Medication errors kill thousands of people each year in the United States, says Michael Cohen, a pharmacist and patient safety advocate who is this year’s recipient of the UNC Institute for Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy Award for Patient Service.

Cohen is the founder and president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of the one hundred most powerful people in health care, Cohen has committed his professional career to reducing preventable drug and drug-delivery mistakes.

“Through his work with the ISMP and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Cohen has played key roles in bringing about numerous corrections in error-prone products and practices,” said Howard McLeod, Pharm.D., director of IPIT. “He is an early pioneer in the global movement to address medication errors, bringing international visibility to this serious problem,” McLeod said. “His work supports our primary goal to help the health-care community better select medicines based on rational evidence, ultimately helping to improve patient treatment and reduce medication errors.”

The IPIT Award for Patient Service honors a person who has made significant contributions to empowering patients and to the advancement of rational drug therapy.

Cohen will receive the patient-service award and present a seminar at UNC on November 18 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 1131 of the Bioinformatics Building at 130 Mason Farm Road on the Chapel Hill campus. Cohen’s seminar, “Optimizing Safe Medication Practices in Health Care” is open to the public, but seating is limited.

Michael Cohen, RPh, MS, ScD, FASHP
Cohen is the president of ISMP, a nonprofit health care organization that specializes in understanding the causes of medication errors and providing error-reduction strategies to the health-care community, policy makers and the public. He is editor of the textbook, Medication Errors (American Pharmaceutical Association, 2007), and serves as co-editor of the ISMP Medication Safety Alert! publications that reach more than two million health professionals and consumers in the United States, as well as regulatory authorities and others in more than 30 countries.

Cohen is a member of the Sentinel Event Advisory Group for the Joint Commission, a nonprofit health-care accreditation group, and recently served as a member of the Committee on Identifying and Preventing Medication Errors with the Institute of Medicine. He is also a member of the National Quality Forum’s Voluntary Consensus Standards Maintenance Committee on Safe Practices and serves as a consultant to the FDA Drug Safety and Risk Management Committee. In 2005, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recognized him as a MacArthur Fellow.

UNC Institute for Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy
The Institute was formed in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy as a collaborative effort with the School of Medicine, Gillings School of Global Public Health, and the School of Nursing and with support from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. Leadership in key areas of pharmacogenomic research will be fostered by creating contiguous office and laboratory space to bolster collaborations and the development of comprehensive research investigations and treatment tools. IPIT will also offer the services of core facilities in molecular genomics, cellular phenotyping and bioinformatics to add to the excellent core facilities already existing at UNC.

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