Exploring Partnerships

UM System leader Tim Wolfe visits UMKC

Leading a four-campus state university system requires one to play a lot of different roles.

For University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe, that expectation became quite literal on a recent visit to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Specifically, he was asked to role-play as a 67-year-old patient, recovering from a recent heart attack and being treated for high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure.

And no, it didn’t involve the Department of Theatre.

Rather, Wolfe was getting an overview of outreach programs conducted by the UMKC School of Pharmacy. Fourth-year Pharmacy student Rachel Bishop of Blue Springs, Mo., was called upon to demonstrate how pharmacists are now being trained to take a more active and consultative role in patient care. Wolfe agreed to play the patient role.

“Do you take your medications regularly?” Bishop asked.

“Sometimes,” Wolfe replied.

“Why do you only take your medications sometimes?”

“”Well, sometimes I forget. And I’m sleepy a lot. And I really just don’t like taking drugs.”

Bishop probed further: “Do you have trouble keeping straight all the different medications and when you’re supposed to take them?”

“Yes,” the “patient” replied. “I get confused, and the writing on the bottles is so small.”

Bishop offered to show him a pill separator, which allows a patient to divide up their medications for each day’s regular dosages.

“Can you separate the medicines for me?” Wolfe asked.

“I can do it once, to show you. But Missouri law doesn’t permit pharmacists to repackage medications that way.”

Wolfe makes regular visits to all four campuses in the system, and on his latest visit to Kansas City, he reviewed outreach and partnership programs on the Hospital Hill campus.

Dean Russell Melchert and other School of Pharmacy officials described how the school earned $3 million in translational research grants and contracts in 2011 and 2012, placing in the top third of U.S. pharmacy schools. One of those projects, a partnership with a leading drug manufacturer, is showing great promise in allowing a drug to treat macular degeneration – a leading cause of age-related vision loss – to be administered via topical application rather than by injection. This would improve patient comfort, lower costs and pay a significant return on investment.

Officials also described how student patient-care outreach programs provide immunizations; and screenings for diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and risk of falls; at health fairs, farmers’ markets and community events. One program through the Shared Free Clinic of Jackson County saves patients more than $1.5 million a year.

Meeting with School of Dentistry officials, Wolfe heard how students are now doing rotations in community-based health clinics, allowing the centers to serve more patients with dental health issues while students enhance their understanding of community health needs. The school is a vital safety-net healthcare provider, delivering more than $700,000 worth of uncompensated care annually. Adult dental care is not covered by either Medicare or Medicaid.

They also described the new dental clinic operated by the school at University Academy, a UMKC-sponsored charter school in Kansas City. The clinic does far more than just serve the oral health needs of Academy students; it also provides a demonstration of potential dental careers, an effort to address the historical under-representation of minorities in the profession. It also allows students to get a feel for the challenges of pediatric dentistry, to help them decide whether they want to feature that service in their eventual practices.

Earlier in the day, Wolfe toured the two newest buildings on UMKC’s Volker Campus – the just-opened Henry W. Bloch Executive Hall and the Miller Nichols Learning Center; together, the two new structures add about 1,800 new classroom seats to accommodate UMKC’s growing student body. He also viewed the construction site for the new 245-bed student housing project on Hospital Hill.


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