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Palmetto Poison Center staff tapped for national leadership roles

A nurse in a rural hospital monitoring a snake bite victim.

A father whose teenager took too many pain relief tablets.

A mother whose toddler ate her vitamins.

In a fifteen-minute flurry on a recent morning, these are just a few of the South Carolina residents whose health questions were answered and minds put at ease by Jill Michels, Pharm.D., managing director of the Palmetto Poison Center and clinical assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy at USC.

Since 1999, she’s been part of the team at the poison center, which operates under the auspices of the College of Pharmacy and provides free, around-the-clock confidential medical advice across the state for poison emergencies. Prior to joining the center, Michels completed her residency at Emory University Hospital and a one-year toxicology fellowship at the Georgia Poison Center in addition to a managing the Texas Panhandle Poison Center in Amarillo, Texas.

Throughout her career, Michels has tackled almost every role in a poison center – from toxicology fellow to education coordinator – and still regularly answers poison emergency calls.

And now Michels is putting her wealth of experience to work on a broader stage. She was recently elected to serve as a director at large on the American Association of Poison Control Centers board of directors.

“I’m excited to represent our center on a national level working with my poison center colleagues,” she said. “I felt like I would be a good board member because I have an understanding of all the positions at poison centers. I’d like to be an advocate for everyone in this field while I’m on the board.”

Michels is passionate about the role of poison centers, a critical but often overlooked part of the country’s healthcare infrastructure. Analyzing data from across the country, the national association has sounded the warning bell on health safety issues such as detergent pods, e-cigarettes and bath salts as part of its surveillance efforts.

“The work we do goes far beyond just kids eating toothpaste,” Michels said.

In addition to Michels, Christina DeRienzo, the poison center’s education coordinator, has been tapped to serve on the association’s accreditation committee.

“It’s an honor to serve our poison centers to ensure we meet a high standard of care for our patients nationwide,” she said.

DeRienzo, who promotes the poison center’s safety mission through its website and social media accounts as well as community outreach campaigns, will likely apply her teaching expertise on the committee to educate poison centers about new accreditation standards going into effect this year.

“I’m proud of (Christina) being appointed to the accreditation committee because that is a major committee within the association,” Michels said. “She does such a great job here; she’ll really be able to impact that committee as a member.”

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