UMKC Pharmacy Professor Offers High School Students a Head Start in Health Care

High school students are learning the roles of the pharmacist within the health care team through a career exploration program with Heather Lyons-Burney

Each January, Heather Lyons-Burney, Pharm.D., welcomes a group of area high school students to visit her laboratory at the UMKC School of Pharmacy’s Springfield campus. For two and a half hours, the students take part in an experience of chemical compounding and discuss the role of non-sterile compounding to meet the unique needs of patients.

The students are part of the Greater Ozarks-Centers for Advanced Placement (GO-CAPS) program. Throughout the year, they will meet monthly with Lyons-Burney, and often one of her UMKC pharmacy students, to learn about a pharmacy topic and engage in pharmacist-like activities.

GO-CAPS is a career exploration program that partners with businesses throughout Missouri’s greater Ozarks area. It offers high school juniors and seniors an educational opportunity driven by real-world, career-oriented experiences. For those interested in health care, particularly pharmacy, there is Lyons-Burney.

“My goal is for the students to understand the role of the pharmacist on the health care team and how pharmacists impact patient outcomes,” she said. “Whether or not they decide to be a pharmacist, I want them to feel comfortable reaching out to the professionals who are the medication experts. I enjoy working with these motivated students, helping them explore various occupations in health care and how we work best as a team.”

As part of their high school curriculum, GO-CAPS students participate in a program of shadowing, attending classroom presentations, participating in various pharmacy projects and ultimately developing their own capstone project.

Lyons-Burney is part of the area-wide GO-CAPS program and serves on the advisory board as a resource for learning experiences and on-site ambulatory care clinic shadowing. The program provides a packed schedule of exploring a wide spectrum of the health care field including learning to perform CPR and emergency first aid with paramedics, how to set a fracture with an orthopedists and gaining a greater understanding of medical technology.

High School students participate in a compounding laboratory experience at the UMKC School of Pharmacy's Springfield, Missouri, campus.

As a pharmacist, Lyons-Burney leads the high school students, currently a class of 16, in exploring the various areas of health care where one might find a pharmacist and provide them with clinical examples of the many roles today’s pharmacists play.

Their classroom and laboratory sessions touch on lessons such as how pharmacists intersect with patients in addressing social determinants of health to clinical discussions on the complications of diabetes, such as neuropathy, and how to conduct a mono-filament foot exam to assess the loss of one’s sensation. Students also break into teams to work on and present patient cases.

“My focus is to explore the roles of pharmacists in various settings by walking the high school students through a topic discussion of a disease state and discuss how a pharmacist in a hospital, long-term care setting, specialists office, primary care clinic or community pharmacy may be involved with patient care and the health care team,” Lyons-Burney said.

She said that much of the pharmacist’s role in patient care involves considering options for therapies and whether or not those therapies will be safe and effective for a patient.

“To demonstrate that process, it’s easiest to put the student somewhat in the seat of a pharmacist and have them think through a patient case to come up with a safe, effective option,” she said.

Lyons-Burney said that by exploring multiple health care professions, including pharmacy, students in the GO-CAPS program may wind up going into a profession they might never had considered before.

“Regardless of the health care profession that the students choose, this provides them with skills and knowledge that gives them a head start,” she said.

Top Stories