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Brittany Jennings
July 22, 2022

Emma Williams, Pharm.D. (left) and Opeyemi Ogedengbe, Pharm.D.

Two Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) residents received top honors at the 2022 American Geriatrics Society’s (AGS) Resident Poster Competition.

The UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy partners with MAHEC to offer PGY2 residency programs in focus areas of Ambulatory Care and Geriatrics.

Emma Williams, Pharm.D., a PGY2 resident, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy alum, and UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy adjunct instructor, placed third in the competition’s Education Category.

“It feels great to receive an award for my poster at AGS this year. This was my first time presenting a research poster at a large, interdisciplinary conference, as opposed to a pharmacy-focused conference, so to have our team’s research recognized in this way is especially meaningful,” she said.

Williams’ research focused on learning more about factors that encourage or discourage pharmacy students from pursuing geriatrics pharmacy as a career. She worked with mentors to create and implement a survey that was distributed to pharmacy students at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the University of Texas at Tyler. The team received nearly 200 responses.

“We found the key factors encouraging interest in geriatrics included past positive experiences with older adults, interest in deprescribing, and an understanding of the current increased need for clinicians trained in geriatrics,” Williams said. “The key factors discouraging interest included the emotional impact of death and end-of-life care, a lack of interest in geriatric syndromes like falls and dementia, and inadequate exposure to geriatrics within the curriculum. We also learned that many pharmacy students may not fully understand the heterogeneity of the geriatric population.”

Williams said she hopes her team’s research will help shape pharmacy curricular and co-curricular experiences in the future to include greater exposure to geriatric pharmacy practice.

Opeyemi Ogedengbe, Pharm.D., a PGY2 MAHEC geriatrics pharmacy resident, brought home first place in the Innovation and Quality Improvement category.

“Receiving a first-place award is a testament to how incredible our clinical and research team is. I feel so proud to be able to share with the larger medical community the amazing things we’ve been doing. To be recognized for it is truly an incredible honor,” Ogedengbe said.

Ogedengbe’s research focused on the challenge of providing individualized care to older adults. She and her team analyzed Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC) as an innovative healthcare delivery model that expands care to populations with limited access to health care. The HBPC program was established in 2020 within MAHEC and employs Patient Priorities Care (PPC), an interdisciplinary, team-based approach to identify patients’ health priorities and align care with what matters most to them, Ogedengbe said.

“The thought is that when incorporated as part of the HBPC model of care, PPC has the potential to provide patient-centered care to older adults in a way that best supports their goals,” Ogedengbe said. “The primary purpose of our study was to describe the successful implementation of PPC within an HBPC population.”

About their work, Ogedengbe said, “What has been interesting is that sometimes the goals are non-medical but significantly impact the patient’s quality of life. Take for instance a patient whose goal is to be able to spend some more time outside, but is currently limited mobility wise, our team can align their care to help accomplish this goal. From a pharmacist perspective, we can ensure no medications are negatively impacting mobility. Our occupational therapist can work with the patient to ensure home safety and devise ways for them to still accomplish this goal with creative adjustments to their surroundings. The remainder of the medical team can enlist the help of other community resources that can help the patient accomplish this goal.”

Both Ogedengbe and Williams are focused on advancing care for the growing geriatrics population.

About the future of geriatrics pharmacy, Ogedengbe said, “Our systems aren’t currently set up to take care of older adults due to societal prejudices and misconceptions. So, it’s super important that we educate ourselves about the unique and varied medical needs of older adults. This can ensure we’re fulfilling our oaths as healthcare professionals but also allows us to enjoy our own elderhood when the time comes.”

Williams added, “The geriatric population is rapidly growing, and the U.S. doesn’t have enough geriatricians to offer older adults the best patient-centered care. Pharmacists can help to bridge this geriatrician gap by pursuing advanced training in this field… We as pharmacists can help, as members of an interdisciplinary team, to ensure that our older patients are receiving care that respects their priorities and goals, and I find that work very fulfilling.”

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