Thursday, February 10, 2022

Opportunities to pursue hospice and palliative care as a specialty in pharmacy school have grown significantly since 2014, when Michelle Schmidt graduated from the UI College of Pharmacy. Now returning as a faculty member, she is passionate about continuing to enhance the field for future generations of pharmacists.

Schmidt, ’14 PharmD, joined the college as a clinical assistant professor at the start of the year. She is part of a team of four pharmacists employed by the college who aim to help people with serious illnesses live their fullest lives.

There are two main components to her job: Educating Doctor of Pharmacy students about her area of expertise and working at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) with the inpatient palliative care team. Students will learn from her in the classroom where she will be an instructor, as well as at her practice site as a preceptor.

Michelle Schmidt

Palliative care is an umbrella term that refers to support provided to patients with serious illness and their families.  While hospice care supports patients who have a terminal illness, not all patients receiving palliative care are dying.  In both specialties, coordinated team-based care focuses on providing patients with comfort and quality of life.  A patient’s health team integrates the patient’s goals of care to treat his/her pain and other symptoms, including psychological and spiritual distress.

“Navigating serious illness is stressful,” Schmidt said. "Palliative care can help steer you and your loved ones through difficult conversations, identify ways to reduce suffering, and work to prioritize what means the most to you.”

The college’s opportunities for students interested in the field has grown significantly since her student days. “As a student, I remember [college] Dean [Donald] Letendre’s wife Louise speaking at an organization’s meeting about her experiences as a hospice nurse. But opportunities to explore hospice and palliative care were limited.”

After graduation, Schmidt matched as a PGY1 Pharmacy Resident in Ambulatory Care with the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System in Gainesville, Florida.

“As a deeply empathic person, I felt an undeniable visceral response when I joined the palliative care team on rotation during my first year of residency in the VA,” she said. “Despite each veteran being medically complex and fragile, a renewed sense of hope was generated when team pivoted conversation from being illness-focused to one centered around patient empowerment, maximizing joy, and improving quality of life.”

Her course was set. Schmidt went on to complete a PGY2 Pharmacy Residency in Pain Management and Palliative Care in the same health system. In 2017 she became a remote clinical pharmacist at the Ohio-based Optum Hospice Pharmacy Services.

“It is such an exciting honor to have returned to UI College of Pharmacy in a faculty role and be able to share the passion I have for hospice and palliative care with students and colleagues,” Schmidt said.

“My goal is to empower pharmacy students to build a strong foundational understanding of palliative care principles that can be integrated into patient care in their future practice,” Schmidt said. “While patients receiving end of life care comprise only one aspect of palliative care, I am particularly passionate about end of life care and aspire to enhance hospice education and clinical offerings for pharmacy students.”

“Integrating the skillset of a pharmacist with the talents of other interprofessional palliative care team members can help patients live better lives.”

Schmidt Describes
her Role:

"As a clinical pharmacy specialist at UIHC, my role on the interprofessional Adult Inpatient Supportive and Palliative Care team is to help improve the quality of life for patients with serious illness through pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions. In addition to direct patient care activities, I will serve as a preceptor to APPE students, the PGY2 Pain Management & Palliative Care resident, and other interested learners."

Words Schmidt
lives by:

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Personal Details:

Schmidt grew up in Elburn, Illinois.

She said: “My husband Ben and I are proud fur parents to an 11-year-old Australian Cattle Dog/Chow rescue named Payton.  We look forward to enjoying the many waterways in Iowa via kayak and paddleboard during the warmer months.