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Student-Run Pharmacy Debuts In Schenectady

The Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has opened a new student-run pharmacy in downtown Schenectady. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas was on hand for the ribbon-cutting.

In a first-of-a kind alliance for the Capital Region, Hometown Centers, the county’s only not-for-profit, federally qualified health center, has teamed up with the College of Pharmacy, which is operating HHC’s full-service, in-house pharmacy.

The partnership restores a low-cost service that was lost when a different pharmacy discontinued operations about a year ago.

Gregg Dewey is president of ACPHS:  "There's only a couple of other in the country. It will be a great educational experience providing pharmaceutical services to an underserved area."

Students working on their degrees staff the State Street facility, experience interacting with patients, filling prescriptions and dispensing advice, while a full-time, licensed pharmacist oversees operations. "This is a partnership between the College of Pharmacy and a federally-qualified health clinic. It allows us to explore the expanded role of a pharmacist in a health care system. I call it a collaboratory, because we're gonna collaborate on how to best serve this community and how to use the untapped expertise of pharmacists in approaching the medical needs of this community."

The plan is to rotate three or four students through the program every six weeks. 38 have already applied. Dewey expects that rotation in time to expand to 50 students.  Dewey says in the end, students will be better prepared to “think like entrepreneurs,” seeking out opportunities not only for operational efficiencies and growth, but also for creative healthcare business models.

Congressman Paul Tonko was on hand.  "I love this celebration of community. And the fact that you can get that hands-on delivery of services, learning that as a student, understanding better your role in this whole effort for health care, is a very value-added asset to the degree that they will receive. So this is a great across-the-board win. The success here will be felt most importantly by those who are served."

Pharmacy student Sonya Kara fills a prescription.
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Pharmacy student Sonya Kara fills a prescription.

Student Sonya Kara welcomes the opportunity.  "I'm actually very excited about this student-operated pharmacy. I think it will be a great way for us to get more hands-on involvement, because, at school we do learn a lot of things, but there's not a lot of hands-on involvement."

Officials say that in addition to refining the clinical skills needed to be a successful pharmacist, students will learn important business skills required to successfully manage a pharmacy.

HHC patients — 80 percent of whom rely on either Medicare or Medicaid — have the convenience of being able to fill a prescription and receive an expanded range of clinical services associated with patient wellness immediately following a doctor’s appointment.

A second unit is planned for downtown Albany, and is expected to open sometime this summer.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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