College of Pharmacy prepares students for health outcomes careers

Studying health outcomes research alongside artificial intelligence/machine learning, allows managed care pharmacists to make real-world decisions that impact medication therapy and cost-efficiency for individuals and health systems.

According to the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, “Pharmacists in managed health care organizations are responsible for the delivery of health care and prescription drug benefits to more than 300 million Americans.” The AMCP also offers a roadmap to a career in managed care pharmacy.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s College of Pharmacy is home to two online programs that can help students prepare for careers in health outcomes research: the Certificate in Applied Health Outcomes Research and the Master of Science in Applied Outcomes Research.

A path to a career in pharmacoepidemiology

Patrick PithuaPatrick Pithua, DVM, PhD, had a full career in epidemiology, academia and veterinary medicine when he had a change of heart about his profession.

“After witnessing the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt the need to find meaning in my work,” Pithua said. “Consequently, I decided to pursue outcomes research as a career path.”

Pithua earned a Master of Science in Applied Outcomes Research from HSC College of Pharmacy, completed fully online in one year. He reflected that the coursework equipped him with relevant skills to be effective as a researcher in health economics and outcomes research.

“The MS-AOR is highly rigorous in its training, and I found all the courses enjoyable due to their uniqueness,” Pithua said. “The introduction to AI/ML and its application to HEOR was the icing on the cake.”

Shortly after receiving his master’s degree, Pithua successfully transitioned careers and landed a position at AMCP as a principal research scientist in the Biologics & Biosimilars Collective Intelligence Consortium.

“The skill [acquired through the MS-AOR program] that I am currently using in my role is the ability to analyze real-world data, such as claims, surveys, and electronic health records, to generate real-world evidence,” Pithua said. “My goal is to contribute to improving the health of persons through research and advancing health equity for everyone.”

Fellowship bound

Rachel ClarkFor student pharmacist Rachel Clark, becoming more skilled in outcomes research helped her land a highly competitive fellowship in pharmacoepidemiology with Daiichi Sankyo/Rutgers. She will begin this fellowship after graduation in May.

Clark completed the online certificate in applied health outcomes research while a full-time HSC PharmD student, providing a strong foundation in clinical pharmacy and health outcomes research.

She is the current vice president of the Class of 2024 Pharmacy Student Government Association and has held leadership roles in the student chapters of AMCP and the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research.

From the beginning of her PharmD journey, Clark had a keen interest in understanding how pharmacists assess the safety and effectiveness of medications in real-world settings.

“There are many environmental factors that contribute to the success or failure of medication therapy in addition to the medication itself,” Clark said. “Outcomes research involves many tools that provide evidence about benefits, risks, and results of treatments so clinicians and patients can make more informed decisions.”

As she advanced through the certificate program, she began to understand the complexity of managing health care outcomes with limited resources and felt better prepared to enter this field.

“The final capstone project was very helpful in my fellowship applications,” Clark said. “I was able to discuss the project and present a research poster at the 2023 AMCP Nexus national conference. This experience enhanced my presentation skills and allowed me to demonstrate my learning during the interview process.”

As Clark prepares for her next chapter, she is excited to see the impact of her newfound skills applied in practical settings and to build upon the educational foundation gained at HSC.

Clark’s goal is to enhance the impact pharmacists can have on patients’ well-being, regardless of the practice setting.

“Outcomes research is a growing field with more opportunities than I could probably list, but I will look for opportunities to incorporate health outcomes research in whatever area of pharmacy I work in, clinical or non-clinical roles.”

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