Category: Community health

Introducing our Heritage Trail video series on pharmacy history

As part of the school’s Heritage Trail project documenting the history of pharmacy in Virginia and across the world, we have worked with Ost Haus, a creative agency and video production company in Richmond, and alumnus Al Schalow (B.S./Pharm ’61) to present a series of short videos.

Each of the four videos summarizes an aspect of pharmacy history. They are narrated by Schalow and feature illustrations created originally for National Geographic.

We are proud to share these educational videos. They’re a perfect way to introduce people to the profession’s long and illustrious history, and would be ideal for young students.

(Above) Part 1: Potions and Poisons
In part 1, Schalow travels to prehistoric times and ancient lands to explore the ways plant medicines and other remedies were discovered and refined.

Part 2: Ancient Pharmacy
In this video Schalow discusses ancient civilizations around the world that discovered and refined medications that still are familiar in pharmacy today.

Part 3: Frauds vs. Folk Wisdom
Schalow examines the wild days of U.S. pharmacy that brought us patent medicines and dangerous quacks — and how the nation responded.

Part 4: Helpful and Hazardous
In “Helpful and Hazardous,” Schalow focuses on the double-edged sword of drugs that can save and enrich lives — and also endanger individuals and society.

Archambault Scholarship recipient Hess on public health: “You just feel so welcome at VCU”

A woman stands in front of a laboratory.
Danielle Hess, photographed in front of an observation window of the school’s compounding lab, recently received a prestigious national award for students pursuing careers in public health: “I knew I needed to put public health into pharmacy during my career.”

Danielle Hess, a third-year Pharm.D. student at VCU School of Pharmacy, received the prestigious George Archambault Scholarship at APhA’s annual meeting in Seattle earlier this year.  The scholarship is awarded to a student who demonstrates leadership and professional experiences that align with the United States Public Health Service core values of service to the underserved, integrity, leadership and academics.

We spoke to her about her passion for public health and how the School of Pharmacy has helped her pursue it.

What got you interested in public health?

I grew up on a Christmas tree farm and my parents and grandparents always said, “You’ve got to work really hard for what you want in life and nothing’s going to be handed to you.”

Then on every mission trip I went on, I saw a lot of people working really hard, but still not getting what they need to survive or to be truly healthy. These people are doing all they can; they just don’t have the resources to get where they need to be. I really loved supplying those resources and going into a community and trying to empower them rather than just, “Here’s a bunch of free stuff, good luck.”

When we went to Honduras with HOMBRE [the Humanitarian Outreach Medical Brigade Relief Effort, a nonprofit organization at VCU] after my first year, we took water purification systems. In years past, they had given them out and said, this is what you can purify your water with. And when they came back the next year, they were being used as flower pots. That’s when they realized something was missing.

When I went, they did it again, and I said, “How about we go to the homes and ask them, can you show me how to use this right now?” We realized a lot of them still didn’t know how. So we spent the rest of that day going around and making sure they all knew how to use the system. That was more empowering them and making sure they could use it in their life.

Talk about your formal work in public health.

I earned a global health certificate in undergrad, and with the mission trips and the research that I did in Thailand through that, I saw a lot of what public health can do in different communities, especially in underserved ones. With that certificate, I had an opportunity to apply to the WHO in Switzerland. I completed an internship at the World Health Organization before starting pharmacy school. It was amazing to see what different people are doing all across the world.

After that internship, I knew I needed to put public health into pharmacy during my career. Then, the U.S. Public Health Service came up my P1 year through a recommendation by Dr. Peron [faculty member Emily Peron, Pharm.D.]. I reached out to a pharmacist who had worked at the Gallup Indian Medical Center, and we spoke for about 45 minutes about it and she encouraged me to apply to their externship.

Through working at the Indian Health Service, I saw that what they’re doing in the community is an awesome way to put public health into pharmacy. You’re seeing patients all day, but then you are going into the community and helping them with things that supplement their medicines. Because if they don’t have the things they need at home, medicines aren’t solving everything.

It gives you the opportunity to see someone’s life as a whole. If they come into clinic you might say, “OK, let’s increase your metformin and let’s get your diabetes under control.” Whereas in public health, we are looking at all aspects of their life, making sure that they have food security, making sure that their life as a whole is optimal to make sure their health can be as well. That’s what I like about it. You’re seeing the bigger picture of people’s lives and then the population as a whole.

