Monday, March 23, 2020

During the current COVID-19 crisis, we all have a responsibility to do our part to help. The University of Iowa College of Pharmacy is no exception.

Fourth-year Doctor of Pharmacy students are currently on Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPE) rotations throughout our state and nation. APPEs are the final component of the Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum and allow student pharmacists to gain experience, apply knowledge and skills, and gain professional competence and confidence by delivering contemporary pharmaceutical care under the supervision of preceptors.

The COVID-19 crisis will afford them the unique opportunity to be “on the frontlines” providing direct care to patients during a pandemic, and will give them an experience they will never forget.

Mohammed Fredericks, fourth-year Doctor of Pharmacy student, is currently on a general hospital rotation at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids and works at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). He has had to adapt his work to best serve patients during the COVID-19 crisis, as both hospitals have visitor restrictions for patients. Fredericks has had to take extra safety precautions and show more empathy while providing care during the COVID-19 crisis.

At St. Luke’s, he helps the healthcare team monitor patients’ medications and assure that they are on appropriate therapy by attending rounds without visiting patients’ rooms given the current circumstances and by monitoring patients’ charts on electronic health records. At UIHC, he works in the ambulatory setting where he educates patients upon their discharge from the hospital. He is more at risk of being exposed to viral diseases like COVID-19 since he educates patients face-to-face at a counter, which means he sanitizes his work area more often after patients leave the pharmacy.

Mohammed Frederick, Fourth-year Doctor of Pharmacy Student
Mohammed Fredericks
Fourth-year Doctor of Pharmacy Student

It is important for me to be involved during this crisis because it allows me to practice what I committed to when I took the Oath of a Pharmacist--to ‘consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concern.’ My patients and their families could be suffering during these tough times, both physically and emotionally. It’s my duty to reduce this suffering and ensure their wellbeing by educating them.

For Fredericks, his current rotation and work experience at the hospitals are an experience he will never forget. “Our college, professors, preceptors, mentors, deans and community leaders have trained us well to rise to the occasion and be involved in caring for our community and adapting to tough times like these.”

Dean Donald E. Letendre echoed this sentiment in a recent message to fourth-year pharmacy students, “This situation is unprecedented and pharmacists have never been called upon more in my lifetime to step in as healthcare providers to assist in a crisis. Our students’ training has prepared them for times such as these, and their role in delivery of care is vital. It gives me enormous pride knowing that our students are actively involved in providing care to patients and serving as an essential component of the healthcare workforce.”

University of Iowa Pharmaceuticals (UIP) is also doing its part to help during the COVID-19 crisis. UIP is a unique service division within the College--the only such one in the nation--that develops, manufactures, and performs analytical testing on medicinal drugs. Its clients include small biotech and large pharmaceutical companies, university researchers, and governmental laboratories. UIP produces both nonsterile products such as capsules and tablets, and sterile products such as injectables.

As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, UIP recently began making hand sanitizer. The majority of the sanitizer will be acquired by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). Early in the national response to COVID-19 Dean Letendre raised the possibility of UIP manufacturing hand sanitizer, and a request by UIHC to help support its needs during the current pandemic shortly followed. The UIP team quickly developed a method to safely make an 80% alcohol mixture in its existing Good Manufacturing Practice suite.

UIP is able to make a maximum of 95 liters of sanitizer per batch. Each batch takes approximately four hours to make and bottle. UIP will manufacture “as many batches as needed by the hospital and University,” said Dennis Erb, executive director for UIP. “This is an all hands on deck moment in our lifetime.”

In addition, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, has reached out to UIP to discuss its manufacturing capability for a potential vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. Several biotech companies with promising drugs to treat Acute Respiratory Distressed Syndrome, a major cause of COVID-19 related deaths, have also inquired about priority manufacture to accelerate clinical testing of their products--UIP is working 7-days a week in collaboration with these companies to determine how it can accelerate the manufacture and testing of their products.

Dennis Erb, Executive Director of UIP
Dennis Erb
Executive Director, UIP

These are unprecedented times. The men and women at UI Pharmaceuticals will help in any way possible to support our healthcare professionals in their battle against the Coronavirus--we have offered our services in whatever way we can to help fight the pandemic. It's the right thing to do.