Student pharmacists at South Dakota State University have been honored for their work to promote diabetes awareness through Operation Diabetes.
The Student Collaboration for the Advancement and Promotion of Pharmacy won the Region 5 award for the Operation Diabetes competition sponsored by the American Pharmacist’s Association Academy of Student Pharmacists.
It continues a pattern of excellence for the SDSU chapter, which also won the Operation Diabetes award in 2013, the Operation Immunization Award in 2017 and the Operation Heart Award in 2018, according to its adviser, Teresa Seefeldt, associate dean for academic programs and associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
SDSU competed against the University of Minnesota, Creighton, Drake, University of Wyoming, University of Iowa, University of Kansas and North Dakota State University.
During the June 1, 2019 - May 31, 2020 contest year, 280 students participated in 23 events in which 434 people received blood glucose screenings.
Entries in the Operation Diabetes contest are evaluated on innovation, impact and involvement of students, Seefeldt said. SDSU’s written report stood out because of the number of patients reached and a unique educational opportunity—a booth displaying different insulin administration devices, she said.
The SDSU effort was co-chaired by Abby Blanchette and Ashley Bernardy, both of Marshall, Minn., who were both in their second year of pharmacy school in 2019-20.
State Fair a popular screening site
State Fair 2019 was the third year for the chapter to have an Operation Diabetes booth there and the idea for adding the insulin administration device booth came from the chapter’s executive board and several faculty members, Blanchette said. People were able to visually compare devices and learn about the differences between them, she added.
“In 2019, we reserved one large tent and created a flow of patients that could visit different stations with various screenings available,” Blanchette said.
“A lot of people who attend the State Fair appreciated the services we offer. There are some people who are surprised by their blood glucose result, especially if they do not get it checked often. This presents an opportunity for us as pharmacy students to educate patients on what they should do next in response to their blood glucose value. If it is higher than expected, we are able to refer them on to their primary care provider and counsel them on appropriate diet and lifestyle changes,” Bernardy said.
Other sites: Brookings, Pierre, Sioux Falls
During the 23 screening events, five people were referred to a primary care provider.
A majority (252) of the 434 screenings were done at the State Fair in Huron, but screenings also were done at the Harvest Table in Brookings, the Banquet in Sioux Falls, Lewis and Hy-Vee pharmacies in Brookings, the SDSU Wellness Fair and Legislative Day in Pierre, Seefeldt said. Typically, the chapter also does screenings at the SDSU Employee Benefits Fair, but that event was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 changed 2020 plan
The chapter did participate in the 2020 State Fair, but COVID-19 altered its approach.
“Due to social distancing restraints, this year we created smaller, individualized tents with the opportunity to complete each screening (blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure) in one location,” Bernardy said. “Between patients, students would change gloves and sanitize all surfaces. There were 95 blood glucose screenings done, which is a huge accomplishment considering the COVID-19 restrictions.”
In addition to training in class, the chapter provides “training sessions to allow students to feel more comfortable performing the screenings and talking to patients about their results,” she said.
In addition, “It also gives us students professional satisfaction to see the impact they can make on patients. Just this year, I encountered a patient that had no idea what the different blood glucose numbers represented. I was able to explain to them what their goals were, what the different numbers represented and why their goals are what they are,” Blanchette said.
It’s all part of an effort to identify those with previously undiagnosed diabetes and those who are at risk of developing the potentially fatal disease, Seefeldt said.