Published June 4, 2018
Students from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart’s STEM Honors Cohort were awarded first place in the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s (AACP) 2018 Pharm4Me Innovation Challenge.
The Pharm4Me Innovation Challenge is a nationwide competition where high school and college pharmacy students work together to identify medication or health-related problems in their communities and create innovative solutions to solve them. Teams are critiqued on innovation, presentation, relevance and accessibility.
The UB and Sacred Heart team received the top prize for OpiEducate, an initiative that seeks to prevent opioid abuse and addiction through education.
The students will be honored at the 2018 AACP Annual Meeting on July 21, in Boston. Sacred Heart will also receive a $1,000 prize to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.
“The Innovation Challenge gave our students the opportunity to promote health and wellness through prevention, intervention and educational strategies for individuals and communities. These are essential learning objectives for our PharmD curriculum, which our group’s high school students were able to observe firsthand,” says Robert Wahler, team faculty adviser and clinical assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Adds Sacred Heart Head of School Jennifer Demert: “The young women who participated had an excellent experience and learned not only about the opioid epidemic in Western New York, but also how to work as part of a team to complete this impressive project. We are grateful to Pharm4Me and UB for offering this opportunity.”
The collaborative initiative OpiEducate serves as a resource for students across the country to promote opioid awareness. The program includes public service announcements, downloadable posters and brochures, educational quizzes and guidelines for hosting health fairs, all of which are made available on the OpiEducate website and social media accounts.
To gauge the effectiveness of the program, the team tested the use of OpiEducate materials at a Sacred Heart health fair. Students completed surveys on their knowledge of opioids before and after the fair.
Prior to the event, 47 percent of students were unfamiliar with opioids. After the health fair, every student understood what opioids are, what they are used for, how addiction occurs and the pharmacist’s role in opioid education.
UB hopes the program is adopted by other schools seeking to increase opioid awareness, says Wahler, who was joined by Jennifer Rosenberg, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences associate dean, as a faculty adviser.
Sacred Heart student Gianna DiPasquale is taking what she learned from the experience one step further. “Next year, I hope to start a club at my school that raises awareness for the issues that society faces today, including the opioid epidemic,” she says.
The Pharm4Me Innovation Challenge is part of Pharmacy is Right for Me, an AACP program that aims to stimulate interest in pharmacy careers among high school students to meet the growing demand for pharmacy and health care professionals.