The Council of Infectious Diseases (CID) is an interest group within the UM School of Pharmacy’s chapter of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy – Student College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP-SCCP). Its goal is to increase awareness and educate the public about a variety of topics related to infectious diseases (ID). The group was co-founded by two of this post’s authors — Andrew Wherley and Sumit Gandotra — through their mutual interest in infectious diseases, and it aims to help educate pharmacy students by hosting exam reviews, infectious diseases-specific tutoring events, and lectures on antimicrobial stewardship, and providing opportunities for students to shadow infectious disease pharmacists in the field.
Inspiring Future Generations
With the help of Meryam Gharbi, a fourth-year student pharmacist who previously served as president of the SCCP, and Kathleen Pincus, PharmD, BCPS, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) who serves as faculty advisor for ACCP-SCCP and mentor for the UMB CURE Scholars Program, CID developed a fruitful relationship with the CURE Scholars. This relationship led to the creation of CURE-ID events at UMB’s Community Engagement Center.
Established in 2015, the UMB CURE Scholars Program strives to prepare sixth- to 12th-grade students in Baltimore for competitive, lucrative, and rewarding research and health care careers, with the specific goal of developing student interest in oncology research.
Our most recent CURE-ID event was held Nov. 19, 2017, and began with a pre-quiz led by Dijo Abraham, a third-year student pharmacist and webmaster for CID. The purpose of the pre-quiz was to introduce the activities that would take place during the event and assess the CURE Scholars’ basic knowledge of infectious diseases. After completing the pre-quiz, the 30 to 35 students in attendance were divided into groups and assigned to one of five stations, with all groups having the opportunity to rotate through each station.
All activities were led by student pharmacists from the School of Pharmacy and included:
- First station: Led by Sumit Gandotra, this station introduced students to bacteria on agar medium, which helped them visualize the appearance of microorganisms and differentiate them based on color, colony morphology, and smell.
- Second station: Led by second-year student pharmacist and CURE Scholars coordinator Alexis Zalewski, this station explored the topic of disease transmission. Students were given cups of water, unaware that one cup was filled with a “contaminated” solution that would turn pink when phenolphthalein — a harmless indicator often used in acid-base titrations, turning the sample pink when added to a basic solution or remaining colorless in an acidic solution — was added to the water. When students exchanged their samples and added the indicator to their cups, the person who received the basic solution (causing the water to take on a pink hue) was deemed to have a “contaminated” water sample.
- Third station: Led by Andrew Wherley, this station assessed students’ hand-washing technique using germ glow lotion. Students applied the lotion to their hands and were encouraged to touch different surfaces, including tables and doorknobs, on their way to the restroom to wash their hands. Using a black light, the students were able verify whether they had adequately removed the “germs” from their skin and could observe how the “germs” were left behind on the surfaces they touched before washing their hands. This activity helped to reinforce the importance of hand hygiene.
- Fourth station: Led by third-year student pharmacists and CID outreach coordinators Soeun Park and Lila Portman, this station introduced the concept of herd immunity. Students played a card game that instructed them to randomly draw a card from the deck. In the first round, the cards indicated whether a student was a “sick” or “non-vaccinated, healthy” person. The “sick” person was able to transmit his or her “disease” to the other healthy, non-vaccinated individuals. In the second round, the cards included “sick,” “vaccinated-healthy,” and “non-vaccinated healthy” individuals. Students who selected the “vaccinated-healthy” cards were able to stop the disease transmission, illustrating how individuals who are vaccinated can protect not only themselves but also others who are not vaccinated.
- Fifth station: Led by second-year student pharmacist and CID shadowing coordinator Jordan Sachs, this station taught students about antibiotic resistance. Students learned that resistance to an antibiotic can be developed — among other causes — when patients do not complete an antibiotic course as prescribed.
To conclude the event, third-year student pharmacist and CID webmaster Waleed Khan administered a post-test to evaluate how much students learned from our activities.
Learning from the Learners
The CURE-ID events teach us, as student pharmacists and future health care providers, the importance of tailoring our communication styles to our target audience. Once we enter our profession, we will be conversing with people who span every level of the educational spectrum. However, regardless of a patient’s level of education, it is vital that our patients understand the information we convey. Working hands-on with middle-schoolers through the CURE Scholars Program presented a valuable lesson in this matter. We learned the importance of talking to the students in the same manner that we would address our adult patients, not using overly complicated terms to help keep their attention and remaining calm. These skills will be invaluable throughout our careers as pharmacists, especially when we recommend therapies to doctors, advocate for our profession to lawmakers, and, most important, when counseling our own patients.
Looking Toward the Future
The future of CID looks bright. We plan to expand our educational offerings to older adults in the near future through a new partnership with FutureCare, a nursing home and rehabilitation center in Baltimore’s Charles Village. Through this collaboration, we hope to educate the community and raise awareness about myriad topics, including:
- Diabetic foot care
- Hepatitis C
- Hand washing, with emphasis on the prevention of difficile, a bacterium linked to a wide range of gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea and life-threatening inflammation of the colon.
Furthermore, we plan to collaborate with the Student Section of the Maryland Public Health Association (SMdPHA) to host an event focused on tuberculosis education specifically for refugees. Pharmacists have made great strides in implementing infectious disease prevention programs in health care practice, and we hope to continue this momentum moving forward through CID.
— Sumit Gandotra, Waleed Khan, Andrew Wherley, and Rachel Rowland