37 million people in the United States report some degree of hearing loss, but it is a health issue that first-year pharmacy student Rebeca Corominas gave little thought to prior to her team’s research assignment in a Pharmacy and Population Health course.
“You don’t think about the struggles that people with a disability face every day,” Corominas said.
After two weeks of studying the topic, Corominas and her team of six, joined more than 40 other teams of first-year students at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy in presenting research posters aimed at improving population health. UF pharmacy students examined health disparities afflicting a variety of sometimes underserved groups, including the homeless, refugees, blind and prisoners.
“The teams are asked to focus on underserved populations to gain a greater depth of knowledge about the health of a group of people they probably would not otherwise learn about, and learn a framework for engaging similar underserved populations in their future practice,” said Steven Smith, Pharm.D., Pharm.D., M.P.H., a clinical assistant professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research and co-instructor of the Pharmacy and Population Health course. “The exercise also provides students the opportunity to learn broadly about all of the special populations that other teams studied and begin thinking creatively about ways that pharmacists can expand beyond traditional pharmacy roles.”
The poster session challenged pharmacy students to expand their knowledge of population health and the role pharmacists play in assisting these underserved people every day. For Christine Molina, a first-year student from Miami and a member of Corominas’ team, the more she learned about deafness, the more she was motivated to help.
“I want to learn basic sign language,” Molina said. “As a pharmacist, I may one day encounter a deaf person, and I want to be able to communicate with them about their medications.”
Molina said her group was surprised to learn that the deaf population often struggles with high rates of smoking, mental health issues and overall poor health.
The exercise offered many benefits for UF pharmacy students, including the opportunity to work in teams to accomplish a greater goal. Team-based learning is a critical component of the College of Pharmacy’s curriculum introduced in 2015. Through courses such as Pharmacy and Population Health, the college is preparing graduates to work in an interprofessional, team-based environment that focuses on patient care.
“You are always going to be part of a team, and this was a great project to sharpen those skills,” Molina said.