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MCW Pharmacy School Students Rank in Top Ten During National Clinical Skills Competition

MCW Pharmacy School students rank in top 10 during national clinical skills competition

Milwaukee – Two MCW Pharmacy School students have ranked among the best in the nation when it comes to utilizing their skills to care for patients.

2023 PharmD candidates Isabelle Mahaffy and Gabby Marchese were finalists in the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Clinical Skills Competition. The 27th annual event in early December took place in Las Vegas, during the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition – the largest gathering of pharmacy professionals in the world. The MCW team of Mahaffy and Marchese was one of the top 10 finalists, out of 138 competing schools of pharmacy.

The ASHP National Clinical Skills Competition challenges student pharmacists to make treatment recommendations for complex patient case scenarios, representing situations they may encounter when they become practicing pharmacists.

This year, the case was a patient with hepatic encephalopathy, a decline in brain function caused by a buildup of toxins in the blood due to liver disease. “This was challenging because it’s not a common problem. Luckily, I had seen a patient on rotation with this condition,” says Mahaffy. “But the other challenge was that the patient had a total of 11 problems, and we had two hours to treat all of them.”

“We’re a good team because we have different pharmacy interests and career goals,” says Marchese. “Isabelle took the number one most urgent, acute issue, and I took all the outpatient-related programs because I want to work in a clinic someday.”

Teams prepared a written case study for evaluation by judges with expertise in various fields of pharmacy. The final 10 teams appeared before a panel of judges to present the reasoning behind their treatment recommendations.

Mahaffy and Marchese were selected to represent MCW at the national level after winning a local competition held at the MCW campus. They thanked their mentor Brianne Bakken, PharmD, MHA, who coordinates the local competition, for helping them understand what to expect, which topics would be helpful to review, and for supporting them through the entire process.

“Gabby and Isabelle were outstanding students in the classroom, and now they have demonstrated their ability to apply the clinical knowledge they obtained at MCW to practice,” says Dr. Bakken. “After winning the local competition at MCW, the three of us met to discuss strategies for preparing and practicing for the competition. They both were incredibly dedicated, and I know they put in a great deal of time and effort preparing for the national competition. They did a wonderful job representing MCW at the national level.”

Gabby and I have done this competition [at the local level] for three years, but in our first year we really didn’t know anything. At that point, the patient had a clot in their lungs. We saw the case was a pulmonary embolism and we both look at each other and ask, ‘What’s a pulmonary embolism?’” says Mahaffy. “We’ve come a long way, which was a cool thing to realize.”

“I think it really demonstrated how important it is that there are different types of pharmacists with different interests and different roles,” says Marchese. “We have pharmacists in hospitals, clinics, and outpatient pharmacies. The way we came together to tackle that case, on a small-scale level, shows how important it is that all of us work together even if we’re in different roles.”

Each finalist receives an iPad with a one-year subscription to Lexicomp Mobile, an app offering extensive online drug referencing, information on interactions, and medical calculations.

The MCW Pharmacy School previously placed in the top 10 of the ASHP Clinical Skills Competition during its first year of participation in 2018.