Pharmacy Refugee Program Recognized by Ohio State


The Ohio State University Office of Outreach and Engagement recently recognized the College of Pharmacy’s Pharmacy Ambassadors with the Emerging Community Engagement Award at the 2017 Engagement Recognition Awards Ceremony. Pharmacy Ambassadors is a program designed to introduce refugees in Central Ohio to the United States health care system..

Established in 2013, former students Helen Kim and Grace Kilbane collaborated with US Together and the Kroger Company to create a two ½ hour class, in which participants are introduced to the role of a pharmacist and over-the-counter and prescription medication classifications, taught how to read a pharmacy label and interpret directions, and are involved in hands-on interactive demonstrations with common pharmacy supplies such as teaspoon devices and prescription bottles. The program is offered using interpreters for non-native English speakers to facilitate communication and ensure understanding.

Ohio State College of Pharmacy’s global initiatives coordinator, Chelsea Pekny, PharmD, now leads the program; helping to organize and expand student groups and other organizations using the materials.

"Pharmacists are the most accessible health care professional," said Pekny. "By utilizing their expertise within communities, we are able to introduce refugees to their pharmacists so they feel comfortable. This interaction opens up lines of communication and enables the pharmacist to addresses individual challenges."

The Emerging Community Engagement Award was created to highlight programs that have demonstrated outstanding promise in community outreach and engagement that show the potential for long-term impact, achievement, and scholarship. Pharmacy Ambassadors has expanded to other immigrant and refugee organizations through the state, and information about Pharmacy Ambassadors has been shared through research posters, publications, and radio media. Collaborations with other colleges of pharmacy, healthcare organizations, and resettlement agencies give the program a promising future in helping to improve the health of refugees in the United States.

Stephen Myers, associate vice provost of Ohio State’s Office of Outreach and Engagement presented the award to Pharmacy Ambassadors.

“Navigating the U.S. health system can be very challenging for our refugee populations. Pharmacy students came together to solve this problem,” Myers said.

Assistant dean of outreach and engagement for the College of Pharmacy, Jennifer Rodis, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA, is excited for the growth of the program.

"Pharmacy Ambassadors aligns with the college's mission of providing patient-centered care and transformative community engagement. It exemplifies the values of commitment to professionalism, diversity and inclusion, and creating meaningful and sustainable partnerships. This program, along with our engagement endeavors, is helping the College of Pharmacy make a positive impact on the health of people across the state," Rodis said.

Pharmacy Ambassadors is continuing its growth and will soon be offering free educational materials through the College of Pharmacy website that the public can download for free.

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