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BECOMING PART OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD

January 21, 2016

As we prepare for the February opening of College Hometown Pharmacy – the student operated pharmacy located in Hometown Health Clinic in Schenectady – we must finalize a number of operational details. We are in the process of installing technology and security equipment, acquiring inventory, and obtaining the various licenses needed to operate as a 340B pharmacy.

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Joe Gambino (Hometown Health Centers), Doug Schneidmuller (ACPHS Student), President Dewey

While these are all crucial details that must be taken care of before we open our doors, there is another very important issue to be addressed – being a good neighbor in the community.

Each of our student pharmacies (College Parkside Pharmacy in Albany is expected to open in late summer) are motivated by two purposes: (a) To provide great experiential educational opportunities to our students and (b) To partner with our communities to provide a model for health care in medically underserved areas. In this regard, our intent is not to be just another provider of services, but rather to be a partner working within the community.

We have already begun building partnerships through the formation of a Community Council, a group made up of individuals with deep ties to these communities. Members of the Council represent entities that include local health clinics and community based organizations, as well as state and city agencies from both Schenectady and Albany. In many ways, the membership of the Council is a microcosm of each community.

The Council – which will meet twice a year – held its first meeting earlier this month, and it was gratifying to be part of such a positive and productive dialogue.

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Architectural rendering of the interior of the College Parkside Pharmacy.

In the meeting, we discussed the role the Council can play in helping each pharmacy best serve its community. We outlined three specific areas where we are seeking input from the Council members: (1) Understanding each community and its needs, (2) Facilitating collaborations and partnerships, and (3) Identifying service goals and key health care indicators.

At the end of the lively discussion, it was abundantly clear that there was great enthusiasm and support for the pharmacies. A number of instructive suggestions came from the Council, several of which are summarized below:

  • Students should undergo some type of training and preparation before they begin working in the pharmacies to improve their cultural competency. This will help them better understand the community along with the specific needs and challenges of patients in these communities.
  • Neither pharmacy can be a place where you “take a number and wait in line.” There must be a level of respect and caring that goes beyond simply delivering services.
  • The College and its students should make an effort to participate in other community events and activities in addition to operating the pharmacies.
  • There will be a number of patients unfamiliar with the workings of the health care system, so students can be of great assistance by walking them through the system details.
  • Health screenings are important, but it even more important to work closely with patients on plans to address the findings. Without that follow-up and follow-through, it’s unlikely that patients will improve their health.

We are grateful to the active involvement of the Council members and for sharing their insights.

Each of the student operated pharmacies offers an opportunity to impact our local neighborhoods in a profound way. But for us to successfully move from the campus to the neighborhood, we must know these neighborhoods.

The Community Council is the first step in building enduring partnerships that help ensure we focus on the special needs of each community. By maintaining that focus, we will have the opportunity to truly make a difference in people’s lives, both the lives of community members and the lives of our students.

Greg Dewey, Ph.D., is President of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

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