’s PhD program, where she began studying drug transporters, a rapidly emerging and promising field that has gained more attention from researchers and regulatory agencies.
After obtaining her PhD, Letícia aspires to become both a leader in pharmaceutical research and a mentor for other students.
“My goal is to contribute to the discovery and development of safer and more effective drugs to treat human diseases,” she said. “This is an incredible opportunity for my professional development, and I hope to be an active advocate for academia and industry partnership, acting as a future mentor and tutor for students in pharmaceutical sciences.”
For 48 years, Joy Plein was the heart of the UW School of Pharmacy. Here are some memories from a few friends and colleagues Joy touched throughout her journey.
Laura Hart, ‘14, ’17:
Dr. Joy Plein had a profound and immeasurable impact on my life, both professionally and personally, as a dear mentor and friend. In addition to being an inspiration to me in all she had done to advance the field of geriatric pharmacy, Joy was continuously one of my greatest supporters and advocates. I would not be where I am today in my career if it weren’t for the incredible influence that Joy had on me. I will continuously strive to honor Joy’s legacy as a pioneer in geriatric pharmacy, as well as her kindness, passion, tenacity, and humility.
Beth Devine, ‘01:
Beyond being a quintessential professional with an unparalleled commitment to clinical practice, and to our students, Joy was a fine human being. She was a pioneer, role model, and leader. She was kind and compassionate; generous of spirit in every sense of the word. Joy was thoughtful and caring; a loyal and true friend. Joy was a loyal Husky football fan, fun-loving and adventurous, and a great conversationalist. She was brave, cheerful and persevering in the face of adversity. She loved her family and friends dearly and touched so many of our lives with her unwaveringly cheerful spirit. We now have the privilege of carrying out her legacy. Joy lives on in each of our hearts.
David Bailey, ‘70:
During my early training with the Pleins, Joy asked me to be her teaching assistant in the pharmacotherapeutics course for nursing and dental hygienists. As I remember, I gave a couple of the lectures which stimulated an interest in teaching which was to carry through my entire career. When it came time to write my thesis Joy and her red pencil completed my sentence fragments, joined them in succinct paragraphs and pages of somewhat literate
understanding of my research work. In short she taught me how to write.
Karan Dawson, ‘70, ‘78:
Joy was a teacher, mentor, colleague and friend for me for 43 years. One of the highlights of my career was her invitation to assist with the development and implementation of the geriatric certificate program, which she went on to further extend through the creation of the Plein Center and various endowments. Joy was a powerhouse of vision paired with gentle and persistent determination. Her influence , service, thoughtfulness, and love can’t be adequately captured by words. She had to be experienced.
Originally published Spring 2021