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Brittany Jennings
December 16, 2019

Sara Scott (left) and Mary “Catie” Cash recognized as winners of the American Society of Heath-System Pharmacists (ASHP)’s National Clinical Skills Competition.

Mary “Catie” Cash and Sara Scott know about teamwork.

The two UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy students recently took home top honors in the American Society of Heath-System Pharmacists (ASHP)’s National Clinical Skills Competition, held Dec. 7-8, in Las Vegas – the first overall win in the competition for the School in 15 years.

The Clinical Skills Competition is an interactive, team-based analysis of clinical scenarios for hospital and health-system pharmacists. It is designed to provide pharmacy students the opportunity to enhance their skills in collaborative practice with physicians in providing direct patient care.

The competition consists of a two-hour written assessment by all entered teams in which students pair up and analyze a patient case followed by an oral presentation for the top 10 teams.

The preliminary round of the competition takes place at students’ local schools, where they compete against their own classmates.

“More than anything, we gained confidence in our knowledge and ability to make evidence-based recommendations and gained a deeper appreciation for our curriculum,” Cash and Scott both commented. “When other teams asked what we had done to prepare, we couldn’t say much else other than ‘we do this every week in our curriculum.’”

UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Phil Rodgers, Pharm.D., is the faculty advisor of the School’s ASHP Student Societies of Health-System Pharmacy group, which hosts the local round of the competition.

“Winning this national competition among over 140 teams from other schools of pharmacy across the country is an incredible feat,” Rodgers said. “Students must demonstrate superior skills and abilities in complex patient case evaluation and evidence-based clinical decision making in both written and verbal presentation formats. Catie and Sara are high performing students and were exceptionally prepared for this competition.”

Each school’s winning team then advanced to compete on the national level during ASHP’s Midyear Clinical Meeting. There, they competed in a semi-final, then final round.

During the competition, Scott and Cash were faced with managing other comorbidities including coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, and iron deficient anemia. In the semi-final round, they were tasked with writing a pharmacist care plan for a patient who developed symptomatic hyperkalemia during an admission for acute decompensated heart failure and acute kidney injury.

“I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment,” Rodgers said. “I was happy to help ‘coach’ them prior to the competition, but mostly what I had to do was just step out of the way and let them do their best.  This is an amazing and rare honor for our School.”

Cash and Scott’s award brings the overall total for the School to a record-breaking four wins in the national competition.

“We are honored to have been selected as the first-place team among a group of incredible student pharmacists from across the country,” Cash and Scott echoed. “Going into the competition, we had made it our goal to place among the top 10 teams so to win is just icing on the cake!”

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