By Steve Vodhanel
LLUSP has enjoyed the third year as collaborators in the Partners-in-D grant with six other California schools of pharmacy, which is designed to assist elders with Medicare Part D counseling. Funded by the Amgen Foundation, the program enables the school to send pharmacy students directly into several community facilities to help underserved seniors choose a Medicare Part D program that best suits their individual needs. Students receive classroom instruction regarding Medicare Part D and are supervised by School of Pharmacy faculty during all site visits.
LLUSP’s involvement with Partners-in-D offers valuable experiential learning for pharmacy students by providing the opportunity to work directly with individual patients, often with complicated drug regimens, in a manner that evaluates cost efficiencies in the Medicare system. The Partners-in-D experience allows pharmacy students the real-world opportunity to help seniors get the best and most appropriate coverage for their medications when possible. Partners-in-D prepares students for future work with elderly patients and builds a foundation for them to become vital advocates for elderly medication needs.
As the School of Pharmacy continually examines curriculum for actual evidence of learning, one might ask, Okay, where’s the proof...where's the value? Well, consider these comments from PY2 student Bill Capeling: “Old people are gullible with information, including help. Very vulnerable and you must take care of them like we do our children. They have no idea, and we saved several over $2,000 and they had no idea of this process. What they were paying was totally unnecessary.”
Also, all participating students in the Medicare Part D grant program mentioned it to be very worthwhile. Third year (PY3) student David Wilamart commented "I feel this experience was a valuable one. Sitting down for hours on end, reading notes abut a certain topic is one thing, but actually going out and practicing what you learned ties it all together...not to mention the rewarding feeling you experience after knowing you helped a patient." PY3 student Jessica Lee also remarked, "I thought these outreaches were a great way to get into the community and help the senior citizens in local areas with finding the right Medicare Part D plan for them. Many of them are not used to using any sort of technology and therefore we are a great asset to them."
So how valuable is experiential learning? According to Joycelyn Yamzon, Pharm.D., director of the Partners-in-D grant, "Not only did our students learn the Medicare enrollment process, but they also experienced first-hand the medication routines of many elderly peeole. Helping many of these elderly people with savings of up to $2,000 makes this valuable in itself, and extending students into the community is also having our students experience first-hand the mission of Loma Linda University. The entire experience has been very valuable for our students."
Bill Capeling, top right, and LLUSP pharmacy students assisting elderly residents in San Bernardino County.