Q&A with UCSF student pharmacist winners of national Clinical Skills Competition

Matthew Chang and Katie Alvarez, UCSF School of Pharmacy student pharmacists, are the winners of the 2012 Clinical Skills Competition held during the national meeting of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) on July 21, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The clinical competition is performed in teams of two where each team is given a patient case to evaluate, provide appropriate assessment, recommend an effective drug therapy regimen, and conduct appropriate counseling.

Judges of the competition were all pharmacists, including: representatives of The Kroger Co. (the competition’s sponsor), the HIV pharmacist who wrote the case, and other SNPhA board members.

Here’s what Chang and Alvarez had to say about their experience:

What case did you present?

Our patient case was a 32-year-old treatment-naive [not taking antiretrovirals] HIV-positive woman complaining of shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, chest pains, and a non-productive cough. Her past medical history included asthma. She had been managing her symptoms with increased use of her albuterol inhaler prior to her hospital admission. After evaluating several symptoms, tests, and lab values, we prioritized her problems to include Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, esophageal candidiasis, disease progression, lack of vaccination, and smoking cessation.

Describe the competition process and what happened in each round.

Preliminary Round—all teams participate in the written plan: Teams are given the patient case (about three pages long) and have two hours to analyze it and complete the written pharmaceutical care plan. At the end of two hours, we turned in our written plan to be evaluated by the judges.

Final Round—includes the top three teams based on the written plan. The three teams were announced about 30 minutes prior to the final round, which was broken into two parts.

  1. Case Presentation: We had five minutes to present our case to the panel of judges. The presentation ideally included a summary of the patient, including health problems and detailed recommendations for the patient’s most urgent problems. We then had a five-minute question-and-answer session with a panel of six judges, where drug therapy choices were challenged.
  2. Patient Counseling Session: After the case presentation, we had five minutes to conduct a patient counseling session on the recommended medication regimen. The patient was just like any real patient—she asked questions and needed to have everything explained to her in lay language.

What prepared you for the competition?

Because of the scope of the competition, it is hard to do any last-minute preparations. We really just went back to what we learned from our distinguished UCSF faculty. At UCSF, we are trained in evidence-based, patient-centered medicine. From this training, we recommended drug therapies that best fit the patient’s needs and addressed possible pitfalls before they could occur.

What was the greatest challenge of the competition?

The greatest challenge was the complexity of the case. There were many symptoms that suggested different disease states. We tried to pay attention to the fine details that helped us narrow down the appropriate treatment. With the patient’s immunocompromised state and her need to initiate antiretroviral therapy, this meant we had to be aggressive in treatment but avoid unnecessary drug exposure.

Did all competitors share the same case?

Yes, all teams have the exact same case.

How many teams from across the United States participated initially?

There were 48 teams from pharmacy schools across the nation that competed this year. This was up from 33 teams who competed last year.

How did you feel when you won?

Surprised, to say the least! We were so excited when our names were called as the first place team, we both could not keep the smiles off of our faces. A record number of teams competed in this year’s competition, and all of the finalists were very knowledgeable. We are very humbled to receive this award and honored to bring the championship title to UCSF.


School of Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

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.