By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Set in a single room not much bigger than “the size of a cabinet,” a new on-campus pharmacy at University of Hawaii at Hilo isn’t expected to give Long’s Drugs anything to worry about, says Pharmacist in Charge Mimi Pezzuto.
But despite its size, the collaboration between faculty of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy and Student Medical Services is expected to make a very real impact on the health care services being made available to the students on campus, while also providing valuable, hands-on learning opportunities for pharmacy students, she said.
“This gives our students the ability to see the rationale behind the prescriptions. Why the nurse practitioner chose the drug she did, and the diagnosis associated with it,” she said. “They’ll be talking with patients one-on-one in a quiet environment, spending time thinking about it. It’s part of who they are as a professional, with no pressure, no intimidation. It’s a good opportunity for them to learn.”
The wife of College of Pharmacy Dean John Pezzuto and a pharmacy instructor herself, Pezzuto was appointed pharmacist in charge at the Student Medical Services clinic in an agreement that will take effect Oct. 2.
While not large in scope, the effort aims to fill an important role in providing a source for medications on campus.
“It’s like the size of a small room, like the size of a cabinet, and I’ll only be there two afternoons a week … filling 10 prescriptions a week, tops,” she said.
But, having a licensed pharmacist on hand as she has worked with student medical services staff to prepare the pharmacy has already proven to be a helpful addition.
Recently, she was present when a student arrived in the midst of an asthma attack, and she and clinic staff were able to administer medication, according to a UH release. Another student came in complaining of migraines, and “after a discussion with her doctor, it was determined her headaches may not be migraines, and alternate medication regimens are being examined,” the release stated.
“Those are the kinds of opportunities pharmacists should have but often don’t because of demands on their time,” Pezzuto said. “It’s not often a pharmacist will have access to a patient’s chart. But this is the whole idea of being a clinical pharmacist.”
Pharmacy students have in the past contributed to the clinic by labeling and stocking medicine cabinets, but now they will be able to have direct contact with patients on campus. They are also currently signing up to give patients vaccinations under supervision.
“This is a grassroots movement, but the goal is to operate as a fully functioning pharmacy,” said Heather Hirata, a board-certified nurse practitioner who has supervised students from nursing programs at UH-Hilo and UH-Manoa. “Pharmacy students will be able to work alongside nursing students. We’re all in the same field, so there are opportunities for everyone to learn something new.”
The not-for-profit clinic will primarily be available to students, but an affiliated family planning clinic may also provide a training ground for students in the pharmacy program.
“I hope to bring students here eventually so they can learn the finder details of filling a prescription, from talking to the patient to filing for insurance if they have it,” Pezzuto said. “We also want to give them a chance to practice immunization skills, which will help them when they finish school.”
Pezzuto is also planning an Oct. 13 concert fundraiser featuring local students, with proceeds to help expand Student Medical Services.
“We help our students plan several health fairs throughout the year on every major island in the state, and that helps remind us of our purpose, which is to help the community in which we live,” she said. “I’m really excited to find opportunities on campus where we can do the same thing.”
Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune- herald.com.