College of Pharmacy pursues practice-based research to show impact on community health, expand opportunities for junior faculty

The teaching faculty for the Doctor of Pharmacy program at WSU make up a diverse mix of academic and professional backgrounds. Student pharmacists at WSU learn from a mosaic of brilliant minds, whose backgrounds range from genomic cell biologists and medicinal chemists within pharmaceutical sciences, to practicing clinical pharmacists within pharmacotherapy, to health policy entrepreneurs within health administration. This variety is important to ensure that graduates are practice-ready for the dynamic world of health care.

In order to develop outstanding health care professionals, the competencies and skills that make successful pharmacists in the professional world need to be incorporated into the academic curriculum. To facilitate this “knowledge feedback loop” so success in practice contributes to teaching the next generation of practitioners, academic programs will often hire pharmacists with extensive expertise in patient care and clinical practice to teach in its Doctor of Pharmacy program.

A hurdle often faced for pharmacists new to the academic environment is the transition from patient care, regulatory compliance and financial viability to the faculty charge of teaching, service and research.

This is why the WSU College of Pharmacy has formed a new center that will connect faculty at the College of Pharmacy in Yakima and Spokane to research resources, aimed at increasing the amount of high-quality pharmacy practice research conducted in our community.

This objective directly relates to the university’s Grand Challenges initiative, specifically addressing sustaining health and the challenges of chronic health problems and health care costs. The research this new center seeks to promote will directly impact the translation of new and innovative health care practices to the broader health system by providing the evidence needed to successfully advocate for and justify change.

Additional objectives for the center include creating new opportunities for collaborative research across WSU units focused on the specific issue of pharmacy practice, and providing resources for qualitative research related to this important topic.

College of Pharmacy Dean Gary Pollack announced the creation of the Center for Pharmacy Practice Research on November 1, and also the appointment of Dr. Kimberly McKeirnan as director of the center.

“The activities envisioned for the center are of obvious relevance to our professional degree program and the students it serves, as well to a broad segment of faculty on WSU’s Health Sciences campus. I anticipate that this will be viewed as a significant resource for our academic community and selected partners in the years to come,”

Pollack said.

McKeirnan used her experience as a National Association of Chain Drug Stores Faculty Scholar to develop a foundational plan for the center. She now has her sights set on building a place to mentor excellence in methodology and share best practices surrounding research in the clinical pharmacy setting.

“Our faculty already excel at research, so my goal is to provide resources and opportunities to make things easier to foster connection and collaboration between our departments,”

she said.

The center is similar to initiatives the college has already rolled out in Spokane and Yakima to help successful pharmacy professionals transition into, and be successful within, health education. In fact, one of the charges of the center is to collaborate with the college’s Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence to conduct research related to teaching and learning.

“Our faculty are doing such great things in their classrooms. In collaboration with the new center, my hope is to turn those classroom innovations into scholarship opportunities for our faculty,”

said Connie Remsberg, the college’s director for teaching and learning excellence.

An additional program started earlier this year to increase the amount of interprofessional and team-based activities used in the classroom, and to ultimately improve health care delivery through teaching team-based care, is called Success with Interprofessional Practice and Education, or “SWIPE”.

McKeirnan also plans to leverage the Office of Research within the College of Pharmacy, directed by Associate Dean Andrea Lazarus. The pharmacy research office provides grant submission support, assistance navigating the IRB process, and provides training on research tools like Red Cap. The bulk of these resources focus on translating basic science discoveries into new treatment approaches.

“There are a lot of resources available to our faculty, but people don’t necessary know where to go. Andrea can play a big role in that connection,”

McKeirnan said.

According to McKeirnan, the new center will promote research that focuses on the qualitative side, connecting the “why” behind patient and pharmacist perspectives that allow a deeper understanding beyond just the numbers. These elements are often key influencers behind whether or not a new treatment catches on, or how successful an innovative process can be within a broader health system.

McKeirnan anticipates initial resources offered in early 2018 to include knowledge-sharing events like brown bags to connect faculty so they can collaborate and teach each other, and providing research methodology tools and templates.

Washington State University has identified faculty development, excellence in teaching, and the delivery of a transformative student experience as keys to the success of its strategic initiative called the Drive to 25, an effort to grow WSU’s reputation as a top 25 public research university. The WSU Center for Pharmacy Practice Research supports both this institutional strategic plan and the College of Pharmacy mission by providing an additional avenue for demonstrating how the ground-breaking and transformational research happening at WSU can have a real-world impact at the community pharmacy level.

[Lori J. Maricle] 11/29/17