Top prize in treating patients right

By Jan Jarvis

Mark Herndon, UNT System College of Pharmacy student

UNT System College of Pharmacy student Mark Herndon had 10 minutes to research the drug that had been prescribed for a patient with Crohn’s disease.

He spent his time focused on the patient and how he could make sure the man took the drug properly. When he sat down with the patient, he knew exactly what to say to him.

“What’s most important is to establish good rapport,” Herndon said. “It’s about how you convey the information and make sure the patient understands it that matters.”

Herndon’s patient-centered approach recently won him first place in the Texas Pharmacy Association’s Patient Counseling Competition in San Antonio. The goal of the competition, established in 2005, is to give students the opportunity to practice in true-to-life circumstances.

Volunteers stand in for real patients and students are judged by a panel of pharmacists who look at how well they counsel each person.

As a fourth-year student completing rotations and an intern at a community pharmacy, Herndon already had lots of experience counseling patients in both academic and real-life settings.

“I think the key to successful counseling – and the reason I was able to excel in this competition – is the fact that I genuinely enjoy talking to people,” he said. “Patient counseling, at its core, is a conversation.”

The competition tests students on skills they’ll use in their career, said Jennifer Fix, PharmD, Associate Professor of Pharmacotherapy.

“Counseling the patient is an integral part of the pharmacist’s service, whether it is in a clinic setting, hospital setting or a retail pharmacy in the community,” Dr. Fix said. “This competition helps student pharmacists appreciate the art of communicating drug-related information in a way that patients can understand and act upon. “

Herndon began working at a pharmacy while completing a master’s degree in biomedical sciences. He planned to pursue medical school after he finished his master’s but realized that a career in pharmacy aligned with his interests.

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