The benefit of certification is tied to the shortage of physicians and helps assure more direct patient care on Hawai‘i Island.
Two faculty members at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo pharmacy college, Assistant Professor Christina Mnatzaganian and Assistant Clinical Specialist Victoria Rupp, recently received Board Certified Ambulatory Care Pharmacist certification from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, a division of the American Pharmacists Association.
“It is an honor to achieve this certification as not all pharmacists are required to be board certified,” says Mnatzaganian, who specializes in public health issues. “Students and patients can be assured that we have attained this higher level of certification and are poised in the position to teach this material as well as care for these patients.”
Ambulatory care involves personal one-on-one consultation, treatment, or intervention in an outpatient setting. The benefit of certification is tied to the shortage of physicians and helps assure more direct patient care. The two newly certified ambulatory care pharmacists are poised to help the community and improve the local medical field.
“A career in pharmacy entails life-long learning to stay current within the ever-changing medical field,” Rupp says. “With pharmacy moving in a more clinical direction, being up-to-date on the latest guidelines and medications is very important. I believe board certification is a way to demonstrate to your colleagues, peers, and patients that you are committed to professional excellence.
“Our profession is changing, we are starting to move away from being just dispensers to more clinical roles,” she explains.
Mnatzaganian and Rupp serve as full-time faculty members at UH Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, improving Hawai‘i’s healthcare one student at a time.
They also spend about 50 percent of their time working at the Hawai‘i Island Family Health Center, serving as preceptors for pharmacy students, assisting with the residents in training, and managing ambulatory care. While there are different levels of ambulatory care, Mnatzaganian explains that certified pharmacists directly manage patient care, aiding those patients who may need help their physicians don’t have time to provide, particularly those with diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
“Under an agreement with physicians who refer their patients to us, we are collaborating side by side on a multidisciplinary health care team but independently adjusting medications for these patients, providing education on diet and lifestyle modifications, and ordering necessary labs and referrals,” Mnatzaganian says. “Since our scope of responsibility is so large, I felt it necessary to further my training and credentials.”
Managing diseases in this setting is crucial because this is how healthcare costs are kept low — by patients needing less visits to the hospital or emergency room — and overall morbidity is improved, explains Mnatzaganian.
For the ambulatory care certification, Mnatzaganian and Rupp attended a national conference last April in Chicago sponsored by the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, which reviewed subjects to be covered on the board exam. Then, they both diligently studied course materials back home until they each took the exam, Mnatzaganian in September and Rupp in October.
Both faculty members plan on using their new certification to benefit both the College of Pharmacy and the Hawai‘i Island community.
“By having board certified pharmacists teaching the future pharmacy generation, students can be confident that their (pharmacy college) experience is of the highest standard,” Rupp explains. “For the community, patients can also be assured that not only are we putting out qualified students into the work force to help fill the large healthcare gap, particularly on the Big Island, but the pharmacists they are interacting with in the hospitals and at their doctors’ offices are providing them the best, evidence-based medication regimens.
“For the future, I hope to continue to grow as a faculty member, offering the most up to date and practical information to my students both in the classroom and during their clinical rotations,” she says. “Additionally, I hope to become a certified diabetes educator so that I can further improve the health of my patients.”
Mnatzaganian’s plans include continued teaching of ambulatory care pharmacy at the college as well as working with her patients at the Hawaii Island Family Health Center.
Mnatzaganian received her doctor of pharmacy from University of Arizona in 2011. She served her community pharmacy practice residency at the UH Hilo pharmacy college in 2011-2012.
Rupp received her doctorate from Long Island University’s pharmacy program. Her first-year residency was at Memphis VA Medical Center in 2011-2012, and she also did a residency in ambulatory care with an emphasis on academia at the University of Tennessee’s family health center in 2012-2013.
About the author of this story: Kara Nelson is a senior at UH Hilo double majoring in English and Communication. She is an intern in the Office of the Chancellor and a writer for UH Hilo Stories.