Three students honored for Ricco Ethics Awards


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By Alex Branch

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From left to right: Elijah Hor, Anna Ricco, Nicholas Ricco, Joyce Chuen, Heily Pham and Roy Martin

Three first-year students were honored for outstanding ethics essays at the Nicholas and Anna Ricco Ethics Awards presentation.

Elijah Hor from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Joyce Chuen from the School of Health Professions and Heily Pham from the College of Pharmacy each received $1,000 awards funded through an endowed gift from the Ricco family.

The Riccos, who live in Carrollton, also have funded similar awards in 13 programs at the University of North Texas in Denton.

At the awards presentation, students read their winning essays to students, staff, faculty and the Riccos. Hor’s essay recalled when he worked as an emergency room scribe – someone who documents the care a physician provides – and medical staff could not locate a thoracic surgeon to operate on a critically ill elderly man before he died.

“When the patient drew his final breaths, he was surrounded by his loving family who were teary eyed, just as the nurses who tended to him,” Hor wrote. “I was grateful that he was able to rest comfortably with his loved ones. At the same time, I felt a deep frustration with the way events transpired.”

In her essay, Chuen wrote about working at a pain management clinic and developing a fascination with addiction and rehabilitation. She recalled one patient, a silver-haired woman with chronic pain, pleading for more morphine and other pills.

“As medical professionals, we are invited into a unique relationship with our patients where the patient exposes their life and body to us,” she wrote. “Is it in the patient’s best interest to provide the strongest medication for their pain?”

Pham’s essay was about working as a pharmacy technician and encountering a frustrated customer who had visited four pharmacies that refused to fill his prescription. She checked the man’s insurance plan and discovered that filling the prescription would cause a large profit loss for the pharmacy.

Rather than send him on to the next pharmacy, Pham and her supervising pharmacist agreed the pharmacist would call the man’s doctor, explain the situation and get him to prescribe a similar but more affordable medication for the patient.

“Life is a constant and complicated decision making process in which each one of us has to learn how to make the right decision based on what we always believe and what we have experienced,” she wrote.

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