A Northeast MN AHEC Reflection, by Laura Palombi
I was born and raised in Ely, a small town in northern Minnesota famous for its blend of the arts and the outdoors (population 3,724). I have always been interested in a career in health care, and volunteered at the hospital and nursing home in Ely before I worked as an EMT in the Ely hospital during college. I knew that I wanted a health care career in which I could make a positive change in the lives of others, but I wasn't sure what this career might be.
After completing a B.A. in Theology, a B.S. in Biology and a M.A. in Theology (focusing in Catholic Social Teaching) I taught for several years in private and Catholic schools. After staying at home to take care of my two children for several years, I decided to pursue a career in pharmacy. Pharmacy was the perfect career for me, as it allowed me an intellectual challenge with patient contact and flexible working hours. Most importantly, I knew that pharmacists had a huge opportunity to improve the "health care experience" of many patients and that there was a variety of careers in pharmacy that I could choose from. I really appreciated that there was a College of Pharmacy in Duluth, as I had no interest in moving back to the cities. My goal was to ultimately live in a rural area and to give my children the same small-town experience that I had enjoyed as a child.
I have a personal interest in working with rural communities, because I am from such a community and am supportive of the challenges they face. I am especially interested in working with those who are struggling on the margins. During my time at the College of Pharmacy, I have most enjoyed working at the HOPE (Health of People Everywhere) Clinic at the CHUM Center in downtown Duluth. This clinic, run by pharmacy and medical students, serves the homeless in Duluth every week. I have also enjoyed planning and participating in health fairs with MPSA (the Minnesota Pharmacy Student Alliance) and implementing new educational programming in disadvantaged communities in the Duluth area. I think that other students, especially those who are not from a rural area, would benefit from experiencing health care in a rural setting so they can learn firsthand about the benefits of living and working in a rural community.
I learned about NE AHEC in working on finding funding sources for rural health fairs and rural outreach activities, in addition to the work they do with H.O.T. camps. In my NE Minnesota AHEC rotation, I was fortunate enough to participate in a variety of educational and outreach events. I did three puppet shows for preschool and school-aged children (ages ranging from 9 months old to 8 years old) at AEOA childcare centers and educational events in Hibbing, Virginia and Hermantown. These shows focused on exposing young children to careers in healthcare, guiding them through what happens if they were going to the hospital and talking to them about healthy behaviors and how drugs aren't candy. I worked on a project in conjunction with Carlton County Public Health and the pharmacy residents and students on rotation at Essentia health. We designed a set of tools that nurses and other health professionals can use in doing medication reviews at home visits. This set of tools included a patient handout and a provider handout for COPD, asthma, hypertension, type II diabetes and heart failure. These tools were presented at an inter-professional, inter-site seminar during my rotation, with plans to repeat the presentation as part of a training session in the future for Carlton County Public Health & Human Services.
During this rotation, I was also given the opportunity to continue other projects that bridge the gap between pharmacists and public health. I interviewed nursing directors and directors of rural public health departments to learn more about how pharmacists can become more involved in public health. I worked to design a new Public Health APPE (advanced practice pharmacy experience) and am also learning more about how the University of Minnesota could have their own PharmD/MPH program. These projects have as their goal an improved participation of pharmacists in public health and an increased dialogue between pharmacy and public health.
I hope to continue the projects I have started by completing a one-year ambulatory care residency, either in Mora or Duluth, and to continue working towards the Certificate of Core Concepts at the School of Public Health (on my way to the MPH). Ideally, my job will combine MTM at rural health departments with a light teaching load at the College of Pharmacy (hopefully in rural public health). I am also interested in a career that includes consulting and community pharmacy. My hope is that my practice will let me continue working with those on the margins who would benefit most from my clinical expertise and to work closely with public health professionals. I hope that my work will help pharmacists across the state, especially those living in rural areas, to become more involved in public health initiatives in their communities and their state.