ETSU pharmacy, medical colleges look toward more teamwork in future

Brandon Paykamian • Mar 24, 2019 at 3:57 PM

When it comes to the growth of both the East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine and the Gatton College of Pharmacy, one word comes to mind – “teamwork.”

Teamwork between the two colleges and other ETSU health disciplines has been a primary goal at the university ever since before the founding of the Interprofessional Education and Research Center in 2016.

This $13 million investment, according to Quillen Dean Dr. William Block, aims to bring together the expertise of the different health disciplines studied at ETSU in the College of Pharmacy, Health Sciences, Nursing, Public Health and Clinical and Rehabilitative Sciences.

By doing this, Block said ETSU health professionals will learn how to “optimize the care of patients” and play a crucial role in combatting the region’s opioid epidemic, which has plagued the region for years now.

“Probably our largest capital project has been the renovation of our interprofessional education building on the Veterans Affairs campus, which is designed to bring all the five health sciences colleges together for education and training of our students in a multidisciplinary type of approach,” Block said.

“It’s critical that we move into the new paradigm of care delivery,” he continued. “For us to be able to teach it from the very beginning is a huge step forward. We’re one of the few institutions that are at the forefront of being able to do that.”

The College of Medicine has been named among some of the top medical schools for education and research, putting the school at the forefront with other ETSU health disciplines helping to combat the opioid crisis.

“We’re in the process of starting our addiction fellowships program for residents. We have many clinics that are dealing with opioid addiction, and in obstetrics and gynecology, we have a clinic dedicated to the prevention of neonatal abstinence syndrome,” he said. “We have lots of providers in internal and family medicine who are having to wrestle with this, and it translates into our basic science research, too.”

Debbie Byrd, dean of the College of Pharmacy, said this interprofessional approach – in addition to the national recognition ETSU students and faculty have received for their research and work in the region in recent years – has been a crucial reason ETSU has been put on the map when it comes to health care.

The College of Pharmacy, in particular, has played an integral role in researching the health problems of the region. Dr. Victoria Palau’s work to discover new drugs to treat cancer is just one example that comes to mind.

Dr. Nick Hagemeier, director of research for ETSU’s Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment, and Dr. Jeff Gray, associate professor of pharmacy practice, also recently helped submit a proposal for a $2.2 million research funding grant from the National Institutes of Health to “test a comprehensive approach to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Tennessee.” 

Hagemeier, who was named the recipient of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association Generation Rx Champions Award 2016 and appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force, has also researched the role of community pharmacies serving as points of intervention to stop the spread of the diseases.

“Thinking about how far we’ve come, I think the initial goal was really to establish a college and graduate students. That was a huge undertaking, and I don’t think anyone would’ve envisioned that, in a relatively short time, we’d be so well recognized on a national level,” she said. “It’s just really unprecedented that students in a relatively young program would succeed so well on a national level.”

For more information on developments at the ETSU College of Pharmacy and College of Medicine, visit www.etsu.edu

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