WILKES-BARRE — Nicole Pezzino laughs so effortlessly it can be hard to take her seriously, yet odds are the enthusiasm behind the smile will convince you.
The Wilkes University assistant professor of pharmacy is one of only six people chosen for a national program. She says “We’re going to change the world with this.”
And you start to believe.
Three days before last Christmas, the 29-year-old received a gift she insists she’s wanted for seven years: Selection by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation to participate in its Faculty Scholars Program.
It comes with $2,500 and at least two trips to national meetings. But it’s the boundless exchange of ideas and information among “thought leaders across the country” that really gets Pezzino pumped up.
“I’m very passionate about our community pharmacy program,” she said. “A study found people on average go to their community pharmacy 30-ish times a year. That’s a huge opportunity to help patients.”
The focus of her Faculty Scholars work — and the linchpin for her “change the world” promise — is figuring ways to use all those pharmacy visits to help patients.
She rattles off examples: A patient who can call up lab results on their smart phone; conducting basic tests while a patient is there to see if a medicine being handed to them has been doing its job; simplifying complex counseling instructions given with meds; and having pharmacists connect with doctors on possible treatment changes.
“We want to make sure each person is practicing at the top of their licensure,” she said (smiling, of course).
For example, when learning about one of her favorite topics, diabetes, she says there were about 11 therapy options. “Now there are upwards of 30.”
The medical field, she concedes, falls short in communicating among those working with the same patient, and even in communicating with that patient. Broadly, she wants to work on that aspect of pharmacy during her 18 months as a Faculty Scholar. She expects to work out more detailed plans as she talks with those running the program.
Being the kind of person who worked toward this opportunity for years, she’s already contemplating bigger things, eyeing National Institute for Health grants. Maybe something small at first, say $30,000 to $60,000. “That would help us change the state,” she said.
After that, she’s not shy in considering bigger grants, maybe in the millions.
“That helps save the world!”