Ignite Magazine | Fall 2020

Page 14

FEATURE

DISPENSING MEDICINE, SEEKING SOLUTIONS BY ELAINE GUREGIAN

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hat do you get when you take fears about health, finances and personal security and fold them into daily life for months on end? The pharmacists we talked to describe the situations and moods they have encountered recently in hospitals and retail settings, where patients feel the most vulnerable and society’s stresses — from COVID-19 to revelations of racism – have been bubbling to the surface. “I feel like there are two pandemics happening,” says Brittney Owens, Pharm.D. (’19) — COVID 19 and the racism that has been exposed with the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans. “Most of my friends and family are more concerned about the racism right now than COVID,” she says. At one of the locations of the Northeast Ohio CVS Pharmacy where she works, she was recently called the N word, for the first time in her life, by a customer in the drive-through. Tempers have been flaring, with customers angry about anything from being asked to wear masks to new rules that don’t allow them to bring back their own prescription bottles to be refilled. Dr. Owens wonders if her race is a factor in the store where she is the only employee of color. “I think for me to be in that position of power, to say if their prescription is covered by insurance, may make them afraid and angry,” she says. “My parents have experienced racism and they’re like, ‘Brit, this happens to us and we have to get used to it.’ But we shouldn’t have to.”

This virus has been shown to be more likely to infect individuals with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes – and African Americans are high on the list of races predominately affected by these conditions. Diet is a big factor directly related to both of those conditions. Most African American communities are food deserts, meaning there is no grocery store in the area in which these individuals live. Consequently, residents of these communities don’t have ready access to the fresh fruits and vegetables that might aid in preventing diabetes or blood pressure issues. A poor diet is likely in these communities, which now places residents at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. At NEOMED I was the only African American in my class. I can honestly say that I was always treated with respect and as an equal to any of my classmates. In my workplace at the VA I have consistently been the only African American on staff. I have expe-

SERVING AT A HOT SPOT Mark A. Jones Jr., Pharm.D. (’15), works as a clinical pharmacist at the Detroit Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where the effects of the pandemic were so great that staff was brought from other VA Medical Centers to handle the patient load. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light systemic issues that have been ignored for decades, says Dr. Jones. Recent events surrounding police brutality and protest have created a tense environment across America that he has experienced himself. In an email, Dr. Jones reflected on his experience: Michigan as a whole experienced a rate of coronavirus higher than other states, and the city of Detroit, which has one of the highest percentages of African Americans in the nation, was one of the virus’ epicenters. Nearly all of the patients seen at the Detroit VA who were infected with COVID-19 were lower-income African Americans. 14 I G N I T I N G

I feel like there are two pandemics happening. Most of my friends and family are more concerned about the racism right now than COVID.” – BRITTNEY OWENS, PHARM.D. ( ’19)

T H E PA S S I O N O F P H Y S I C I A N S , P H A R M A C I S T S A N D H E A LT H C A R E R E S E A R C H E R S