Thursday, March 3, 2016 1:48 PM

Grant will fund research on medication for premature babies

For as long as I can remember, my grandparents’ house has been filled with mortars and pestles, prescription books from the early 1900s, and more antique bottles with pills and powders and syrups than a person could count. My family has a long history with pharmacy.

It started with my great-grandfather, who earned his license through apprenticeship and who owned his own pharmacy in Old Sacramento before selling the store during the Great Depression. Later, my grandfather also became a pharmacist, and he too worked in his own store. Following in their footsteps, my dad became a pharmacist and has worked in a hospital pharmacy for over thirty years. 

(Literally) surrounded by pharmacy since I was a little girl, it has always been something I was interested in as a career. After graduating from pharmacy school in the spring of 2015, I was proud to be able to call myself a fourth-generation pharmacist. Just as I have always had an interest in pharmacy, I also have always had an interest in completing a Post Graduate Year One (PGY1) Residency, even though it isn’t a requirement to obtain a pharmacist license.

Dr. Laurie Wright with a poster detailing research awarded a grant from PPAG. Past recipients have been fellows and second year specialty residents. Dr. Wright is only the second PGY1 resident to have been awarded this grant since 2009. Under the mentorship of Dr. Harlan Husted and Dr. George Lien in Community’s NICU, this research project will help babies and also be shared among pharmacists. It has been submitted for the PPAG conference this spring, for Dr. Wright to share what she's learned through research.

I looked forward to my pharmacy residency as a means to explore different areas of practice and to strengthen my background in research.  I was lucky enough to “match” with the Community Regional Medical Center’s PGY1 program and have the chance to do the kind of research that I find personally and professionally rewarding – and that gets the attention of those who award research grants.

The Pediatric Pharmacy Advocacy Group (PPAG) has generously awarded my research project the Neonatal Pharmacy Resident Small Research Grant. My research project focuses on a clinical protocol our current neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) pharmacists use to guide the use of epoetin alfa, a drug that helps to stimulate the production of red blood cells.

Babies who are born prematurely are at a high risk of developing anemia. By using this drug, we are able to help prevent the need for blood transfusions in these tiny, fragile newborns. We are also able to help minimize complications associated with anemia of prematurity, such as poor weight gain. The goal of my project is to evaluate the efficacy of the clinical pharmacy protocol used in our NICU by comparing results from newborns at Community Regional treated with epoetin alfa to published literature evaluating how well the medication works to prevent and treat anemia in premature infants.

It’s extremely gratifying to get the chance to do research that will help children.  As a camp counselor and an elementary school tutor during my high school, college, and pharmacy school years, I enjoyed working with children and their families. But it wasn’t until my student rotations through a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and through the NICU at Community Regional that I realized how much I wanted to focus my career in pediatrics. I find the complexity of pediatric cases to be intellectually stimulating, and the resilience of pediatric patients and their families to be inspiring.

It is my hope that my project will demonstrate the positive impact of a formal pharmacy protocol on safe and effective medication use in newborns. With Community Regional’s planned expansion of pediatric services in the Fresno area, such as the opening of our own PICU and an increase in our number of pediatric medical and surgical beds, I also hope that this data may be used to help promote the expansion of the role of pediatric clinical pharmacy services as well.

The research grant from PPAG will help me to fund a statistician for data analysis, and will allow me to share research results at national conferences so other pharmacists can replicate our successes for more patients. Typically awarded to residents specializing in second-year residencies in pediatric pharmacy, I’m incredibly excited and honored to be awarded this grant as a PGY1 resident. 

PGY1 program information:
The Post Graduate Year One (PGY1) Pharmacy Residency program at Community Regional was established in 2002. Since that time, 32 residents have completed the program. Throughout the residency year, pharmacy residents complete several core clinical rotations in addition to two elective rotations. At the same time, pharmacy residents maintain additional responsibilities, such as assisting with staffing needs in the central pharmacy on weekends, serving as an on call drug information resource for various healthcare providers, and completing longitudinal projects such as a Continuing Pharmacy Education seminar and a research project. 

The extra qualification of a PGY1 program helps to prepare pharmacists to play an active role on interdisciplinary healthcare teams, and to help provide optimal care to all patients served. It also helps pharmacists to build the clinical foundation and skills needed to allow them to specialize in different practice areas. Examples of specialty areas for pharmacists include oncology, infectious diseases, and psychiatry. At Community Regional, there are PGY1 trained clinical pharmacists who specialize in critical care, internal medicine, emergency medicine, transition of care, ambulatory care, oncology, and pediatrics, among others.

Laurie Wright, PharmD
PGY1 Pharmacy Resident
Community Regional Medical Center