By Alexa Valentino, PharmD, BCACP
When I finished my PGY2 residency in 2014, I thought I had all the tools I needed to expand pharmacy services at my practice site, a federally-qualified health center (FQHC) in Columbus, OH. I had expanded services and created a new service during my two years of residency training, and one of the major benefits of training at a large academic institution like Ohio State is the massive network of alumni, faculty, and staff. I was confident that if I didn’t know the answer, I would at least know where to look or could rely on my connections. I quickly learned that my resourcefulness was only as good as the network around me. While I had mentors to turn to, they had little to no experience with the unique challenges I was facing in creating billable services in an FQHC setting. I worked to expand my network by actively participating in OPA, APhA, and ASHP and through some chance encounters I was able to connect with other pharmacists in similar practice settings. Our site was also involved in a five-year demonstration project in Ohio that connected pharmacists working with FQHCs across the state. This group became immensely helpful in troubleshooting issues we were facing and provided a place to share and celebrate our successes.
Recognizing the value of having a group of pharmacists practicing in similar settings and facing similar challenges led me to investigate the prospect of creating a similar group on the national level. I recruited a colleague, Susan Nguyen, who I knew was practicing in a free clinic setting, and together we created the Care of Underserved Patients Special Interest Group (SIG) within APhA’ s Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management (APhA-APPM). The mission of the APhA-APPM Care of Underserved Patients SIG is to facilitate a network of practitioners, administrators, and educators who provide care for underserved patient populations and utilize the expertise and resources of that network to empower all pharmacists to provide patient-centered care to underserved patient populations. The purpose of the APhA-APPM Care of Underserved Patients SIG is to provide a professional community of pharmacists who are currently practicing within or plan to be involved in caring for underserved patient populations. This may include clinical practice sites or volunteer work with federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs), free & charitable health clinics, 340B pharmacies, disproportionate share hospitals, or other community-based pharmacy settings, such as community pharmacies. Our goal is to assist pharmacists in identifying and sharing resources for underserved patients, helping pharmacists develop new sustainable services in these practice settings, teaching pharmacists, students and/or residents about caring for underserved populations, investigating reimbursement opportunities, and performing research in these practice settings.
The SIG is still in its first year, but we’ve got an amazing group of pharmacists helping us to lead the direction of the SIG. With the leadership of our Communications Committee, we’ve already seen some great engagement from our members asking and answering questions and sharing resources through APhA’s Engage platform, and our Education Committee is working to create some deliverables for our community. We’ve got more great things coming and we’d love to get more New Practitioners involved. If you are working with underserved patient populations or would like to in the future, check out our SIG’s webpage and community on the APhA Engage platform.