Partners in D program wins AACP Award for Student Community Service

Partners in D, the innovative program in which UCSF student pharmacists help both underserved seniors and fellow health professionals maximize the complex Medicare Part D drug benefit, has won a national award for community service.

Student teams from UCSF and three other schools of pharmacy will receive the 2011-12 Student Community Engaged Service Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). A student representative and faculty advisor will be formally honored and describe the program’s community impact during a session at the AACP’s annual meeting in July.

Student pharmacists on the award-winning team are Rebecca Hluhanich (leader), Meghan Frear, Helen Gavrilova, Rebecca Gayle, Nicha Tantipinichwong and Van Vuong.

The award, sponsored by Teva Pharmaceuticals, will also provide $16,000 to help maintain the Partners in D program momentum. The funding will:

  • Update vital mobile technology that student pharmacists use during community outreach at housing complexes and community clinics to go online and help low-income, often non-English speaking seniors pick out the most beneficial insurance plans for their medication regimens under Part D.
  • Pay travel expenses for program-trained student pharmacist peer educators to lecture on Part D before groups of physicians and other fellow health professionals. UCSF student pharmacists have already led seminars for residents at hospitals in Boston and New York, while invitations to present at several Chicago medical centers are pending.

Begun as the Part D benefit debuted in 2006, the successful pilot effort by a few student pharmacists and faculty members in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy (Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD; Timothy Cutler, PharmD) to meet community needs swiftly added a peer education component: Faculty member Helene Lipton, PhD, suggested that students in her health policy course with outreach experience teach the components of Part D to advanced practice UCSF nursing students.

While faculty assessed the program’s notable effectiveness and impact in journal articles and presentations to national medical societies, both the student-led community outreach efforts and mentored peer teaching initiative grew and became regular parts of the curriculum at UCSF and beyond:

  • Aided by a five-year $3.7 million grant from the Amgen Foundation in 2006, Stebbins and Lipton expanded the program at UCSF and disseminated it to six other California pharmacy schools.
  • A Partners in D course elective led by Stebbins and Cutler is now offered each fall prior to Medicare Part D open enrollment. It details the challenges seniors face trying to navigate Part D and teaches students how to help them get the most out of their benefits. That means potentially reducing their out-of-pocket costs by thousands of dollars by choosing the best plan for them, accessing Part D’s low-income subsidy and other strategies. Students then apply their learning in hours of community work evaluating seniors’ medications and Part D options.
  • In the program’s peer education arm, students mentored by Lipton, Stebbins, Cutler and experienced classmates hone their public speaking to deliver one- to two-hour lectures to other health professionals, particularly medical students, nurse practitioner trainees and resident physicians. Such cross-field education, including grand rounds and seminars, helps spread the pharmacists’ consumerist perspective: The lectures focus on strategies to reduce cost-related non-adherence to drug regimens.

The AACP’s award recognition is the latest measure of the program’s success; success that can be quantified to date as:

  • 1,193 student pharmacists statewide (169 from UCSF) trained in the Part D curriculum.
  • 2,087 underserved seniors individually counseled (693 by UCSF student pharmacists)
  • Before outreach, only 29 percent of aided seniors were in the least-costly prescription drug plans. For those who chose to change plans, the program reduced out-of-pocket costs by 68 percent.
  • Since 2006, peer educators have delivered 79 lectures (44 by UCSF student pharmacists) to 2,344 prescribing clinicians.

But such success is also qualitative and can be virtually immeasurable. Take the peer-educating lectures: Before-and-after surveys found increased awareness of the challenges and cost-savings strategies for Part D patients by other clinicians. But the surveys also found an improvement in the prescribers’ intent to collaborate with pharmacists on issues of drug selection, costs, and insurance.

Or take the case of an elderly Hispanic woman who could no longer afford her medication, as described by the award-winning UCSF team’s leader, student pharmacist Rebecca Hluhanich:

“She was very worried about her uncontrolled diabetes but she had no other options but to stop taking her medication. We enrolled her in a new plan that covered all of her medications, saving her $900 for the year, the equivalent of two months rent. With tears in her eyes, she said: ‘I truly don’t know where else I would have turned.’”


Partners in D: Student pharmacists helping seniors get the most out of Medicare Part D

Student pharmacists sharing Medicare Part D expertise with fellow health professionals

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.