Pham and Olumba

Venie Pham and Chidozie Olumba Win KGI Clinical Skills Competition

Each year, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) holds a Clinical Skills Competition (CSC), where students across the nation showcase their clinical skills via a team-based analysis of a patient case. Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) Doctor of Pharmacy students Venie Pham and Chidozie Olumba were winners of this year’s KGI Local CSC.

In the competition, students must prepare a comprehensive written pharmaceutical care plan over a two-hour period, addressing all the disease and drug therapy related problems of a given patient in full detail, followed by a 10-minute oral presentation and Q&A session in front of a panel of judges. In this competition, the patient case they were presented with involved a massive pulmonary embolism.

“When you have a massive pulmonary embolism, you’re supposed to use thrombolytic therapy as soon as possible when the patient presents with concurrent obstructive shock,” said Pham, PharmD ’21. “We recommended Alteplase to clear up the pulmonary embolism, followed by Heparin, an anticoagulant to keep the lungs clot-free.”

In this case, the patient’s issue was particularly challenging to treat as it presented multiple complications, including the fact that the patient was taking meloxicam, which increases cardiovascular risk. Another issue was that the patient was intubated, which in turn meant that they couldn’t recommend any oral medications, making intravenous treatment the only option.

“This competition is beneficial because it gives us a chance to sharpen our clinical skills and utilize the available information,” said Olumba, PharmD ’21. “It also encourages us to think critically about the case and consider all the different problems the patient presents with versus just one part.”

The competition helps to prepare students for working in a hospital setting, where they must communicate patient information and recommendations to the doctor quickly and effectively and gather all the information they need in case the doctor doesn’t agree with their recommendation.

Pham and Olumba have worked together often during their years at KGI, but they still learned valuable lessons about teamwork during the competition.

“There’s always an opportunity for somebody to have your back and help you do what’s best for the patient,” Olumba said. “You might not be able to see everything at first glance, and having someone else who can offer a different perspective is always helpful.”

Although KGI’s curriculum is largely centered on team-based projects, pharmaceutical case studies are typically done independently. This competition, then, showed the importance of having a second perspective.

“Talking out loud really helps,” Pham said. “That’s what we would do a lot, and then we would find smaller problems that we didn’t see before because we were talking to each other and were able to identify things that we couldn’t see by ourselves.”

“So this competition really showed me how much team-based work really mattered.”

The complex decision-making involved in the competition reflects the type of work they are currently doing for their rotations. Pham works with chemotherapy patients at Riverside University Health Systems’s outpatient infusion center. He often spends 30 minutes counseling each patient about all the side effects and how to manage them.

Olumba is doing a general medicine rotation at Cedars-Sinai, specifically on the orthopedic floor. He works with patients who are recovering from a knee or hip replacement as well as geriatric patients who might have experienced a recent fall.

In the future, Pham plans to pursue oncology or ambulatory care, while Olumba plans to go into acute care, as he finds the process of making big interventions in real time very rewarding. He also wants to become a preceptor. He, as well as Pham, is a mentor and tutor at KGI.

Pham and Olumba will compete later this month at the CSHP Seminar and in December at the ASHP Midyear Conference.