How has the school helped you pursue your passion of public health?

At the beginning, it’s intimidating because you don’t exactly know where to go. I just paid attention to what all my professors were doing. That’s why Dr. Peron was the first one I reached out to after I heard that she goes on HOMBRE trips, she’s interested in global health, and she’s out in the community doing things. I contacted her and asked, “Can we sit down and talk about how you got to where you are now?”

She shared many global and public health ideas with me and then it led to reaching out to Dean O [Associate Dean K.C. Ogbonna]. I heard about his work with the Richmond Health and Wellness program and was encouraged to go talk to him. He showed me how he helped set up that whole program and much of the behind the scenes work. It’s amazing how willing everyone is to help you find your path.

– they truly dedicate themselves to students.

Anybody else in particular you want to shout out to?

Dr. [Abigale] Matulewicz wrote my letter of recommendation for the scholarship, and she has been very instrumental in helping me improve my leadership skills through APhA-ASP throughout my time at VCU.

Because ambulatory care has great opportunities for incorporating public health into pharmacy, I reached out to Dr. [Evan] Sisson and Dr. [Dave] Dixon this past year. They took me on as an elective student for both semesters, where I was able to see patients at the Center for Healthy Hearts every week and complete a research project. With their mentorship, I was able to witness many ways a pharmacist can go above and beyond to make sure patients are receiving optimal care, including finding access for those uninsured and making sure that patients are able to afford the medications they are prescribed.

Pharmacy practice center awarded $1.3M for 5-year project to treat diabetes and hypertension

In future phases, the project will expand to other areas of Virginia and include monitoring and treatment of high blood pressure. (Photo credit)
Greg Weatherford
Director of Communications
VCU School of Pharmacy, (804) 828-6470

The VCU School of Pharmacy’s Center for Pharmacy Practice Innovation, in collaboration with VCU Health, is launching a project to help people across Virginia prevent diabetes and heart disease.

The planned project, supported by a projected $1.3 million over five years from the Virginia Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will use telemedicine, remote monitoring, one-on-one coaching and partnerships with community partners to improve participants’ health.

In the first phase, VCU School of Pharmacy faculty and students will work with participants with prediabetes at the upcoming VCU HealthHub at 25th in Richmond’s East End alongside dietitians and dietetic interns with VCU Health.

“Rather than requiring participants to travel to seek preventive and education services, this program will be in the community’s backyard,” said Dave Dixon, Pharm.D., director of the Center for Pharmacy Practice Innovation at the VCU School of Pharmacy.

Participants in this first phase will learn strategies to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle change in patients with prediabetes is an effective way to prevent progression to type 2 diabetes and subsequent serious health problems. The approximately 50 participants in the first year will be referred by community partners and health clinics.

“This kind of project demonstrates how we aspire to reshape care to better meet the needs of communities,” said Alan Dow, M.D., assistant vice president, interprofessional education and collaborative care, with the VCU Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences. “It is innovative in how practitioners collaborate, how we train future practitioners, and how we use technology, all inspired by the needs of the people we serve.”

Prediabetes affects approximately 81 million adults in the U.S. and can lead to type 2 diabetes. In the U.S., diabetes has an estimated cost of $327 billion per year, according to the American Diabetes Association.

In future phases, the project will expand to other areas of Virginia and include monitoring and treatment of hypertension, or high blood pressure. Hypertension can damage organs and lead to death. It costs about $46 billion each year in health care services, medications and missed days of work in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The hypertension phase of the project will work with community pharmacies and the VCU Office of Telemedicine and use Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure devices to monitor and coach high-risk participants. VCU is exploring a collaboration with Virginia Premier in developing and implementing a community pharmacy-based high blood pressure monitoring program.

“This grant provides an opportunity to build a model that is outside of the traditional health care setting and deploy the resources available through VCU’s School of Pharmacy to support the growing number of individuals with diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease,” said Sheryl Garland, chief of health impact, VCU Health System. “In collaboration with community partners, this program will introduce innovative prevention and wellness strategies that are critical to helping individuals live longer and manage their conditions better.”

