USF Pharmaceutical Partnership Aids Senior Health Research

TAMPA – A partnership between the University of South Florida and Unisen Senior Living helps research into seniors’ health and provides pharmacy students with a hands-on learning experience.

Reba Cook has been a resident of the retirement community for several years.

Now that she is older, she no longer drives and relies on the door-to-door service offered by the USF School of Pharmacy.

“I have a supportive group of friends,” Cook said.

A USF licensed pharmacist holds regular office hours at Unisen to provide consultations and medication reviews to residents.

USF’s College of Pharmacy and School of Physical Therapy provide educational programs and health screening opportunities for Unisen residents.

Students from the College of Pharmacy and School of Physical Therapy have internship opportunities at Unisen to gain experience in medication management and have real-life cross-generational interactions with seniors.

Unisen residents can enroll in select USF courses and pursue their educational interests through the university’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

The USF Institute on Microbiomes recently collaborated with Unisen on a study on the link between gut health and age-related diseases, including dementia and cancer.

Dalie Elabed and Karolina Peksa, USF pharmacy students, help fill bottles and refill prescriptions.

“We really hope to see this make it easier for patients. I know they’re on a lot of medication and it gets confusing.” said Dalia Elabed.

“I think it is very beneficial for us as students to have an impact and make a difference in the lives of our patients,” said Karoline Peksa.

When seniors were confined during the pandemic, they learned how invaluable interactions are.

“I was the only face my patients saw during the pandemic and so did my students,” said Dr. Carol Fox.

Fox founded the internship program nine years ago.

“It’s about introducing students to geriatric populations,” she said.

Whether or not it’s their specialty, she says all medical professionals in Florida should be trained in health care for the elderly.

“A lot of the time, our students think of the elderly population as the nursing home population or the dementia population and not the population interacting with the world,” Dr. Fox said. “We still have people here who cycle a few miles a day and walk. They’re healthy and they’re out there.”

Cook says many students develop bonds with seniors and stay connected even after graduating from the program.

“We only have the best, I feel that very strongly,” Reba said.

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