David Hicks, Class of 2021, is “always looking for software ideas to help his classmates and other pharmacists deliver quality care.” One of these ideas came while he was enrolled in a class taught by Dr. Tasha Woodall and Dr. Shannon Rice, two preceptors from MAHEC Family Medicine Center. Dr. Woodall and Dr. Rice expressed their desire to have an easier way for students to screen patient meds against the American Geriatrics Society’s (AGS) Beers Criteria ®. Published triennially since 2011, AGS Beers Criteria® provides a list of medications to be used with caution or avoided in older adults.1 David was intrigued and decided to take it on as a foray into a programming framework called Angular. A few months later, this search engine concept came to fruition as Elderdrug.com, and it continues to receive updates with new and refined guidance. Check it out here: https://elderdrug.com/.
The key to the innovation of Elderdrug.com is the ability to quickly search multiple drugs and refine search via filters like drug-drug and disease-state interactions. To do this, David utilized RxNorm. RxNorm is what is known as an application programming interface (API) – a list of exposed commands that allows a user to interact with a program. Using RxNorm and a few custom scripts, David linked classes and therapeutic categories (e.g. ‘opioids’ or ‘antipsychotics’) to generic names and linked the resulting generic names to brand names. The map generated from these linkers contains around 1200 brand and generic names, with each pointing to up to 10 different entries in Beers Criteria. Ultimately, this map allows users to query terms like “Abilify” and receive guidance for antipsychotics, which was not possible through a plain-text search.
Prior to pharmacy school, David worked as a lab manager at Lineberger Cancer Center under Dr. Dirk Dittmer, a virologist. Dr. Dittmer encouraged David to explore ways of improving laboratory efficiency, which led to him writing a new ordering system for the laboratory. His interest grew as he entered pharmacy school and discovered the need for simpler methods of learning and interacting with health information, which motivated him to learn languages such as TypeScript and Python. Post-graduation, David hopes to continue exploring pharmacy and technology as a product owner or a programmer for a healthcare technology company.
- American Geriatrics Society 2019 Updated AGS Beers Criteria® for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2019:00:1-21.
By Emily Meggs (class of 2022)
The Eshelman School of Pharmacy extends beyond the two buildings that house its students, faculty, and administration. In fact, we have a department dedicated to spreading our practice beyond Chapel Hill. The Office of Global Engagement has worked diligently to ensure that our school is represented globally. These opportunities are month-long pharmacy practice experiences that students can apply for completion in their fourth year. These experiences range in their focus, and they all provide wonderful opportunities for students to learn. While it is in the name, global opportunities are not the sole focus of this office. With their new Global to Local program, they are working to show students that they can have global experiences locally. This opportunity reminds students that many of the issues that affect people from other countries also affect North Carolinians too. The main focuses of Global to Local are 1) Providing Care for Carolina (rural/underserved populations across North Carolina within a global context) and 2) Bringing the World to Carolina (international students, scholars, and ideas).
While UNC has a second campus in Western North Carolina, there is less representation in the eastern portion of the state. The Global to Local team identified several pharmacies in Eastern North Carolina that were practicing pharmacy in innovative ways that benefited patient care. Since I was scheduled to work at Lumberton Drug in Lumberton North Carolina and am a current intern with the Whole Community Health Project (an interdisciplinary research group with a focus on Robeson County), the Office of Global Engagement reached out to me to see if I would assist them in developing this program. Living my entire life in one of the counties bordering Robeson County, I was elated by this opportunity and was so proud to be serving my home area of the state.
Through my participation as a student unofficially piloting this project, I assisted in planning a health fair held at Lumberton Drug (Weekend Wellness). You can learn more about the preceptor at this site in the Preceptor Spotlight. At this event, we checked blood pressure, blood glucose, weight, and even vaccinated our patients. This event was open to pharmacy students for participation and we had several people drive from Chapel Hill to take part in this event. This event was impactful to patients and student pharmacists alike because it was an opportunity to provide a service to an area in need. This type of event is not common for this area, so it was fun to take part in such a trailblazing event. All in all, I am fortunate to have been a participant in this program and I believe that the Global to Local program will positively benefit future participants and patients and further uplift the profession of pharmacy.