“Traditionally health care has been organized around brick and mortar,” said Vimal Mishra, M.D., VCU Health’s medical director for telehealth. “With virtual health care models and technologies such as remote patient monitoring, virtual visits and the use of mobile apps we have the opportunity to redesign care around the patient and their needs.”

The grant is officially known as CDC-RFA-DP18-1817: Innovative State and Local Public Health Strategies to Prevent and Manage Diabetes and Heart Disease and Stroke.

The VCU project will be led by Dave Dixon, Pharm.D., as principal investigator; Teresa Salgado, Ph.D., co-principal investigator; and Sharon Gatewood, Pharm.D., and Evan Sisson, Pharm.D., as co-investigators.

Highlights of the program include:

  • Diabetes prevention education: Participants will take part in a 16-week program from the CDC that is shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 50 percent. The classes will be led by School of Pharmacy faculty and dietitians from the VCU Health Dietetic Internship.
  • E-referral pathway: The program will partner with community pharmacies, health clinics and other community organizations to create referral mechanisms using electronic health records to identify participants and monitor their progress.
  • Remote blood pressure monitoring: Participants will use Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure devices, provided by the VCU Office of Telemedicine, that can send data to local community pharmacies where pharmacists will monitor and coach participants on medication adherence and lifestyle changes to improve blood pressure control.  
  • Provider training: In collaboration with the Virginia Pharmacists Association, School of Pharmacy faculty will provide training using the Pharmacy-Based Cardiovascular Disease Risk Management course created by the American Pharmacists Association.

Links in story:

VCU HealthHub at 25th:

CDC training program:

American Pharmacists Association cardiovascular disease course:


How to Be an Entrepreneur, Lesson 3: Go Where You are Needed

Woman stands in an empty office. She is framed in a window.
Pharmacist Shantelle Brown stands in the space where her in-construction pharmacy will soon open.
By Nicole Carter
Auxiliary Label Staff

Hope Pharmacy is a new independent pharmacy inside a new independent grocery store, The Market @25th, that is projected to open March 28 in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond.

Shantelle Brown, Pharm.D., is Hope’s owner and operator. The 2003 graduate of Howard University College of Pharmacy believes she will be the first African-American female to open an independent pharmacy in Richmond. Auxiliary Label had the opportunity to speak with her and tour her pharmacy while it was in the final stages of construction.

Auxiliary Label: How did you decide on the name Hope Pharmacy?

Shantelle Brown: Well, I didn’t want to do last name. I think hope is so pivotal. It’s something that we all have or hope to have. I think it’s just encouragement. [The pharmacy’s logo shows the word with a second P superimposed over the first.] This stands for “helping others physically prosper every day.”

The Hope Pharmacy counter under construction.
The Hope Pharmacy entrance under construction.

What’s your pharmacy’s mission?

I would definitely say education. I think that’s what’s missing with the disparities that happen with the East End. And my prayer is that I’ll be able to bridge the gap between the residents that have been here for years and the new residents that are now coming into Church Hill. I had the chance to go to a town hall meeting and the longstanding residents expressed their concern that they were being pushed out, that maybe all the change is not for them. So, hopefully, with working with the grocery store and their promotion of good, healthy foods with affordable fruits and vegetables, and me being a mouthpiece for African-Americans in this area, I can relay the message to the residents that you’re wanted in this community. We want everyone to come together.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far?

Financing has been my challenge. For me, it was important not only to do this as the first African-American female [pharmacy owner] in Richmond but to be able to do it with just myself and my family. I told my husband that we need to be able to do this on our own. Thankfully, I closed on my loan at the beginning of January with Virginia Community Capital. They saw the vision and they do a lot of work with the community. Right now, for banks to give money to startups is unheard of.

What are you going to use your startup loan for?

I did a term loan for the store buildout and a line of credit for my inventory*. With any pharmacy, you’re going to be responsible to pay that bill from the drug distributor at least once or twice a month. It’s quite often. But you don’t get reimbursed from the insurance company for 45-60 days so you need to have a line of credit in order to bridge that gap.

I have a term loan for my build out and a line of credit for my inventory.

