The partnership expands health care in Union County

Professor of Pharmacy Practice Adam Pate (left) reviews a chart at the NMHS New Albany Medical Clinic with pharmacy student Carly Stanford of Fulton. The partnership between the university and NMHS helps provide better health care for patients and provides opportunities for Ole Miss pharmacy students. Photo by Bill Dabney/ UM Foundation

OXFORD, MISS. – A partnership between North Mississippi Health Services and the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy gives patients at a rural clinic a higher level of health care while expanding a decade-long relationship between NMHS and Ole Miss.

Tupelo-based NMHS’s agreement with the school of pharmacy allows Adam Pate, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice at UM, to work with patients two days a week as an ambulatory care pharmacist at NMHS New Albany Medical Clinic in New Albany.

Pate’s work at the clinic offers an extra touch beyond the care provided by the two staff physicians and one nurse practitioner to about 70 patients a day. The pharmacist is often able to gain insight into patient needs through follow-up calls and visits that the clinic would not otherwise have the resources to provide.

He listens a lot.

“Through my simple listening to patients, I can often identify problems they may be having,” Pate said. “A lot of them recently have been food insecurity and the provision of medicine.

“I recently had a patient who was missing meals every day because her daughter couldn’t get them for her, and I said, ‘You know we have social workers who can get you Meals on Wheels.’ So there’s a lot of that stuff , that we can place under this umbrella of chronic care management.

Often, when patients are concerned or confused about their medications, Pate can also help.

“Sometimes I have to explain to doctors, ‘Even though the patient didn’t say it at their last visit, they’re really worried about that drug you just started them on, and they’re nervous about telling you that,'” he said.

“But they were willing to tell me their concerns over the phone in confidence, and I can assure them that I will work with their provider and we can easily switch their prescription to a similar drug without a problem.”

Pate also helps patients enroll in drug assistance programs that help retirees on fixed incomes afford expensive brand-name drugs, often at no cost to the patient; assists physicians with complex patients who require chronic care management; interacts with patients during their annual wellness visits, confirms patient adherence to their medications and immunizations, and conducts telehealth by visiting patients over the phone.

“I tell patients I’m like the hotel front desk guy,” Pate said. “You know, if you forget your toothbrush, just come down and we’ll figure it out. That kind of personal interaction is what we try to do and it works very well for patients in general.

Pate has been an asset to the clinic, said Wes Pitts, a UM pharmacy graduate from Mantachy who serves as system director of pharmacy for NMHS and director of pharmacy at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.

“Adam was really able to demonstrate the impact of the pharmacist in a clinical setting, and that’s something we’ve been able to replicate in other areas,” Pitts said. “He did a very good job of demonstrating the value that a pharmacist can add.”

NMHS’s partnership with the School of Pharmacy is a win-win for both organizations, Pitts said.

“Ole Miss is always at the cutting edge of learning,” he said. “In the same way, we are also at the cutting edge of innovation. So this collaboration, bringing these two actions together, really helps us achieve more.

“We are happy to be able to partner with Ole Miss because the relationship really drives growth that benefits the health system. But I think it’s even more beneficial for our patients and the communities we serve.”

The partnership also benefits UM pharmacy students.

“We are extremely grateful to North Mississippi Health Services for introducing the benefit of partnering with us so many years ago,” said Donna Strum, UM dean of pharmacy. “Their continued support has opened doors for our students and created opportunities for their growth – exceptional face-to-face opportunities with patients that give them early experience in their chosen profession.”

NMHS has a first-year graduate pharmacy program that is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Pate serves the program as an instructor.

“We have four residents a year who rotate with him at different sites,” Pitts said. “They’re gaining a good track record and have been able to do some innovative things through Adam’s practice that we’ve been able to replicate in some of our other clinics, particularly related to annual wellness visits and chronic care management.”

In addition, the partnership can help students find employment after graduation. Many of the NMHS residents have been offered full-time jobs with the company, which serves 24 counties in North Mississippi and Northwest Alabama.

“Because of their on-site training, they are familiar with our facilities and processes, and we are able to bring them on board as long as we have open positions,” Pitts said. “We certainly want to retain those we’ve trained and reap the benefits of their education.”

The University strives to be a resource and partner to industry through mutually beneficial relationships. To learn more about the university’s industry engagement initiative, contact Hughes Miller, director of industry engagement, at [email protected] and 662-915-2885 or visit https://industry.olemiss.edu.

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