Jennifer Pham

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Neonatal/Pediatric Clinical Pharmacist


What experiences led you to your present employment?

I like pediatrics because of the challenge it brings. Most research is performed in adult population and very few are conducted in pediatric patients especially the premature infants, which is my area of specialization. Dosing in pediatric patients is challenging because it requires the knowledge of both developmental pharmacology and pharmacokinetics as these are altered in the pediatric population. Medication errors are three to five times more common in pediatric patients and three times more likely to cause harm or death as compared to adults; neonate are at even greater risk – eight times. Pediatric patients require continuous dosing changes as well as frequent monitoring of both efficacy and toxicity of medications because these patients undergo frequent growth and developmental changes. The lack of knowledge and awareness on these changes can result in both over-dosing and under-dosing of medications. In addition, being specialized in the area of neonatology allows me to become an expert in this field; most of my teaching and clinical research is conducted in this unique population.

I like working at an academic institution because it provides many teaching opportunities as well as interdisciplinary experiences. I currently teach at the UIC College of Pharmacy, where I've been for over 20 years. Teaching forces me to stay up to date with new drug development and clinical research which are important in the medication management of my patients. I also have the opportunity to teach medical students, residents, and fellows in pediatrics/neonatology. These opportunities help increase my visibility and strengthen my role as a pharmacotherapy expert. Furthermore, I also take pharmacy students on clinical rotation in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) during their fourth year. They spend six weeks with me, participating in multidisciplinary rounds and learning how to evaluate and assess patients’ medication therapy and make recommendations. Lastly, I like the research opportunities available at UIC and the opportunity to collaborate with others in different departments or different areas of specialization.

What is developing/changing in this field? Where do you see the greatest needs?

Clinical pharmacy positions are now being valued more as part of the interdisciplinary healthcare team. The role is becoming more recognized and I would like it to be even more recognized throughout the world.  Lately, I have been focusing on teaching and developing PharmD programs in other countries. Since the Doctor of Pharmacy degree has been unique to the United States, I want to help people abroad to achieve the same training and provide specialized knowledge and skills so that they can be viewed as an integral role in the healthcare team. Many international students and pharmacists from other countries have spent one to two months with me in the NICU learning the important clinical skills that are necessary to effectively manage patient’s medication therapy and contribute to the healthcare team. I will continue to collaborate with international institutions and school of pharmacy to increase the vision and roles of a pharmacist in the healthcare system. The pharmacist is a key provider of healthcare information for pediatric patients and their parents.