How did you figure out what kind of drug inventory your store needs?

We haven’t pinpointed exactly what we are going to start off with yet, but I’ve spoken with the old district manager for Ukrop’s [Super Markets Inc., a longtime grocery chain in Richmond that closed in 2010] and I spoke to a couple of independent owners. I learned that there are quite a few brands that skyrocket your inventory numbers, but you don’t really need to start with all those brands. Most of the time I end up sending them back. So, of course, there are exceptions. For example, you have to pay brand for your insulins. Most people say the norm for starting inventory is $60,000, but you should be able to almost cut that in half by utilizing more generics.

What advice do you have for future pharmacist entrepreneurs?

Do your research. Get the feedback from the residents. You want to be in an area where you’re needed.

Auxiliary Label is a student-created blog examining pharmacy life, education and research at the VCU School of Pharmacy from a student perspective. It is overseen by Greg Weatherford, the school’s director of communications. Contact him here.

[*This sentence has been updated and clarified.]

Kelly Goode on the 1918 pandemic and its lessons for today

Kelly Goode on the 1918 pandemic and its lessons for today

Kelly Goode, Pharm.D., visits a key site in the history of the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide. Hear what she has to say about what that tragic epidemic can teach us today.

Posted by VCU School of Pharmacy on Friday, October 5, 2018

VIDEO: Kelly Goode, Pharm.D., visits the site of an emergency hospital during the 1918 influenza pandemic to discuss the flu and the importance of vaccines.

Auxiliary Label: Antibiotic stewardship research in a community outpatient setting

An image of a purple C. dificile bacterium.
An image of C. dificile bacterium, based on photomicrographic data. (Centers for Disease Control).
By Victoria Hammond
Auxiliary Label Staff

Antibiotic resistance — when bacteria are untreatable by current antibiotics — is a growing public health concern.

To reduce antibiotic resistance, prescribers use antibiotics only when necessary. In hospital settings, experts called antibiotic stewards monitor trends in resistance, prescribing, costs and adverse effects. Prescribing trends are compared to current treatment guidelines.

Stewards in an antibiotic stewardship have a goal to “enhance patient health outcomes, reducing resistance to antibiotics, and decreasing unnecessary costs,” according to the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

In 2015, about  269 million antibiotic prescriptions were dispensed in outpatient settings — at least 30 percent of which were unnecessary, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Unnecessary treatment of antibiotics can increase the risk of side effects or opportunistic infections such as C. difficile.

Settings with high volumes of antibiotics being prescribed would benefit from an antibiotic stewardship program to prevent side effects and opportunistic infection.

To improve patient outcomes in outpatient settings, VCU School of Pharmacy faculty members John Bucheit, Pharm.D.,  Teresa Salgado, M.Pharm., Ph.D., and Amy Pakyz, Pharm.D., Ph.D., have been implementing an antibiotic stewardship program in a free outpatient health clinic in the Richmond area. (They asked that the clinic’s name not be published.)

The faculty members’ first focus targets the prescribing trends of uncomplicated urinary-tract infections, or UTIs. Bucheit, Pakyz and Salgado are developing an antibiogram — a profile of antibiotic susceptibility for a specific practice site — based on prescribing trends from the past two years.

The antibiogram will provide information about which antibiotics are providing beneficial therapy to patients based on the clinic’s antibiotic susceptibility to resistant or nonresistant bacteria. This antibiogram will then be compared with current therapy guidelines to develop clinic specific guidelines for practitioners to use at the clinic. The project was made possible by a grant from the VCU School of Pharmacy’s Center for Pharmacy Practice Innovation.

“We are excited about this project to not only improve patient care at our clinic,” Bucheit said, “but also to provide an example for other outpatient offices interested in improving antibiotic prescribing for uncomplicated UTI.”

After the guideline is developed, Bucheit, Pakyz, Salgado and their team will educate the staff and reevaluate in a year.

The goal of this project is to provide prescriber education and improve patient health outcomes in a setting where high volumes of antibiotics are prescribed.

Auxiliary Label is a student-created blog examining pharmacy life, education and research at the VCU School of Pharmacy from a student perspective. It is overseen by Greg Weatherford, the school’s director of communications. Contact him here.


