Pharmacy student fields questions from Healthy NewsWorks reporters

June 2013…As part of John Riehl’s pharmacy training, he is regularly required to enter the “fishbowl.” This room, which is surrounded by four walls of double-sided glass, is the stage upon which Thomas Jefferson University students must demonstrate their pharmacy knowledge by addressing various clinical scenarios.

Mr. Riehl put this training to the test this spring with an unconventional audience—elementary school students—as part of the Healthy NewsWorks program. He volunteered several times at Healthy NewsWorks press conferences in North Philadelphia schools as a way to give back to the community and help spread the word about how to safely handle and administer prescription drugs.

“The kids ask great questions,” he said, “such as, ‘What would you do if the doctor accidentally wrote you the wrong prescription?’” It’s these types of questions that prompt a more in-depth discussion about the pharmacist’s role in the health care system and the importance of checking and double-checking directions and dosages for medication.

“This program allows us to teach these lessons early to kids, and I hope they pass along these messages to their families,” said Mr. Riehl. Some of the key points he makes in each presentation are:

  • Follow your doctor’s directions.
  • Make sure your name is always on the medicine bottle.
  • Never take anyone else’s medicine (even within your own family) because medicine is dispensed based on gender, age, weight, and other patient needs.

Mr. Riehl credits the Healthy NewsWorks program with reinforcing many of the interpersonal skills outlined in his textbooks and practiced in his classrooms. “It doesn’t matter if they’re third graders or adults,” he said. “It all comes down to communicating complicated information in a way people can understand.”

Healthy NewsWorks reporters in 11 elementary and middle schools wrote articles about prescription drug safety for their school health newspapers. The Understanding Medicine project was supported by a grant from the American Medical Association Foundation.

—By Beth Hodge


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