Pharmacy students serve with VALOR

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At a time when generations of pharmacy students are searching for ways to reach their communities, one competitive program stands out where students can serve those who have served their country.

The Veterans Affairs Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) program is designed to attract academically successful students of doctorate of pharmacy programs to work at a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility as registered pharmacists. This prestigious and competitive internship gives professional student pharmacists the chance to gain hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Through VALOR, students improve clinical and critical thinking skills. The VALOR program is nationwide with two Texas institutions participating.

Students from the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy have represented the college in VALOR since the college began in 2006. This past summer, four students from the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy participated in the program. Professional student pharmacists Jason Chau and Kristy Walker interned at Central Texas Veterans Health Care System in Temple, Texas, and Allison Bryce and Nhu Quyen Dau served at the Michael DeBakey Veterans Affairs Hospital in Houston.

Walker, a fourth-year professional student pharmacist, who also received an internship in 2013, witnessed her impact on the VA. She was able to see projects that she started as an intern the previous year still in use. One of these projects was a patient brochure and the other was a protocol for limiting Benzodiazepine use in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The internship with VALOR is not just a job and the program is flexible enough to give you the clinical experience you desire and need,” Walker said.

For Chau, a third-year professional student pharmacist, his internship focused on medication therapy management (MTM) in the pharmacist-led Anticoagulation Clinic and the Community Living Center. While most of his time was dedicated to anticoagulation and research, he was also involved in pharmacy-based training sessions and antibiotic management for veterans admitted to the medical center for acute and long-term care. The latter half of Chau’s internship was geared toward MTM in the geriatric population.

“As a VALOR pharmacy intern, a typical day in clinic usually consisted of a few face-to-face clinic visits, interpretation of lab values and contacting veterans in order to adjust or continue therapy,” Chau said. “I also processed consults for restricted drug use and non-formulary medications, and ultimately dictated progress notes in an electronic medical record.”

Since the program integrates students into the VA system, students also learn how to manage pharmacy practice records and orders.

“The VALOR program has been a great learning experience. It is interesting to see how their pharmacy works and the systems they use,” said Bryce, who is a fourth-year professional student pharmacist. “I used my skills from the sterile preparation course nearly every weekend I have worked, to make IV bags or preparations for our patients.”

The applicant pool for the VALOR program is highly competitive. Dau, fourth-year professional student pharmacist, applied to VALOR for 2013 but was not accepted. She used the rejection for motivation to excel academically. Dau reapplied for the internship for 2014; she was thrilled when she found out she was accepted. This internship exposed her to inpatient and outpatient pharmacy. Dau continues interning at the DeBakey hospital throughout her fourth year on the weekends.

“It has been such a privilege to be a part of the VALOR program,” she said. “I was able to apply the skills and knowledge that I learned in class to serve the veterans who made sacrifices for the freedom I now have.”