September 8, 2022
AUBURN, Alabama - Teamwork and caring for others. With those thoughts in mind, pharmacy students from the Auburn University Harrison College of Pharmacy’s campus in Mobile and health care professions students from the University of South Alabama came together in 2014, founding what has turned into the USA Student Run Free Clinic.
Operated out of the Salvation Army on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile, students across multiple health and social science disciplines collaborate to empower patients through health education, the promotion of health literacy and improving access to community health resources.
So much of health care is done in a team setting with pharmacists, physicians, nurses and many others working together to provide the best care possible for their patients. The interprofessional nature of the clinic allows Harrison College of Pharmacy, or HCOP, students to get a preview of what lies ahead in a professional setting.
“Interprofessional experience has been a big part of the HCOP curriculum and being able to actually use these skills before entering my fourth year was important to me,” said Angelique Holmes, a member of the Class of 2024. “This experience has allowed me to see the roles of other disciplines in a health care team and where my place was as a pharmacy student was.”
Holmes, a native of Otsego, Michigan and a graduate of Western Michigan University, currently serves as president of the clinic’s student board. Holding a leadership position within the clinic, she understands the value of experiential learning as she prepares for her career.
“This experience is vital to my learning because I was able to work with actual patients in my first year of pharmacy school,” said Holmes. “This opportunity has taught me how to critically think about a patient’s case and learn in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere where it is ok to be wrong.”
Under the supervision of a faculty advisor and various preceptors, students working in the clinic see a variety of patients, many experiencing homelessness. While providing an experiential learning opportunity for students to practice clinical and communication skills, the clinic also improves sensitivity to vulnerable populations and promotes a lifelong commitment to service.
“As health care professionals, it is our responsibility to serve humanity, which includes people from all walks of life, backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses,” said Sarah Grace Barnes, also a member of the Class of 2024 and the pharmacy liaison on the student board. “Everyone deserves access to care, and the patients we serve at Student Run Free Clinic are extremely grateful that we show up for them and provide care each week.”
Barnes, a Fairhope native, was first exposed to the clinic while working on her biology degree at the University of South Alabama. Seeing first-hand the valuable experience and the impact on patients, she knew it was something she wanted to be a part of as soon as she started pharmacy school.
“Experiential learning is an absolute necessity to becoming a pharmacist. The skills we learn in lab and in the classroom need to be practiced to ensure we are practice-ready pharmacists upon entering the workforce after graduation,” said Barnes. “The Student Run Free Clinic is the perfect place to practice blood pressure and blood glucose screenings, patient counseling and assessing medication regimens for appropriateness.”
From improving health outcomes to building relationships, Auburn and South Alabama students are working together to make a difference in their community.
“Our patients come back to the clinic weekly to get checks on their blood pressure or blood sugar, or just to sit and talk with the volunteers,” said Holmes. “You never know how you are going to able to help someone, whether that be by providing services or a listening ear.
“From the time I started volunteering, that was the most surprising thing: I wasn’t just there to practice my skills in the classroom, I was there to build a relationship with the patients.”
Auburn University’s Harrison College of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 25 percent of all pharmacy programs in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the College offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. The College's commitment to world-class scholarship and interdisciplinary research speaks to Auburn's overarching Carnegie R1 designation that places Auburn among the top 100 doctoral research universities in the nation. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.