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Tucson clinical pharmacist does primary diabetes care

Those of you who do chemistry in colleges of pharmacy are used to discussions of how your graduates can truly use their Doctor of Pharmacy training. You’ve probably often wondered why your students spend so much time in clinical pharmacy when more than half of them end up in community pharmacy, a model that has largely kept its sweatshop-like workflow (the “counseling booth” at my local pharmacy has cobwebs for the simple reason that pharmacists cannot be reimbursed for cognitive services.)

Well, I want to bring you a story of how pharmacists can contribute to primary care when in a regulatory environment that makes it possible. The Downtown Tucsonan tells the story of clinical pharmacist, Sandra Leal, a valedictorian graduate of the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy (Disclosure: Sandra was an American Cancer Society supported undergraduate in my laboratory while she was at the University of Arizona who we then recruited to Colorado for her PharmD.)

As the first pharmacist in Arizona to earn limited drug prescribing authority, Sandra works in a team-based community practice environment. At El Rio Community Health Center, clinical pharmacists primarily manage long-term care of patients with diabetes while physicians can then work on the more involved acute cases. But the concept didn’t come from a shiny new college of pharmacy with dozens of clinical faculty members.

This revolutionary idea of clinical pharmacists working directly with patients is run-of-the-mill medicine south of the border. Leal learned this while growing up in Nogales, Ariz.

“My parents didn’t speak English,” Leal said. “We always went to Mexico for health care. You walked into the pharmacy and could get treatment. To me, that was primary care. The pharmacist was my doctor growing up. I never considered any other field. I made a decision in high school that I would be a pharmacist.”

You can read more about Leal’s community practice model at the Downtown Tucsonan.

You can also learn more about Sandra from a 2009 interview we did back at the old home of Terra Sigillata. The post was part of the Diversity in Science blog carnival during Hispanic Heritage Month.

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