Mission of Mercy benefits volunteers, patients
Fifteen Pharm.D. students, two faculty members and a resident made the trek to Yorktown, Virginia, for the School of Pharmacy’s first domestic outreach trip of the year.
Pharmacy students have participated in Mission of Mercy events for several years. MOM, sponsored by the Virginia Dental Association Foundation, provides oral health assistance to underserved, uninsured residents in parts of the state where there are not enough dental practitioners.
“Pharmacy played a big role in this event,” said Anesa Hughes, a third-year Pharm.D. student who served as the SOP’s mission co-leader along with second-year student Gihun Kim. “As an Appalachian native, I have experienced firsthand what it’s like to be a patient at one of these events [Remote Area Medical], and it was very rewarding to be on the giving end this time.”
More than 500 patients received free dental services during the Yorktown event.
Hughes, Kim and their fellow students took part in experiences ranging from working with patients who had extremely elevated blood pressures to assisting patients who spoke only Spanish. Students were able to conduct cardio-check screenings in patients who were known to have diabetes, and they screened patients awaiting dental procedures for prophylactic pain medications and antibiotics.
They also counseled patients who were being discharged on any medications they were prescribed and directed them to locations where the meds were available free of charge.
“In my downtime,” Hughes recalls, “I was able to locate lost paperwork for a patient, and it was really rewarding to see the relief on his face when I found it. He had been waiting for hours to receive dental care. Without his paperwork, they would have turned him away.”
She also appreciated the opportunity to observe a few teeth extractions as well as a rapid HIV test.
Students and faculty from three universities participated in the interprofessional event, including SOP faculty John Bucheit and Emily Peron and PGY2 resident Estela Lajthia.
“I thoroughly enjoyed leading my team of students and watching them put their clinical skills to the test,” said Hughes.
Although student positions with the Remote Area Medical event in June in Emporia, Virginia, and the RAM event in July in Wise County have been filled, Hughes encourages student pharmacists to apply for future medical missions.
School of Pharmacy alumni may still apply to volunteer for RAM, however. Under “company/organization,” fill in VCU School of Pharmacy. Once on site, professor Evan Sisson — who began leading RAM expeditions in 2007 — will provide orientation and pair alumni with student pharmacists. (Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)