A group photo of Vimal Mishra, Dayanjan Wijesinghe, Emily Ko, Amir Behdani and Teresa Salgado in fron tof the glass display casein the pharmacy school lobby

VCU School of Pharmacy student group Pharmacists for Digital Health, the first and only pharmacy digital health student group in the country, celebrated their first year of growth with a digital health showcase on Tuesday.

The Pharmacists for Digital Health Showcase, presented in partnership with the Center for Pharmacy Practice Innovation, featured talks from the group’s founders, Emily Ko and Amir Behdani; CPPI Director Teresa Salgado, M.Pharm., Ph.D.; and Vimal Mishra, M.D., VCU Health Medical Director and American Medical Association Director of Digital Health.

Ko opened the showcase with a brief overview of how PDH came to be and the model that they operate under, one based on general body meetings, workshops, research and engagement. She also emphasized the range of professionals who support the group through mentorship or serving on its board.

Behdani then went into detail about some of the research PDH members have been conducting over the last year. These research projects led the two founders to create KBHealthTech LLC, through which they offer health technology solutions.

The two then turned the mic over to Salgado, who explained briefly to the students present the mission and goals of CPPI and the ways in which PDH students support those goals through the implementation of tools such as KNIME in CPPI research projects.

“It’s amazing to me how the motivation of one faculty member and the willingness of a group of students to learn new skills can change the ways I conduct my research,” she said.

Teresa Salgado, M.Pharm., Ph.D., presenting on CPPI projects in digital health for the Pharmacists for Digital Health Showcase

Dr. Mishra closed out the showcase with a presentation on ways VCU Health is incorporating digital health into many of the research and patient-facing initiatives it undertakes. He shared some of the digitally enabled care models they use as examples of how much health technology use has increased in the last several years.

“At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 70% of our appointments were conducted via telehealth,” he said. “That’s now evened out to about 20%, but that’s still a significant amount, and telehealth is here to stay.”

Much credit was given to PDH faculty adviser and CPPI core faculty member Dayanjan Wijesinghe, who originally saw the need for pharmacy students to learn more digital health-focused skills and encouraged Behdani and Ko to create PDH.

“We really wouldn’t be here without the support of Dr. Day,” Ko said during her presentation.

The showcase finished out a week of celebrating PDH’s first year, which kicked off at their February general body meeting with the announcement of a digital health data challenge. All VCU School of Pharmacy students were invited to participate in the data challenge using the platform of their choice – Microsoft Excel, KNIME, SQL, to name a few. Winners were announced at the showcase.

Tyler Wagner, CPPI Ph.D. student, won the first-place prize of a Fitbit and $75 for his data visualization of the costs of COVID-19 vaccination in Virginia using KNIME. Second-year Pharm.D. student Trey Halsey won the second-place prize of $75 for his visualization of the cost of COVID-19 vaccinations using Microsoft Excel. Second-year Pharm.D. student Dorjan Leka won the third-place prize of $50 for their Microsoft Excel visualization of Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines administered per day. 

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