Pharmacists statewide turn to UF Drug Information service with tough drug-related questions
“University of Florida Drug Information Center, this is Angela. May I help you?” This has been a welcome greeting to professionals statewide, like Ray Moreno in Miami, who has logged in calls to his alma mater over many years. Like other health-care professionals throughout Florida, Moreno has called on the UF Drug Information and Pharmacy Resource Center for hard-to-find drug information for his customers. Moreno, who comes from a family of pharmacists, moved to Gainesville to study pharmacy in the 1980s. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he returned to South Florida to become a registered pharmacist and start a career in the family-owned Universal Arts Pharmacy in Hialeah. Miami has a rich blend of people from Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia and many other countries, said Moreno, who frequently calls the UF Drug Information Center to find a U.S. equivalent to a foreign drug prescription for a customer. He said the center is an immense resource that over time has helped him develop his own knowledge base. “My customers think I am really smart because I can find answers quickly, but I learned a long time ago from my professor, Paul Doering, that you don’t have to know everything,” Moreno said. “You just have to know your resources.” A free service for health-care professionals statewide, the UF Drug Information and Pharmacy Resource Center originated as a thesis project in 1972. The idea was to provide pharmacy students training through which they could learn to perform drug research and provide pharmaceutical service. Today, the center is funded through Shands HealthCare and co-directed by Randy Hatton, Pharm.D., from Shands at UF medical center, and Professor Paul Doering, M.S., from the College of Pharmacy. The drug information center is staffed by Doctor of Pharmacy students in their last year of training, who complete a drug information rotation as part of their required curriculum. Several months of the year, these students are assisted by pharmacy residents — registered pharmacists who have earned their Doctor of Pharmacy degrees and are receiving additional training. Before answers are given, they are reviewed by Doering and other faculty. “We take calls from Key West to Jacksonville and all points between,” Doering said. “And we don’t get easy questions — we get the hard stuff.” One of the most unusual calls Doering remembers came from a veterinarian at the Jacksonville Zoo, who sought help in figuring out how to dose a human antibiotic for an African elephant. Doering has the satisfaction of not only teaching valuable skills to his students, but also educating practicing pharmacists. He has witnessed a trend over the years in which health professionals call on the center more frequently when starting their careers. As they gain experience and learn of new resources through calling UF’s center, they become more proficient in their own research. Whose voice is heard responding to the eight to 10 new callers each day? Recently it was that of UF pharmacy senior Angela Quickenton, who just completed a one-month rotation as a part of her training in researching drug information and providing pharmacy service. “Working at the center has been a great experience that I know I can take with me in my career,” Quickenton said. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the center does not provide emergency services or address legal issues. The service only is available to health-care and law enforcement professionals, but any person in Florida needing research information can request it from their local pharmacist. The center receives more than 2,000 calls a year — a much lower number than in past years when a toll-free number was offered. This change was necessary due to budget cuts. The center now provides a free Internet service that Florida professionals can use after registering on UFHealth.org. Out-of-state health-care providers can pay a fee to subscribe to the Web service.