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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI pharmacy students win top national honors for Medicare Part D education efforts

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

Group bests UConn for premier spot

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 27, 2006 -- The University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy captured first-place in a national competition that ranked the reach and effectiveness of student-driven Medicare Part D education efforts.

Twenty-two URI pharmacy students were honored during ceremonies at the recent American Pharmacists Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco. Jack Hutson, executive director of the Rhode Island Pharmacists Association, presented the students with a plaque and a $10,000 check, which will go toward student activities in the College of Pharmacy.

The University of Connecticut finished second in the competition while the University of Illinois was third.
Jennifer Newell, of Lincoln, a fifth-year pharmacy student and former president of the URI chapter of the Academy of Student Pharmacists, the student division of the American Pharmacists Association, accepted the award at the podium on behalf of her fellow students.

“Everyone started screaming and clapping when they called URI. I can tell you that after the award, everyone was on their cell phones, calling the deans, and our adviser Doctor (Kelly) Orr,” Newell said. “The students were able to cover the entire state, especially through many of the programs offered by the outreach department at the college.”

URI students and faculty members involved with the effort will be honored again during Face of Pharmacy activities at the Statehouse today, April 27. The program runs from noon to 4 p.m. in the rotunda, with a citation ceremony from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Stateroom.

“We are very proud of our students who participated in the Medicare Part D education initiatives,” said Pharmacy Dean Donald Letendre. “Citizens across the state received accurate information from students who became well-versed in the complexities of the program and who took the time to listen and respond with sensitivity and understanding. They performed a valuable public service at no cost to the patients they served and to the taxpayers in general. It is only right that we pay tribute to them on Face of Pharmacy Day, since they are becoming the new face of the profession.”

“After the students learned they were the winners they called me to tell me they had won first prize and they were screaming with delight,” said Kelly Orr, URI clinical assistant professor of pharmacy and adviser to the College’s Student Leadership Council, which played a key role in URI’s first-place finish.

During the competition period from September 2005 through March 2006, the students logged 637 hours of outreach from one end of Rhode Island to the other, and reached 5,583 individuals, including patients, caregivers and health care professionals, Orr said.

On Sept. 30 for instance, the College’s Student Leadership Council ran Medicare Part D clinics at Walgreens Pharmacy in Providence, Brooks Pharmacy in Cranston and CVS Pharmacy in South Kingstown. More than 30 students participated and nearly 100 area residents were helped.

But URI’s Pharmacy Outreach program, well known for its Brown Bag Prescription Medication Program, was probably the biggest factor in the students’ success. Nancy Tortolani and Sandra Rosa, two of the program’s coordinators, enlisted pharmacy students to do their clinical rotations at outreach centers around the state and focus on Medicare. During the competition period, the outreach program conducted Medicare Part D presentations and one-to-one consultations for senior citizens and health care professionals from Woonsocket to Wakefield. Pharmacy students participated in every outreach presentation, and those hours were recorded for the competition.

The Outreach Program also trained the 35 pharmacy students who participated in the Sept. 30 event.

Hutson, of the state pharmacists association, praised Newell for her gracious acceptance speech in San Francisco and all who played a role in such a strong effort. “We’re very proud of all the students and it’s heartening to realize that they are the future of pharmacy. Their performance shows what can be done when a group focuses on a task,” Hutson said.

URI’s Orr said the University’s number one ranking was a bit of a surprise because the state is small and so is the College of Pharmacy when compared with other universities.

“It shows what an impact students have had on the state and how they successfully connected with patients, pharmacists and community members,” Orr said.

AWARD WINNERS: University of Rhode Island pharmacy students are all smiles after capturing first-place in a national competition that ranked the reach and effectiveness of student-driven Medicare Part D education efforts. They pose here with faculty members and officials of the American Pharmacists Association’s during the group’s annual meeting in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of URI College of Pharmacy.