Dr. Rx: Steps you can take to avoid hospital-related infections

Dr. Rx: How to avoid hospital infections

Dr. Rx: How can I avoid getting an infection while I am in the hospital?

Posted by VCU School of Pharmacy on Tuesday, October 16, 2018

By Christian Ruiz
Pharm.D. Candidate 2020

Q: I’m getting a procedure done at the hospital soon, and I’m afraid of getting an infection while I’m there. Is there anything I can do?

A: Infections you can develop while inside hospitals or other medical settings — including doctors’ offices, rehab facilities or nursing homes — are called healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs. They could come from germs that enter your body at a surgical site or germs that travel on medical equipment such as a catheter or an IV line.

Common HAIs include:

  • Infections caused by the bacteria C. diff (Clostridium difficile or C. difficile) or MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
  • Infections at the site where you’ve had surgery or where a catheter or an IV line has been placed into your body
  • Pneumonia or other respiratory infections from using a ventilator

There are many ways you can prevent HAIs. People using ventilators or recovering from surgeries have to take special precautions and should follow doctor’s orders. But below are some general recommendations to prevent HAIs while you are in the hospital.

  • Sanitize your own hands often with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom.
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and throw away the tissue as soon as possible. Then wash your hands.
  • Ensure that your doctors and nurses sanitize their hands before and after they leave your room. Also be sure they are wearing any necessary personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns and/or masks while in your room. This is to protect you and them from HAIs. Don’t be afraid to speak up!
  • Ensure that visitors sanitize their hands before and after they leave your room. Also, ensure they follow any special instructions from doctors and nurses while they visit you, which may include wearing gloves, gowns or masks.
  • If you do need a catheter, ask your doctors and nurses why it is needed and when it will be removed. Your risk of getting a HAI increases with the number and duration of catheters placed into your body.

You might have a HAI if you have recently been in the hospital and experience:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Unexpected pain, tenderness, redness, or swelling at the site where you’ve had surgery or where a catheter or an IV line has been placed into your body

If you think you have any of these symptoms, tell your doctors or nurses immediately. Having any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have a HAI, but if you do have a health-care-related infection you want to be treated for it as soon as possible in order to prevent further complications.

If your doctor does determine that you have a HAI, he/she will likely prescribe you an antibiotic. However, be sure to take the antibiotic exactly as prescribed in order to prevent another HAI or an even worse one.

Christian Ruiz is a third-year Pharm.D. student at VCU School of Pharmacy. He majored in chemistry and minored in music and biology at Virginia Commonwealth University. Upon graduation he currently hopes to pursue a career in emergency medicine, critical care or internal medicine.

Dr. Rx is a monthly community-health column provided as a public service by VCU School of Pharmacy. It can be read in Fifty Plus magazine as well as online. 

Auxiliary Label: Pharmacy students take part in community care

A pharmacy student in a V C U shirt sits at a table with a woman.
Katie Jones, a second-year pharmacy student, prepares to take a fair attendee’s blood glucose.

By Michael Ong
Auxiliary Label Staff

I arrived for my afternoon shift at the Charles City County Fair around 1 p.m. With the forecast of rain later on in the day, I hadn’t expected many people to attend. But the large parking lot was full.

As I was getting out of my car, a mother pushing a stroller waved at me. She was walking away from a row of tents toward their own car parked just spaces from mine.

I had driven to Charles City County, about 40 miles from Richmond, to participate in a health booth. The prevalence of health disparity in the access and availability of care is a rapidly growing problem. Urban centers such as Richmond boast a nationally renowned medical center, yet pockets of disparity can be found across the city. Into the surrounding counties and municipalities, health access further diminishes.

Rural areas like Charles City County have some of the highest rates of rural poverty and lack of available healthcare. Through partnerships and opportunities such as the Charles City County Fair, VCU, through its educators and student volunteerism, is addressing this vast community need.

As I walked to the fair, I saw a row of tents pitched on the practice field, filled with food and homemade jewelry, soaps, and other sundries. Under a large white tent, families sat entertained by a performer juggling on top of a unicycle. Nearby was another tent selling boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts and raffles to be drawn at end of the day.

