Addressing an unmet community health need


Over the past year, I was fortunate to serve as an Albert Schweitzer Fellow, where I developed a pharmacy-driven hypertension education 
program—which still exists today—at a free clinic in Columbus, OH.

My program, called Team Up. Pressure Down. (TUPD), is a hypertension education and prevention program that is a part of CDC’s 
Million Hearts Initiative. It is based at the Helping Hands Health & Wellness Center, a free clinic on the northeast side of Columbus. Helping Hands provides medical and social services to uninsured adults who fall below 200% federal poverty guidelines. The program’s primary objective was to empower patients with the knowledge and skills to improve cardiovascular health, while instilling a sense of accountability and responsibility. The secondary objective was to create a sustainability plan to extend the program beyond my time as a Fellow. Both objectives were met.

A good fit all the way around

Kris Petrovskis with Helping Hands Director Joyce Bourgault and nurse Janet Schmitt.

My tasks on clinic days included educating patients about modifiable risk factors of hypertension, promoting lifestyle management, providing blood pressure monitors, and documenting patient consultations. TUPD is a good fit for Helping Hands for several reasons. First, the patient population truly needs it. On any given clinic day, 20% to 40% of patients have longstanding hypertension. 

My program nearly always has the opportunity to impact a large percentage of patients who need help. Second, Helping Hands strives to function as a patient-centered medical home, providing a variety of medical services in one location. My educational program fits into their care model naturally because it complements other clinic services. Finally, Helping Hands has a great working relationship with The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Pharmacy.

Around six student pharmacists volunteer their time at the clinic. They help with medication reconciliation, fill and dispense medications, and counsel patients. Helping Hands relies on
their work, so implementing a pharmacy-driven program was, and continues to be,
beneficial to both the clinic and the college of pharmacy.

Making it sustainable

TUPD has influenced several different communities over the last year. Within the Helping Hands community, TUPD served 122 low-income, uninsured patients in the Columbus area during 218 hours of service. The program provided patients with more than 75 blood pressure monitors and 20 large cuffs with support from the Kroger Company and Molina Healthcare. It was also featured in a local TV news segment and in Helping Hands newsletters.

Within the college of pharmacy community, the program involved several other student pharmacists. They had the opportunity to engage in valuable learning opportunities that focused on patient interaction while providing much-needed help in an underserved population. I developed a sustainability plan for TUPD by connecting with two students who became so involved with TUPD that they will be leading the program next year as Fellows. APhA is also a partner of CDC’s Million Hearts Initiative and TUPD because of the program’s focus on promoting pharmacist–patient engagement. At OSU, we have also formed a non-traditional APhA–ASP committee that coordinates student pharmacist services at Helping Hands and is involved with all student-run education programs at the clinic.

A deeper understanding

As an Albert Schweitzer Fellow, I have developed a deeper understanding of what it takes to address an unmet community health need in an underserved patient population. This fellowship also gave me the basic resources and support to implement my project. I am proud of the way my program helped several communities and I am grateful for the leadership skills I developed along the way.