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Student pharmacists earn second place in national competition

Assessing patients and drug therapies is second nature for Ja’Neisha Williams and Paul Philavong.

And now it’s earned them second place at the 2016 Student National Pharmaceutical Association/Kroger National Clinical Skills Competition. 

The duo, fourth-year students at the College of Pharmacy at the University of South Carolina, put their pharmaceutical knowledge to the test against other third- and fourth-year student teams.

“It just felt so normal with the knowledge base that we’ve already built,” Williams said. “We did what we’ve been training and preparing for the last three years to do.”

Philavong said they were confident in their clinical skill set but said it was nonetheless thrilling to receive national recognition.

“To get second place in the entire nation, it feels really amazing and surreal,” he said. “The Kroger reps invited us to sit with them in meetings and get to know them. It was an honor to represent our school.”

Dean Stephen Cutler congratulated the team. “The hard work by these two wonderful students brings great honor and recognition to our program,” he said. “Their achievement in this national competition illustrates the quality of education our dedicated faculty members provide to our students.”

For the preliminary round of the competition, the team was charged with reviewing a patient’s medical information and drug therapy profile and developing a pharmaceutical care plan. The students were able to access drug databases and practice guidelines, but other materials such as class notes were not permitted.

Based on their preliminary round score, the team then moved on to the final round where they presented their case to a panel of judges, answered judges’ questions and then conducted a seven-minute patient counseling session.

Each team was evaluated on problem-solving, communication, therapeutic knowledge/management, care plan development and counseling. For placing second, Williams and Philavong each earned a $750 cash prize, $50 Kroger gift card and $220 Amazon gift card to purchase current resources as well as a $500 clinical skills competition grant for the College of Pharmacy.

The student pharmacists credit their success at the competition to the strong classroom foundation set by the College of Pharmacy and exceptional experiential learning opportunities in area hospitals, community pharmacies and physician practice groups.

In addition, they have both been active members of the campus’s SNPhA chapter, with Williams serving as chair of the diabetes and chronic kidney diseases groups and Philavong serving as the initiative co-chair for HIV/AIDS and immunizations.

Although the team did not place in the spring regional competition, they felt confident about their knowledge and abilities and approached the national competition undeterred.

“When I look back at myself when I first came into pharmacy school, I think about how much I’ve grown from my P1 year to now,” Williams said. “I’m very proud of myself and my teammate. We work together well, and we brought charisma and fun and energy. That’s what it’s all about.”