The VCU booth at the Charles City County Fair is a long tradition and work of dedication anchored by Patricia Slattum, Pharm.D., herself a Charles City County resident. The health outreach and preventative services are great resources for a smaller county with limited health-awareness opportunities for its residents.

The fair-goers proved the perfect target population for the group organizing the event, the VCU chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA). Its motto for serving the underserved is well lived in the variety of events at which its students volunteer. From rural fairs like the Charles City County Fair to back-to-school immunization events with Crossover Clinic in downtown Richmond to advocating for safe HIV testing at the annual VA PrideFest on Richmond’s Brown’s Island, SNPhA engages its student members to be invested in its greater Richmond community.

A pharmacy student sits with a woman. The woman has a blood-pressure cuff on her arm.
Jiro Morales, a second-year pharmacy student, checks a patient’s blood pressure using a mechanical cuff.

Partnering with Slattum, SNPhA is able to provide blood-pressure readings and blood-glucose checks for fair attendees. Alongside these point-of-care services, we had another full table littered with a library of education pamphlets available for anyone to pick up.

While I was at the health booth we had a variety of people visit our tables. Some, like an older lady, chose not to get a reading but chatted with several of our volunteers about her recent hospital stay. She even had a small photo album with her pictures of the during the stay.

Others, like a tribal dancer from the local Chickahominy tribe, asked for everything we could provide. All were open to casual conversations about their lives, their health and were open ears to the information we provided.

As a student, volunteer experiences like these form a fundamental aspect of the overall education VCU School of Pharmacy offers. Being able to take traditional lecture learning into a more clinical setting multiplies student learning. In first year we learn how to take vitals such as blood pressure. In our second year we are trained on how to read glucose meters. All for just this situation — providing front-line care to our neighbors.

Late in the afternoon, a father and son stopped by the tables. The father had wanted to get his blood pressure checked and the son, a high school student, sat down with him. After some cajoling from his father, the son let one of our student volunteers take his blood pressure.

The father’s reading was elevated, which after talking with him we were expecting. However, the son’s was slightly above the normal range for his age. This was a wonderful teaching moment for the VCU student to reinforce what she learned in her cardiology module and suggest some lifestyle choices for the pair.

After handing them some informational pamphlets on hypertension, it was endearing to hear them bicker about exercise; the dad telling his son they were going running in the morning from now on and the son rebutting with how he gets enough exercise with the football team.

Near the end of the day, after having seeing and helping several dozen people, I took the time to do one last run outside to indulge in a warm plateful of funnel cake. The line was long and the wind had picked up significantly while I was inside the gym. But it wasn’t a fair until I enjoyed the fried dough and powdered sugar.

And in between bites, while putting away our excess brochures and other supplies, I smiled and waved back at a lady we had helped earlier in the afternoon.

Auxiliary Label is a student-created blog examining pharmacy life, education and research at the VCU School of Pharmacy from a student perspective. It is overseen by Greg Weatherford, the school’s director of communications. Contact him here.

Ask Dr. Rx: Simple steps to build stronger bones

Ask Dr. Rx: How can I avoid bone loss?

Dr. Rx gives smart advice on how to avoid osteoporosis, or bone loss. The monthly Dr. Rx column appears in Fifty Plus magazine and is a community service of the VCU School of Pharmacy.

