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New Mexico State University

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NMSU pre-pharmacy student project brings 'Life' to Las Cruces community

Students in the New Mexico State University Pre-Pharmacy Society are hoping to save lives by educating the local community about the Vial of Life.

Students with the NMSU Pre-Pharmacy Society set up their Vial of Life information table at a women's basketball game last month. (Courtesy the Pre-Pharmacy Society)

The nationwide project uses a simple medication vial to provide emergency personnel with readily available, patient-specific medical information. When emergency medical workers are called to a residence, the orange bottle, akin to a prescription pill bottle, will be easily accessible. The bottle contains a list of current medical information such as medications, diseases, allergies and in-case-of-emergency contact information.

"Our target audience is primarily senior citizens or any individual with health issues," said Amy Buesing, director of the UNM/NMSU Cooperative Pharmacy Program. "The program has been in existence for several years in the Albuquerque region, but now it is being introduced to southern New Mexico."

The UNM College of Pharmacy brought the idea to light at NMSU.

"After hearing a presentation about the program, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity for the NMSU Pre-Pharmacy Society to be more involved with the community," said Janice Taylor, vice president of the Pre-Pharmacy Society and chair of the Vial of Life committee.

Each Vial of Life has a narrow form for patient-specific medical information, the number for poison control and a window decal sticker. The decal is to be placed on a window nearest to the front door, or in the window of a vehicle. The Vial of Life is to be placed in the top shelf of the refrigerator door or an automobile's glove compartment.

The emergency responder's responsibility is to look for the decal sticker, locate the Vial of Life and review the medical information in the bottle. The Pre-Pharmacy Society provided education for EMS personnel so they know to look for the decals that indicate Vial of Life information is available.

"We have already had an EMS call this week up here in Talavera where the residents had the Vial of Life filled out, and it was very useful," said Douglas Hoffman, affiliate professor with NMSU. "When I asked for medical history and medications the patient's wife just gave me the vial." Hoffman also serves as local coordinator for the Southern New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps, volunteer firefighter/EMT with the Las Alturas Volunteer Fire Department and president of the Talavera Community Association.

"The NMSU pre-pharmacy students explain the purpose of the Vial of Life, stressing the importance of providing complete patient medical information and assuring the proper location of the vial," Buesing said. "This is especially helpful if the patient is ever unresponsive."

Buesing said the Vial of Life activity is the group's premiere community project. Last semester, the society spent time organizing and putting the structures around developing committees. This semester was dedicated to training students in the talking points so they become comfortable for community presentations.

"Citizens receive a vial and learn how to use it through a one-on-one interaction with a pre-pharmacy society member," Taylor said. "For the students, this is very comparable to a pharmacist counseling a patient and excellent practice."

Buesing and Taylor said the society plans to distribute the vials at events that are health-related or attract large groups such as, health fairs, NMSU sporting events or senior citizen centers.

"The NMSU Pre-Pharmacy Society has a goal to make the Vial of Life program our signature community service project and to provide vials to as many residents of Doņa Ana County as possible," Taylor said.

The NMSU Pre-Pharmacy Society began in 2008 and promotes professional development with leadership opportunities, academic support and community involvement for pre-pharmacy students. Any student interested in learning more about the pharmacy profession is eligible to join. For more information, call (575) 646-7529.