Dave L. Dixon, the new director of the VCU School of Pharmacy Center for Pharmacy Practice Innovation, says the center is poised to help transform health care delivery and to ensure that tomorrow’s pharmacists have myriad opportunities. With Dixon now at the helm, the CPPI is getting ready to move into McGuire Hall on the MCV Campus and tackle the challenges of a changing health care landscape.

The CPPI, established in late 2015, works to develop and evaluate innovative care models that further integrate pharmacists into interprofessional, patient-centered care models, said Dixon, an associate professor in ambulatory care and vice chair for clinical services in the Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Sciences. The timing for it is optimal, he says, as reimbursement models shift from fee for service to value-based care.

“Physicians and organizations are being held more accountable,” he said. “So, let’s assemble a team and be sure we’ve got the right expertise so we can ensure high-quality, cost-effective, collaborative care. Pharmacists are an integral member of the team.”

The role of the pharmacist in health care delivery becomes even more important today, he said, as providers must care for an aging population with more chronic conditions. “How do we manage this with a growing shortage of primary care physicians?” Dixon asks. “With the complexity of chronic disease and the complexity of available drug therapies, there has been a change in how pharmacists practice. Pharmacists can be further integrated to provide direct patient care in collaboration with physicians and other health care professionals.”

To achieve its goals of empowering tomorrow’s pharmacists to join a dynamic work environment, CPPI’s main focus areas are research and professional development.

Teresa Salgado is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science and the CPPI’s assistant director for research. “We hope to show value in having a pharmacist on the medical team, in terms of clinical and economic outcomes,” she said. “We already have pharmacists doing outstanding work in several medical groups and clinics. And we hope to push some legislation in that direction.”

CPPI’s other focus area is professional development, an area led by Evan Sisson, an associate professor in the same department. Dixon explained, “Sometimes, there’s a gap between training and needs. We can fill that gap by offering high-level professional development programs to our current workforce to enhance their skills, which will inevitably enhance pharmacy practice.”

The Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Board of Pharmacy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations are enthusiastic about pharmacists having a more visible and impactful role in health care management. The CPPI already collaborates with several Richmond area health systems, and looks to partner with other existing centers in the United States to have a larger impact.

What would success for the CPPI look like? Most importantly, being able to contribute to improved patient care by accomplishing its research and continuing education mission. This success would ideally be translated into legislation advances in Virginia, said Dixon. The result would be an increased awareness of the role of pharmacists in the health care system: “We would be able to say that the impact pharmacists have on improving patient care becomes more visible.”

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