As a Schweitzer Fellow in 2005, University of Pittsburgh pharmacy student Lauren Jonkman made it her mission to improve access to pharmaceutical care for Pittsburgh’s homeless population.
Six years later, Jonkman is still going strong: now a clinical pharmacist and instructor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, she spends the bulk of her professional time working with Pittsburgh’s free clinics and community health centers to improve access to medicines—and ensure the safe and appropriate use of those medicines—for under-resourced and underserved patients.
“We’ve noticed an increase in the number of patients with diabetes that are coming to [one of the free clinics we work with], and almost all have really out-of-control diabetes since they’ve been out of care for quite a while,” Jonkman says. “We’re creating a multi-pronged program that meets the needs of our uninsured patients with diabetes and provides both high-quality clinical care, but also the supportive services necessary to keep people in care and develop the skills to thrive with diabetes.”
In addition to her day job, Jonkman is an active member of the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program Advisory Board—and she’s grateful for the chance to help shape the program’s future.
“I think the Fellowship is truly special because it brings together students with similar interests who maybe didn’t realize that there were so many people across so many different disciplines that share a similar philosophy and reverence for life,” Jonkman says. “You get the opportunity to form a bond with these other extraordinary people and learn together to be better leaders in your community and advocates for your patients.”
“At the same time, she adds, “you get the opportunity to ‘learn from doing’ as you implement your own project and brainstorm solutions to all the challenges and opportunities you encounter throughout the year. I know of no other similar program that develops learners in quite the same way.”
As chair of the board’s program committee, Jonkman has had the opportunity to continue the journey of leadership she began as a Schweitzer Fellow in 2005.
“While I learned how to better advocate for people in my community as a Fellow, I’m learning more about the nuts and bolts of how to run meetings and organize committees that I maybe wasn’t ready for when I was a Fellow,” Jonkman says.
“As a Fellow, I had no idea what went into the Fellowship to make it successful,” she adds. “I would see the core group of advisors that we worked with on a monthly basis, but I didn’t observe all background work that was being done to support the program. It’s really rewarding for me to be able to give back to the program and help to ensure that it continues to function smoothly for the Fellows.”
Visit schweitzerfellowship.org/pittsburgh to learn more about the Pittsburgh
Schweitzer Fellows Program.