Pharmacy faculty inspires growing leadership through innovation

By Arnessa Blanks

Dr. Annesha White

Innovation is key when building new systems in the pharmacy industry and can be crucial to maintaining quality of life and potentially prolonging it.

Students in the HSC College of Pharmacy PHAR 7335 class participated in the 2020 Innovation Challenge project to practice innovation and leadership skills in the pharmacy profession.

The project was directed by Annesha White, PharmD, MS, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacotherapy and Associate Dean. She relayed to students that there is a leadership crisis in the pharmacy profession that could be solved using innovation.

“Honing innovation skills may be one of the smartest career moves for students,” Dr. White said. “Innovation isn’t something you do after you get your work done. It’s how you do your work.”

Students were divided into 16 teams to brainstorm, transform, and design innovations that assess patients’ needs and provide solutions. With a choice of 17 topics, such as food insecurity, health management, and American work-life balance, they were challenged to create something that used outside-the-box thinking but was also practical.

Each team completed virtual presentations to ensure the safety of all team members, faculty, judges, and guests. Teams used online Google presentations to work on their projects and often met over Zoom to collaborate and practice.

The first-place winner, Better Bites Pharmacy, unveiled a visionary take on a community pharmacy: online ordering, convenient pick-up and delivery and premade meal kits for dietary and societal needs. Their pharmacy model would combine the convenience of food shopping with a one-on-one consultation to help customers make better nutrition choices.

Times have been drastically different this year, so teams chose to consider the barriers COVID-19 might have on their topics to ensure their innovations would be more realistic.

“We made sure our meal kits would still be successful even if the community wasn’t physically coming into our store,” said Jonathan Rivera, a Better Bites Pharmacy team member. “This is why we came up with the solution to either deliver the meal kits via a third party, such as Door Dash or Uber Eats, or set up mailing subscriptions. These ideas help the community practice social distancing while spinning it as a way for the pharmacy to make it easier for them.”

Better Bites Pharmacy project team members were Victor Amajor, Abriana Palumbo, Jonathan Rivera, Naly Wongbar, and Funmilayo Yesufu.

One pharmacy student group explored a different option. Honorable mention winner, FlexRx built a system that would help with copayment cost reductions. The drug subscription program, which resembles Netflix and Spotify, offers customers a choice of a five-tiered pricing plan with a pre-determined fee to receive program benefits.

“We looked at different approaches to addressing rising drug costs and maintaining accessibility,” said Miguel Espinoza, a FLEXRX team member. “We [tried] to see how well the proposal would look through the different lenses of various stakeholders…trying to propose a solution where everyone wins is very difficult.”

FLEXRX project team members were Stemmon Charly, Miguel Espinoza, Shana Morrison, Payal Patel, Shaun Sajan, and Taylor Stone.

Three more honorable mentions were awarded:

  • “Watering the Food Desert in Fort Worth”

Group members: Christopher Bannister, Saul Diaz Acevedo, Kelly Lucas, Rebecca Nelson, Brittany Tu, Ashley Welch

  • MOBILE FOOD MARKET “With a twist”

Group members: Terry Dang, Misozi Kolala, Gage McInturff, Amy Mpala, Jin Jae Park, Lucy Rashiwala

  • Can a tool be designed that allows us to have “care in the palm of our hand”? “E-Care: The Future of Health Care”

Group members: Farheen Ghani, Cristian Jimenez, Quang Nguyen, Adedoyin Opara, Brittany Baskett

Community leaders and pharmacists judged the students on originality, desirability, and logical plans. If interested, students will be able to explore developing their ideas further with Dr. White and Tech Fort Worth.

“Students put together the puzzle pieces by applying lessons learned from various courses,” Dr. White said. “It has been an enjoyable time furthering my passion to integrate innovation and entrepreneurial concepts into my course, with a focus on creating a vibrant group of future pharmacist impact-makers who will help to improve the lives of patients as well as health care professionals.”

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