Educating the next generation to solve complex health problems through design thinking


"Come ready to learn with an open mind": A pharmacy student gains new perspective through design thinking

By Jenna Fancher, PharmD Candidate 2017

When going through my list of potential elective rotation options, the emergency department (ED) stood out above the rest. I had some exposure to an ED rotation in the past and enjoyed the fast-paced environment that this type of practice offers. The list of assigned rotations came back and to my excitement, I ended up securing an ED rotation at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (TJUH). I reached out to my preceptor as I have done for all other rotations inquiring about what to bring with me on my first day. His response was different than any other response I have received in the past – the first thing he said was “come ready to learn with an open mind”. I didn’t realize at the time what he meant by “open mind” but I quickly found out as the rotation unfolded.

My preceptor, Dr. Pugliese, is not just the clinical pharmacist in TJUH’s ED. He is also the co-director of JeffDESIGN, which involves design thinking to tackle healthcare challenges. The home of this program is an old bank vault in the basement level of a building on campus. If the location alone wasn’t already cool enough, it is what is inside this vault that makes this program so intriguing. There are 3D printers, large workstations, tools, and more – making this place the ideal environment for those who like to “tinker”. I have never seen anything like this before and am certainly not known for my creative side. However, just being in this space fascinated me and already, my “open mind” was expanding to this side of my ED rotation.

Throughout my rotation, I spent a lot of time in the vault and was able to observe students actively applying design thinking in practice. I attended meetings about the drastic renovations taking place in the vault in order to make an optimal space for this rapidly growing program. I also had the unique opportunity of attending two “Aging Digitally” classes at the Comcast Collaboration Center. The focus of these classes were to work with the senior population to gain an understanding of how they used technology as it pertains to their healthcare and help address any question they had surrounding it. I found this experience to be quite rewarding. The students involved were engaged, truly interested in understanding technology, and eager to apply this newfound understanding to their health and wellness. Finally, perhaps my most memorable experience, was attending the first 3D printing class. This class was a prime example of using design-based thinking in healthcare. The goal was to 3D print a prosthetic hand for a patient who would otherwise not be able to afford one on his own. My preceptor and I walked in a few moments before the class began to get everything ready to go for the first day. By the time the clock hit 2:00 PM, students of all healthcare professions were pouring in until every last seat was taken. By 2:30 PM, the sound of 3D printers starting up throughout the room filled my ears. By 4:00 PM, the students were just as engaged as they were at the beginning of the class, the 3D printers were all in use, and the first class came to a close. The buzz around the room as the students exited was filled with excitement for the classes ahead and chatter of students of different health professions getting to know each other. What an amazing example of healthcare professions coming together as a team for a patient in need!

Calm before the storm!

Calm before the storm!

So back to having an open mind… sure, I thought this ED rotation was going to be what you would see on TV – a fast-paced experience packed with traumas, MIs, MVAs, strokes, and any other clinical emergency you can imagine. While I saw plenty of this, this experience was so much more than that. I was not expecting to gain exposure to a whole different side of solving healthcare challenges with design thinking. Not only is this what happens in the cutting edge JeffDESIGN lab, it is truly necessary and beneficial in healthcare and can be applied by any member of the healthcare team. So the moral of this story is that coming prepared to any rotation with an “open mind” can lead to a more meaningful, impactful experience that you would not have had otherwise. I am thankful for my preceptor letting me tag along to the activities required for his director responsibilities for JeffDESIGN and for somehow also providing me a truly meaningful and educational experience in the ED. I am walking away from this rotation with not only a profound understanding of a pharmacist’s role and capabilities in the ED, but also with a new understanding of a side of healthcare I previously knew nothing about. I am eager to see what this “open mind” mentality has in store for me in future rotations as I progress through my last year as a student-pharmacist.

Beyond applying my newfound “open mind” mentality on future rotations, this has recently been put to use while researching residency programs. I have reached the part of my student-pharmacist career where I really have to start thinking about what steps I plan on taking beyond the classroom and into the role of a new practitioner. Part of that process is determining what residency program is the best fit for my career goals. When I originally began this process back in early August, I had excluded a few programs that had electives or required curricula that I was not particularly interested in -- mostly because I had little to no experience in such areas. Now, I have gone back through my initial spreadsheet of programs to finalize my list and have actually reconsidered a number of those programs. I now look at the required curricula and electives for such programs through a “new lens” and am eager to learn more about areas of pharmacy I haven’t yet had the opportunity to gain exposure to. I have learned from this rotation that having an open mind extends far beyond rotations and this has been instrumental in facilitating my search for the “best fit” residency program.

Robert PuglieseComment