Public Health Pharmacy Award


Texas A&M student receives national public health pharmacy award for work with underserved in South Texas 

Chris Espino, a third-year professional student pharmacist from Mission, Texas, aims to serve and improve the lives of South Texas residents. In recognition of his efforts, he was nominated for this year’s United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Practice Award. The award recognizes a student’s academic and extracurricular accomplishments particularly those related to patient education, interdisciplinary education and public health. Espino received the award on May 20 at the College Awards.

“He’s humble yet ambitious,” said Andrea Luce, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy. “He has a sincere desire to serve the underserved.”

Espino played a critical leadership role in planning and implementing Project SHINE, Service & Help through Interprofessional Network Experience, an interactive health clinic that’s primary mission is to provide health care to an indigent population. These student-led events were scheduled in fall 2014 and spring 2015 and more than 180 families obtained free health screenings and immunizations in Penitas and McAllen.

“His work and leadership in the preparation and execution of Project SHINE demonstrates his passion and dedication to the profession of pharmacy and public health,” said Pamela Schweitzer, Pharm.D., BCACP, rear admiral, assistant surgeon general, chief professional officer of pharmacy, U.S. Public Health Service, in his award letter. “Completion of these projects clearly supports public health and the goals of ‘Healthy People 2020.’ Through these endeavors, he illustrates the importance of incorporating core public health principles into today’s pharmacy practice.”

Espino’s parents are pivotal examples of those who are dedicated to public health. His mother, Janie, is a school nurse and his father, Arturo, was a radiology technician for over 35 years.

“He has always been motivated to succeed especially since both of us were in the medical field,” Arturo Espino said. “We are so proud of him.”

Chris Espino’s father said he was always trying to get ahead and his parents encouraged him to go for his dreams. In addition to working toward a doctorate in pharmacy, he received a master’s in public health in spring 2014 from the Texas A&M University School of Public Health.

Espino developed a heart for the underserved after witnessing the great need for health care and health education in his hometown. He said many patients do not understand the meaning of their health screening results. The lack of health education is often overlooked as a health care disparity.

Rose Lucio, MPH, assistant director for the Texas A&M School of Public Health McAllen Campus, said the one-to-one interaction patients receive in the explanation of health screening results at Project SHINE is a vital piece in empowering patients to take control of their health.

Lucio said that people who have never seen or experienced first-hand the health disparities in South Texas, especially in the colonias, might perceive Project SHINE as just another health fair.

“Project SHINE is not just a health fair, it is a service delivered to many individuals who do not have access to health care,” Lucio said. Project SHINE is an opportunity for patients to receive health care services and screenings often taken for granted by many with accessibility to health care.

Espino was responsible for securing the location for the health fairs, recruiting collaborators and enlisting preceptors from various health care professions. He also enlisted the help of students in the Master of Public Health program from the Texas A&M School of Public Health McAllen Campus, providing them with an opportunity to work collaboratively with a team of individuals to positively impact the health of individuals in their communities.

Espino takes to heart that Project SHINE directly impacts his hometown community.

“In the past three years that I’ve worked in Project SHINE, I’ve seen it meeting a need in the Rio Grande Valley by opening up the dialogue with residents who otherwise would not even know they have a health problem,” Espino said. “We also have an opportunity to give them much-needed immunizations at no or very little cost that will increase the health of everyone in the area and the state of Texas.”