Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy

ETSU research explores pharmacists’ role in decreasing fall risk

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 3, 2022) – Fall risk is a major cause of injury and death for older patients. Traditionally, a pharmacist’s role in lowering that risk has been unknown – until now.

Since pharmacists play a major role in managing patients’ drug interactions, faculty and staff from East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy and the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences teamed up to explore how pharmacists can help decrease fall risk for older patients by assessing medications and patient characteristics such as height, weight and gender.

This specific research aim was part of a larger, multi-focused interprofessional research grant of over $45,000, sponsored by the ETSU Research Development Committee and awarded to Dr. Courtney Hall, professor in the Physical Therapy program in the ETSU College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences. She recently led a multidisciplinary effort to update the clinical practice guidelines for the field of vestibular rehabilitation.

The present research focus and publication are the results of efforts of the late Dr. Brian Odle, an associate professor of Pharmacy Practice at Gatton College of Pharmacy.

“Dr. Odle presented the idea that pharmacists are unique in assessing drug-associated fall risk in the clinical setting due to their professional education and location within the current healthcare system,” said Dr. Peter Panus, professor emeritus of Pharmaceutical Sciences, who served as a co-author on the research.

Panus’ hope for the research is that it will ultimately help patients because of more interprofessional collaboration on fall risk studies.

“Fall risk is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in all healthcare and community settings,” said Panus. “Pharmacists, in assessing fall risk, will only increase the discussion and collaboration by health care professionals in the future.”

Because Odle came up with the idea for the research, his name was given to the measurement the researchers used: The Odle Drug-Associated Fall Risk (ODAFR) scale, a 5-point Likert scale developed by Drs. Sam Karpen and Panus to assist the pharmacists in assessing each drug’s fall risk. The ODAFR scale will require additional research prior to consideration as a clinical tool. 

Panus served as the primary and corresponding author on the publication resulting from this interprofessional research effort. Co-authors on the publication included Dr. Kelly Covert, assistant professor of Pharmacy; Odle; Karpen, who previously served as director of Assessment at Gatton College of Pharmacy; and Dr. Zachary Walls, who previously served as assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. In addition to being the grant awardee, Hall also was the senior author on the publication.

Read the full publication at

Gatton College of Pharmacy was founded in 2005 by the community to train student pharmacists in order to fill a health care need in the region. Over the last decade, the college has grown and matured to a national presence and enrolled high-quality students from across the country. The college’s faculty, student pharmacists and student organizations are the proud recipients of national awards and accolades for service, scholastic achievement and clinical training. Learn more at