Posted by VCU School of Pharmacy on Wednesday, September 5, 2018

By Kayla Sheets

Q: Osteoporosis is fairly common in my family. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening to me? I don’t want to have a fall and break a bone.
A: Bones are living tissue and are constantly being remodeled. Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose more mass than they gain during the remodeling process. While genetics play a major role in the development of osteoporosis, there are steps you can take to prevent its development.
Believe it or not, you don’t have to take any medications to build stronger bones. Instead, make some simple lifestyle changes you can begin today.
For starters, ensure you’re getting proper nutrients by eating a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, fruits, vegetables and protein. And avoid smoking and heavy alcohol intake as these can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Calcium: Postmenopausal women should consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. For men, doctors recommend 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily for those 70 and younger and 1,200 milligrams a day for men older than 70.
Milk and other dairy products are great sources of calcium. Your diet already may give you sufficient quantities of calcium, so speak with your doctor or pharmacist before starting a calcium supplement.
Vitamin D: Your body’s vitamin D requirement is 600 international units daily for adults through age 70 and 800 daily if you are over 70. Ideally, this comes from your diet. Great sources of vitamin D include salmon, tuna, eggs and foods specifically fortified with vitamin D. If you’re concerned you aren’t getting enough, you should speak with your doctor before starting a supplement.
Activity: It’s important to have an active lifestyle involving weight-bearing activities such as walking, jogging, hiking, tennis and dancing. These activities help your bones and muscles stay strong. Thirty minutes of exercise three to four times per week is recommended. However, everyone is different. Know your limits. Speak with your doctor to determine an exercise regimen that’s best for you.
Stay safe: If you or a loved one is at high risk for osteoporosis, falls are one of the biggest factors that lead to complications. Due to the frailty of bones, even a fall while standing can cause a breakage. Here are some simple ways to reduce the risk of falling:
– Remove/minimize tripping hazards in your home, such as unnecessary rugs or furniture in high traffic areas.
Install handrails on stairs.
– Install grab rails and non-slip bath mats in the bathroom.
– Make sure you have good lighting.
– Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if you think one of your medications is making you dizzy or drowsy.
These small changes could have a big impact on your health. If you feel these steps are not enough, have a conversation with your doctor or pharmacist about your risk for osteoporosis and other options available for your individualized needs.
Kayla Sheets is a fourth-year Pharm.D. student at VCU School of Pharmacy. She majored in biology at The University of Virginia. Her areas of interest are internal medicine and critical care.

Dr. Rx is a monthly publication of the VCU School of Pharmacy. It can be read in Fifty Plus magazine, available at many outlets in the Richmond area and online via Beacon Newspapers. To submit a question or to request more information, contact us.

Dr. Rx: Apps can help people stay on top of medications

An I-phone screen shows a hand holding pills.
Apps can assist many people including older patients manage medications.
By Yasser Ali

Q: How can technology help me keep track of my medications?

A: Nearly 50 percent of Americans over the age of 55 are on at least one prescription medication, with 12 percent of those over the age of 65 taking four or more. That is a lot to keep track of on a daily basis.

No wonder about half of the 2 billion prescriptions filled each year are not taken correctly, according to Pharmacy Times. Luckily, there are ways we can use technology to reduce this problem.

A lot of people use smartphone apps – for games, email or video chat, for example. Apps also can help you keep on top of your medications. Many of them are available for free.

Apps for iPhones can be found on the iTunes store. If you have an Android device, you can search for apps on the Google Play Store. Once downloaded, these apps offer features you can use to manage both your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.

For starters, let’s discuss managing refills. The two largest retail pharmacy chains in the country – CVS and Walgreens – each offer an app available to smartphone and tablet owners that can be downloaded for free. These apps promise to let you refill prescriptions by choosing from a list of existing prescriptions or even scanning the barcodes on a medicine bottle – no phone calls required. The Walgreens app also offers a feature that gives reminders to take medications, no matter where you got them.

Other apps can help you stay on top of your regular medication regimen. One we like is Mango Health, an app that aims to make keeping track of your doses fun and rewarding. Users create fully customizable reminders for their daily regimens, and can earn points to enter weekly raffles for gift cards and charitable donations.

The MediSafe Meds and Pills Reminder app is another free option that reminds users when to take medication. Also, it can track blood glucose, blood pressure and weight. The app, which uses a simple-to-understand design that looks like a pill box, can be synced with iPhone’s built-in Health app.

With so many great apps out there, we encourage everyone to delve into the app stores and see what’s out there. There are many more well-reviewed apps available, including some from independent pharmacies.

It is important to keep in mind that all healthcare-related technology should be used as tools to help supplement your care. Speaking regularly with your doctor and pharmacist remains the most vital aspect of medication management.

Yasser Ali is a recent class of 2018 Pharm.D. graduate from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy. Ali is from Rochester, New York and is a 2014 graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he received a B.A. in chemistry.

Dr. Rx is a monthly publication of the VCU School of Pharmacy. It can be read in Fifty Plus magazine, available at many outlets in the Richmond area and online via Beacon Newspapers. To submit a question or to request more information, contact us.


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