Amy Reese Dual Degree Pharmacy Student
By Amy Reese - June 21, 2018

The proverb “knowledge is power” echoes the value I place on my dual degree program. Education is an intrinsic good because the more I learn the more I can help others. A dual degree such as a Doctorate of Pharmacy and a Master’s degree in Bioethics complement each other because they view healthcare from two different angles. I have learned to see issues in healthcare through two lenses by participating in a dual degree program.

Bioethics has opened my eyes to social ethics and social justice. The director of the bioethics program at Loma Linda University has a doctorate degree in Theology and Christian Ethics which focused on social ethics. His passion for and knowledge of ethics and justice has showed me that I can impact healthcare in a positive manner by having one foot in bioethics and the other foot in pharmacy.

My study of bioethics enhanced learning in my pharmacy classes; this augmented my comprehension and appreciation of pharmacy. For instance, in my Ethical Issues in Public Health course, I learned about the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) which mandates every hospital care for each patient who walks through the door, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay for the care. We did not learn about the EMTALA law in pharmacy school, but it indirectly impacts the pharmacy field because every department within a hospital is interconnected. This law embodies the bioethical principle of justice because it is concerned with distribution of healthcare by ensuring all patients can receive health care they need. It is important to understand this law because it indirectly affects pharmacists: each hospital has a certain budget it must maintain and pharmacists are responsible for conserving the budget for the pharmacy department. Every aspect of healthcare is interrelated, and when we understand how one aspect of a healthcare entity works, we gain a clearer picture of how the whole system functions. 

Pharmacists are patient advocates, and I can assist my patients better with a solid foundation in bioethics. I learned about the importance of health literacy in terms of health disparities in my Ethics and Health Disparities course. I learned about health literacy in Professional Development in pharmacy school, but writing a paper about health literacy and health disparities in my ethics class reinforced what I learned. This inspired me to change how I speak to my patients in the pharmacy; I became aware of how health literacy affects the ability of a patient to follow a health care plan. When a patient does not fully understand everything the healthcare provider is saying, the patient will not be motivated to shoulder the responsibility of maintaining their health. Healthcare providers want patients to care for themselves, but if the provider fails to talk to the patient at his or her level of understanding, the provider hinders the patient from achieving that goal. Because I am aware of the health disparities that are prevalent, I can help close the gap by speaking to patients in a manner they understand and checking in with them to ensure comprehension.

The bioethics program has challenged me to learn more about the pharmacy profession. I have learned in-depth about the four principles of bioethics which are an integral aspect of all healthcare professions. I have fostered a deeper appreciation of how the two subjects collide by writing papers about the integration of bioethics and pharmacy. Some examples of the topics I wrote about include health literacy and pharmacy, how nonmaleficence is entwined in the pharmacist’s responsibility to deny illegitimate prescriptions for opioid medications, and informed consent within the context of pharmacy. These papers allowed me to see the important role bioethics plays in the practice of pharmacy. I will be a better pharmacist because I chose to study both bioethics and pharmacy concurrently.