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Jason Sparks (Class of 2018) traveled to Juneau, Alaska for an ambulatory care Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotation at the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) – Ethel Lund Medical Center Pharmacy. Michelle Vaughn, PharmD (a former Gatton PGY2 resident), precepted Jason on the rotation. SEARHC is tribally operated by the U.S. Indian Health Service and the Ethel Lund Medical Center provides care through a variety of healthcare professionals: family physicians, a pediatrician, nurse practitioners, an optometrist, a psychiatrist, physician assistants, pharmacists, and laboratory and x-ray staff.
Looking back, what made you decide to pursue the rotation in Alaska?
- I wanted to travel to a site away from this area to understand the similarities and differences in healthcare concerns between different geographical locations. Plus, it gave me an excuse to travel!
What was your favorite part of the rotation?
- I was able to manage an Anticoagulation Clinic for patients that were on warfarin therapy. This allowed me to independently visit with patients to form an assessment based on the subjective and objective information I collected. At the conclusion of the clinic visit, I would form the patient’s pharmacotherapy regimen and discuss it with a pharmacist.
What surprised you most about the rotation?
- I was surprised that I was treated more like a pharmacist rather than a student. I was able to assist in altering patient drug therapies by answering drug information questions for providers. Some providers even made changes to therapies after attending my presentation on opioid tapering.
What are some of the things you saw and did while on rotation?
- I was able to complete a COPD guideline review, provide a presentation on opioid tapering, answer drug information questions, manage the Anticoagulation Clinic, and provide counseling for medications. I was also able to hike the trails around Mendenhall Glacier and observe the many different scenic sites that Juneau has to offer.
How has the rotation changed your perception of health care in rural areas?
- I was able to understand the different cultural factors we must consider when making therapy decisions. It’s important to always ask patients about herbal medicines.
How will the rotation assist you in future career goals?
- I hope to pursue a PGY1 Pharmacy Residency. I believe the opportunities offered by this rotation have enhanced my clinical skills and exposed me to tasks and assignments that I will be completing during residency training.
Would you recommend this rotation to other students?
- Yes, the opportunities offered by this rotation have enhanced the skills I will continue to use as a future pharmacist.
How would you describe this rotation to other students?
- This is a rotation that will challenge you, but you will learn so much from it. Everyone at the clinic is friendly, and they give you plenty of opportunities to explore the area.
What is housing like in Juneau?
- The clinic provides you with a list of different housing opportunities in the area, and you can also find housing through Airbnb and other online sources. You have options ranging from houses, apartments, and hotels. Most places provide great scenery. I had a gorgeous view of mountains with waterfalls flowing down.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
- Be sure to take advantage of the beautiful scenery! Ask the pharmacy staff for fun things to do/try while you are there because they are very active and knowledgeable. I would recommend bringing a rain jacket.