Partners in D Continues Community Outreach for Seniors

(pictured left: Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD)
Posted: January 23, 2020

by Shelley Wong

Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, has been a leader in the Partners in D student outreach program since its pilot in 2006. Along with Helene Levens Lipton, PhD, she received the 2010 Jane Boggess Advancement of Pharmacy Practice Award from the Pharmacy Foundation of the California Pharmacists Association for the program, which was created to meet underserved senior needs in response to the Medicare Part D benefit. It has evolved into an interprofessional elective led by Stebbins that is offered each fall prior to Medicare Part D open enrollment.

Students within the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy, and the Physical Therapy program have the opportunity to work together while assisting seniors from underserved populations with their Medicare plan. Since the majority of patients have limited English-speaking skills, UCSF partners with UC Berkeley and City College of San Francisco to have student trainee health interpreters onsite, offering another opportunity for interprofessional learning and collaboration. The patient population is approximately 44% Asian Pacific Islander, 28% white, 18% Hispanic/Latinx, 7% African American, 1% Native American, and 2% other.

“The elective is designed as active learning, where students have a case and have to figure out how to use the Plan Finder without expertise, like a patient, before they receive training,” says Stebbins. Each student participates in six hours of outreach at sites including the UCSF Institute of Aging, UCSF Cardiology clinics, Lifelong Over 60 Clinic, and Mercy Housing sites.

Stebbins highlights the impactful exchanges between students from different schools: “Last year, we had many dental students participate in the elective. They were fascinated because they knew nothing about drugs and they found it was very helpful to work with SOP students and troubleshoot and learn about the complexities that patients face,” she says. “And on the other side, one of the most common patient questions is ‘How do we get dental care?’ and dental students know about community resources and low-cost resources, so they were able to teach the other students.”

Dental student Asrai Mousa says, “My group had great teamwork and I learned a lot from the pharmacy students, as I had no idea about medications and how to calculate them. It also felt good to help others, especially the elderly in underserved communities. They needed help, as many weren’t getting the service they wanted.” As a third-year dental student, Mousa was at ease working with clinic patients and with balancing patient conversation and computer input, so she was able to advise her less-experienced peers.

On the nursing side, says Stebbins, “Nursing students tend to be phenomenal in meeting with patients since they are used to talking to them. They teach so much to other students who don’t necessarily have a lot of patient care experience.” Overall, the interprofessional dynamic benefits all sides and students enjoy spending more time with students from other disciplines in patient encounters.

Stebbins is committed to this outreach work. “One of the things we say in SOP is, “If the pharmacist doesn’t help the patient with medication issues, who will?’ It’s important to understand patient medications, especially in the Medicare program, where everything hinges on what the patient takes to get into the best plan.”