Maryland Poison Center (MPC) posts displayed by tag

Gamez Shows High Fiber In Carpeting Crisis

Pedro Gamez went two floors up in the Saratoga Building for what he thought was a staff picture with his Maryland Poison Center colleagues. But when University President Jay A. Perman, MD, entered the conference room on July 27 and asked for him by name, Gamez went into defense mode.

“Wasn’t me!” he exclaimed, getting a laugh from his co-workers.

“I don’t know why I have this effect on people,” Perman joked. “You’re not in trouble but you did do something — something that makes us want to honor you as UMB’s Employee of the Month!”

“New car?” Gamez asked, causing his cheering co-workers to laugh some more. But despite Gamez’s jokes, it was his serious attitude and work ethic that won him the July honor.

As one of 55 poison centers across the United States, the Maryland Poison Center, part of the School of Pharmacy, receives approximately 44,000 calls per year, from the routine to the life-threatening. It is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation, keeping Gamez, who has been a LAN (local area network) administrator at the center for four years, and his colleagues on their toes.

When the center, which is on the Saratoga Building’s 12th floor, needed new carpeting in May, it wasn’t an easy undertaking. It’s not like the work could be done nights or weekends. Gamez, who maintains the servers, computers, and phone systems of the center, prepared the call center’s hardware to be moved during the install, and configured temporary work stations allowing staff to continue work as they moved from one location to another within the center for a week to accommodate the carpeting work.

Asked whether the carpeting guys hated him by the end of the week, Gamez replied, “The first day they did. I just kept asking them ‘how long is it going to take?’ because I wanted to move the portable system for the next day.” Gamez also came in early, stayed late, and even helped move furniture.

It wasn’t the first time Gamez and senior IT specialist Larry Gonzales had been forced to make Poison Center communications more portable. When power went off in the Saratoga Building in July, during the unrest following Freddie Gray’s death and during several snowstorms, the center stayed operational even though the University was closed.

In his nomination form, Poison Center director Bruce Anderson, PharmD, DABAT, wrote “no caller to the service had any idea that there was anything out of the ordinary happening to the physical plant of the Maryland Poison Center,” during the carpeting upgrade. “The service continued uninterrupted in large part because of Pedro’s efforts.”

Even before the award, Gamez felt blessed to be working at UMB. “Before coming here, the job that I had went away,” he said. “So it was a blessing to come here … my daughter goes to school [at College Park] for free and I’m continuing my education.”

And now $250 wealthier, with a new plaque on his wall, Gamez is grateful — to his colleagues and to his “mentor” Gonzales.

Asked what the award meant to him, Gamez said, “I’m one of those quiet guys. I just come here and I’m happy. I’m just proud that I did a good job.”

It wasn’t his first such award. Gamez won Employee of the Month in the Marine Corps decades ago. Now the challenges are different.

On the Fourth of July, he was about to take his three kids to the movies when the Poison Center called. “They lost internet and we couldn’t connect to the servers,” Gamez recalled. “So I had to reroute the connections.”

Ninety minutes later, his family went to see Despicable Me 3.

Which certainly doesn’t describe Gamez. As Perman said to him in closing on July 27 “we need more like you.”

— Will Milch and Chris Zang

Will Milch Contests, Education, People, UMB News, University LifeAugust 8, 20170 comments
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Medication Safety and Kids Event

Breaking the Language Barrier to Bring Medication Safety to the Community

As members of the School of Pharmacy’s American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicine Safety committee at the Universities at Shady Grove campus, we work in collaboration with our chair and co-chair – third-year student pharmacist Vee Do and second-year student pharmacist Quynh Nguyen, respectively – to raise awareness about OTC medication safety in our local community. Since 2015, other members of our committee have hosted outreach events at a variety of locations, including a middle school, health fair, and library.

To help our team deliver our message to an even wider audience, Quynh devised the idea to bring our medication safety lesson to a Vietnamese Sunday School. Vee worked with administrators at the school to ensure that the session went smoothly, while Phu, who served as the project coordinator, prepared the lesson plan and activity. All of our efforts culminated on March 19, when the five of us hosted our committee’s first-ever Sunday school event to bring awareness about medication safety to a particularly vulnerable population: first generation Vietnamese Americans.

Understanding the Linguistic Challenge

Because many members involved with our organization have immigrated to the United States from other countries themselves, we understand the challenge posed by the language barrier that many immigrants often have to overcome to be an active member of American society. For older generations, the language barrier can pose an even greater obstacle, with some individuals attending free classes offered by local nonprofit organizations to try to learn English and others deciding to forego learning the language for a wide range of personal reasons. However, a problem arises when the first generation of Vietnamese Americans born in the United States – who are able to speak fluent English – cannot communicate fluently with their parents and grandparents in their native Vietnamese.

Making Medication Safety Fun for Children

To help raise awareness about medication safety among Vietnamese families in our community, we created a short bilingual lesson and activity to highlight safe medication use. Our presentation targeted young children born in the United States to parents who had emigrated from Vietnam, allowing us to reach a local minority community by leveraging the bilingual (English-Vietnamese) communication skills possessed by multiple members of our committee. More than 40 children from the fifth grade at a Vietnamese Sunday school in Silver Spring, Md., attended our presentation, which addressed topics such as:

  • Differences between prescription and OTC medications
  • How to read and understand medication labels
  • How to safely store and dispose of medications

We incorporated as much Vietnamese into the lesson as possible, reviewing our presentation slides first in Vietnamese and then in English. We also engaged the class in a bilingual game of Jeopardy, which quizzed the students on the topics covered in the presentation, with an emphasis on how to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) safely and how to contact the Maryland Poison Center for both emergency and non-emergency situations. The students received double points if they correctly answered the questions in both English and Vietnamese.

Imparting Lifelong Lessons about Health

We hope that the children who attended our event had a great time, while also learning some useful health information that they can share with their families in both English and Vietnamese. Not only was our goal to enhance their knowledge and keep them safe when taking medications, but also to provide them with the knowledge necessary to ensure the safety of their parents, caregivers, and other family members who might not be able to read English. The children were very excited and engaged in the activity, seeming to grasp the concepts and pick up some new terms in Vietnamese, which makes us feel as though we accomplished our goals and more. We had a wonderful time preparing and presenting this project, and look forward to hosting future outreach events in our community.

Jessica Woodward Community Service, Education, USGAApril 11, 20170 comments
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Poison Prevention Week

National Poison Prevention Week

National Poison Prevention Week is March 19 – 25, 2017.

Observed during the third full week of March, National Poison Prevention weeks helps raise awareness about the dangers of poisonings and promotes steps that families can take to prevent them, including access to free, expert help through their local poison center. The School of Pharmacy is home to the Maryland Poison Center (MPC), and each year the MPC manages more than 30,000 exposures over the phone and reaches communities across Maryland through educational programming.

This year, during Poison Prevention Week, join us on Facebook and Twitter to promote these prevention-related themes:

  • Monday, March 20 – Children Act Fast, So Do Poisons
  • Tuesday, March 21 – Poison Centers: Saving You Time and Money
  • Wednesday, March 22 – Poisonings Span a Lifetime
  • Thursday, March 23 – Home Safe Home
  • Friday, March 24 – Medication Safety

For more information, contact Angel Bivens, MPC public education coordinator, at

Whitney Pennington Bulletin Board, Collaboration, Education, University LifeMarch 15, 20170 comments
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