Becoming Leaders in an Era of Quality Care: Did it Make a Sound?

Touro College of Pharmacy Student Urges Colleagues to Build Awareness of Their Research Among Public and Professionals to Save Lives

February 25, 2019
Brigitte Azzi
Brigitte Azzi

There is a moment when the great roots of a tree finally bellow their last breath and relinquish their hold on the moist undercarriage of soil. The forest watches as their elder slowly leans over and drops to its knees and the sheer mass of decaying cellulose crashes into the leaves and brush scattered across the ground. Cacophonic vibrations rip through the air but no one is there to listen. Did it make a sound?

If we want our research to have an impact it must be heard. A vast quantity of science is lost year after year into the annals of journals and citations without ever reaching the public. This is wasteful at best and immoral at worst. Scientific research elucidates insights that can improve the quality of day-to-day life, relieve the pain and anguish of disease and affliction, and even save lives. To achieve this positive impact, the results of our research must be accessible to those who stand to benefit from it. We must put as much effort on distributing our research as we do conducting it.

I am becoming a pharmacist to help make pharmacy more equitable, accessible, and effective. Throughout my first year as a pharmacy student I wondered why my textbooks and lectures kept referring to concepts like patient outcomes, disease prevention, and overall health as if they were novel. I was surprised to learn that these common-sense measures had only recently become the focus of healthcare. Quality focuses on effective healthcare - not just on managing disease, but also on building a society that gets less sick, less often. Patient-centered care should be the minimum, and education and empowerment should be priorities.

The Challenge: Build Public Awareness

I want to challenge my fellow pharmacists and student researchers to do more than research. I call upon my peers to build new, creative, and innovative ways to bring our research to the public that deserves to learn from our work. Medicine does not exist within the papers of a results section. It provides benefits when it co-exists with well-informed doctors, pharmacists, and patients. Too often, standard practices are not updated, new information is not distributed, and positive life benefits are not conferred because our research is not heard. We must build public awareness when we make discoveries. Public health begins in laboratories and ends in the minds and bodies of the population.

I will be bringing the results of my research on treating childhood schizophrenia to the neighborhood of Harlem by freely distributing pamphlets with information and resources that can be understood by anyone willing to read them. My research shows the potential importance of considering first generation antipsychotic medications for treating schizophrenic children and will be a part of a wider campaign to raise awareness that all potential drugs should be considered for the best possible health outcomes. The goal is to put physicians in the best position to treat young patients by arming them with information about all possible medication options along with their benefits and side effects. Educational outreach will also target patients and families to inform and empower them to take a more active role in their treatment and healthcare.

Marketing strategies that prove effective for the industries around us can do the same for life-improving research. I will be testing the effectiveness of a variety of different pamphlets and actively responding to user feedback. Information cannot just be distributed; it needs to be distributed effectively.

We must take it upon ourselves to teach our fellow professionals and the public. We must become leaders in an era of quality care. Providing the highest level of service and care to the population requires an informed population. It is not enough to discover life-saving results; we must use those results to save lives.

Brigitte Azzi, a student at Touro College of Pharmacy in New York, is researching antipsychotic medication used for early-onset schizophrenia as a participant in the Pharmacy Quality Alliance - CVS Health Foundation Scholars program. In 2018, Azzi and classmate Irfan Khan won “Best Student Pharmacist Poster” from The Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) Foundation for their poster titled: “First-Line Treatment of Schizophrenia: Are Children and Adolescents Benefiting from Newer, More Frequently Prescribed Second Generation Antipsychotics?” The students emphasized the need for further research to improve practices with adolescent schizophrenia.