UCI Webinar Creates Venue to Discuss Healthcare Disparities in Pharmacy

Healthcare Disparities Speakers

On June 4, the UC Irvine School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences hosted a webinar titled “Health Disparities in Pharmacy Practice within the Community,” bringing together pharmacy leaders from UCI and other organizations and universities across the country.

Although attendance was intentionally capped to encourage connection and small-group discussion, Alex Chan, Founding Chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy Practice, says that the conversation is just beginning and future webinars on the topic will be open to a larger audience.

The June 4 webinar featured three presentations, followed by breakout rooms to share ideas and set the foundation for future discussions.

Cheryl Wisseh, Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor within the UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, presented on the “Social Determinants of Pharmacy Deserts in Los Angeles County.”

Wisseh’s study published in January 2021 was the first to link disparities and “pharmacy deserts” in California. Unlike previous studies, Wisseh’s research described pharmacy deserts in terms of social determinants of health – such as owning a vehicle, crime rates and poverty – to determine which communities have the greatest need for pharmacy access. 

Concluding her presentation, Wisseh said: “Residents in pharmacy deserts might benefit greatly from equitable, innovative, community-based interventions that increase access to medications, pharmacy services and pharmacists.”

Keri Hurley-Kim, also a Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor within the UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, shared a presentation on “COVID-19 Vaccinations in Los Angeles, California: A case study of vaccination rate disparities.” Hurley-Kim derived a lot of her findings while serving as the current vice-chair on the steering committee for the Immunization Coalition of Los Angeles County (ICLAC). She has also presented her research looking into the use of vaccines in a large national database.

As part of her presentation, Hurley-Kim also discussed the pharmacists’ role in vaccinations.

“I don’t think I’ve had a prouder moment as a pharmacist than working in some of these mass vaccination sites, whether it was at UCI, vaccinating patients at the clinic where I work, and seeing pharmacists cover every role,” Hurley-Kim said. “We have been involved in the public health and planning and we have covered every inch of what we’re calling that ‘last mile’ from distribution until that shot in the arm. Pharmacists have been the leaders through a lot of this process.”

In the final presentation of the webinar, Howard University Clinical Assistant Professor Jacqueise Unonu shared her expertise on “Medication Education Disparities – Increasing Patient Touch Points to Improve Patient Care.” During her presentation, Unonu defined patient touch points, presented a patient case, and presented recommendations for increasing touch points for patients.

“Increasing touch points with patients provides consistent engagement,” Unonu said. “As we talk to them more, they get more comfortable with us. We see what it is that they really need and what we need to do to meet them where they are. Positive engagement with continuous opportunities for ‘check-in’ and education is key for successful outcomes.”

For more information about future webinars on healthcare disparities in pharmacy, email Alex Chan at a.chan@uci.edu.

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