New CPD director Jennifer Seifert reflects on her career in community pharmacy

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June 30, 2021

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Just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio (CPCO) to alter its services to curbside delivery in early 2020, a longtime patient approached Jennifer L. Seifert, MS ’99, RPh, BCGP, with something she just had to say.

The woman told Seifert that she was moving to Chicago and that pharmacy students working at CPCO saved her life. Following their lifestyle recommendations and encouragement, the woman shed 30 pounds and was able to reduce the amount of blood pressure and diabetes medication she was taking.

“Your students are so wonderful,” the woman told Seifert. “No one ever said these things to me before and no one ever cared enough each month to talk through what was happening to me. I feel like they saved my life and I needed to tell you that before I move.”

The encounter underscores the mission that Seifert helped establish at CPCO over the past decade: impacting patient health through holistic community-based care and empowering pharmacy students to make a difference in patients’ lives through real-world experience.

“Everyone that comes in and joins CPCO for any period of time feels the mission and is inspired by it, and I’m just fortunate to have been able to lead the group for these last few years,” Seifert said.

Now, as she transitions from her role as executive director of CPCO to director of continuing professional development at her alma mater, The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy, Seifert will oversee the creation of continuing professional development, college-based residency trainings and student exchange educational offerings by the College of Pharmacy with local to global partners.

Seifert photoSeifert is no stranger to the College of Pharmacy; in recent years, she has served part-time as director of the college’s PGY1 community-based pharmacy residency program. But her connection to the college began decades ago when a renowned Ohio State researcher recruited her for a project.

After graduating with a BS Pharmacy from Ohio Northern University in 1993, Seifert worked as a community pharmacist at Kroger. During one shift in the early 90s, COP faculty emerita Marialice Bennett, RPh, FAPhA, approached Seifert to work on a community-based project examining hypertension therapy. Participating in the study showed Seifert how research can impact community-based pharmacy practice and inspired her to continue her education at Ohio State.

“The cellular basis of drug action is something that always has been an interest of mine and always will be,” she said. “That’s why after six years of practice, I came into the graduate program in the Division of Pharmacology.”

Studying in Ohio State’s MS Translational Pharmacology program gave Seifert an opportunity to focus on a drug receptor theory in the nitric oxide pathway. She describes pharmacology as crucial to every pharmacist’s practice and their understanding of appropriate drug selection, adverse drug reactions and drug-drug interactions.

“Our drug expertise hinges on pharmacology. If we lose sight of the drug action and how that influences our analysis of adverse drug reactions and drug-drug interactions, then we lose a large piece of our expertise,” Seifert said. “So, it is really important that we absorb that and continue to utilize that information.”

Seifert went on to teach in the program following her graduation in 1999. Just over a decade later, COP alumnus Allan Zaenger, MS ’84, recruited Seifert to work as a community pharmacist at CPCO, a not-for-profit charitable pharmacy he founded near downtown Columbus that provides pharmacy services and prescriptions to underserved patients.

Zaenger and Seifert decided it was important for CPCO to administer one-on-one care to their patients, which often meant spending 20-30 minutes with each patient to understand their barriers and health care needs. Seifert recognized in those early years that CPCO would be an incredible training ground for pharmacy students to learn about community pharmacy and be empowered to make a difference.

Leveraging her connection to the College of Pharmacy, Seifert brought on a fourth-year PharmD student for their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE). The position proved so valuable to both CPCO and the student that she took on more students. CPCO now hosts six APPE students in addition to an interdisciplinary team that allows CPCO to offer patients holistic care.

Seifert photoFollowing Zaenger’s retirement in 2015, Seifert took over as executive director of CPCO. Under her leadership, the pharmacy received national recognition by the Pharmacy Quality Alliance and Community Pharmacy Foundation with their inaugural Innovations in Quality Award. CPCO was also named Health Care Trailblazer by Columbus CEO magazine and is in the process of opening a second location in Columbus.

Seifert herself has received numerous awards, including the Outstanding Community Engagement Award from the College of Pharmacy in 2020 and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Pharmacy in 2012, among others. 

From her days as a pharmacist at Kroger to studying and teaching pharmacology at Ohio State to leading CPCO and now overseeing continuing professional development at the college, Seifert said that every leap and jump in her career has a purpose.

“I often tell students that every step in your career prepares you for the next one,” she said. “And I think every step in my life and my career prepared me to join the college in the advancement of our profession through continuing professional development. I hope to bring to our new and existing pharmacists a sense of confidence, competence and compassion in these exciting times in our profession.”