Calling the Shots: NDMU’s School of Pharmacy takes the lead in educating the community about immunizations and vaccinations

By Ariyen Barkzai

With the return of the flu season, Notre Dame of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy has been active in the field of vaccinations and immunizations. Since the start of this fall, the SOP has been participating in on and off-cam­pus activities including a flu clinic and Project Homeless Connect where they not only talk about the importance of vaccinations and immunization but also give them to people in the local community.

In terms of vaccinations, one of the most debated topics that the SOP addresses is whether vaccines are beneficial or risky. Dr. James Culhane, the current chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Notre Dame, employs the “Risk to Benefit ratio” when weighing the pros and cons of vaccines.

The “Risk to Benefit ratio” is a con­cept used to evaluate the risk and ben­efits of a medical procedure. “When it comes to vaccinations, the benefits are always higher since it can help prevent people from getting sick,” he explains. “We proceed with the vaccination once we have all our information gathered, such as what the benefits are, like pro­tecting another person from getting a strain of flu, and a risk, like possibly getting a reaction of some kind.”

Meanwhile, Patricia Dieso, a P3 in the SOP’s Pharm D. Program and the president of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Phar­macists (APhA-ASP) chapter at Notre Dame, finds ways to broadcast vaccina­tions given that some people might not be aware of its benefits.

As an avid social media person, Dieso makes sure that she “finds a way to let people know how important it is to get vaccinated and immunized.” “I also have seen firsthand how great a vaccination can be for a person, so I need to have everyone aware about this,” she says.

NDMU pharmacy students are also working actively with vaccines and immunizations at their clinical sites. “We have this thing called “Advocaring” where every class is divided into groups and gets sent to a site such as an or­phanage, nursing home, or a homeless shelter,” says Mina Khalil, a P1 student.

Khalil’s group is currently as­signed to the Jenkins Senior Living Community in South Baltimore, the first senior community in Maryland to offer options to low and moderate income individuals. When his group goes there, they educate the elderly about the importance of vaccines and immuniza­tion. For instance, they talk about how vaccines have an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism to help the body identify what is “attack­ing” it.

“I’m excited to get the certificate to immunize once I become a pharma­cist,” explains Khalil. “But I also believe that becoming a pharmacist means being the most easily accessible health care provider, so part of our job is to educate the public about such an im­portant topic.”

PC: Evan Todd

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