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Penn Medicine CAREs Grant Helps Bring Healthy Living Education to Seniors

Officially ournation’s first hospital, PennsylvaniaHospitalhas been a stalwart pillar of its surrounding Philadelphia community since itsfounding in 1751. No wonder than, with over two and a half centuries of historyand continuous service behind it, the hospital inspires its employees to “giveback” to the community.

PAH Pharm CAREs gran recips pic

“WhenI was still in school I was very involved in community outreach,” said Alyssa Vaysman, PharmD, OutpatientPharmacy supervisor at Pennsylvania Hospital. “It’s something that I’ve reallybeen missing. At the end of the day, I got into health care to help people andI got into community and outpatient pharmacy because I love interacting withpatients.”

Alyssa Vaysman, PharmD, Outpatient Pharmacysupervisor and Carmela Bynum, Pharmacy technician at Pennsylvania Hospital

It was through her interacting with patientsthat Alyssa recognized a very real, very specific need in the older adultpopulation. “Prior to working at Pennsylvania Hospital I worked for CVS,participating in annual flu shot clinics at various assisted living facilitiesand nursing homes. We were there to talk with residents about the importance ofgetting a flu vaccine but they always had other questions about theirmedications – how to take them, side effects, etc.,” said Alyssa.  “But we were so busy giving out flu shotsthat we weren’t able to answer all of their questions.” With her currentposition at the Hospital, Alyssa realized she now has the opportunity to workwith the community as she’s always wanted. “This gave me the idea to contact alocal facility and set up a venue to address the needs of our older adultcommunity and apply for grant funding.”

Older adults face many challenges in termsof their medications – challenges that can have critical effects upon theirhealth and safety. They may have disease related issues such as memory, hearingand/or vision impairment, or loss of feeling in the hands and fingers, limitingtheir dexterity. Others may have low health care literacy or language barrierswhich can severely limit their access to or ability to navigate through thehealth care system. Additionally, many neurological or psychological issuesoften go undiagnosed in older patients who may also believe in superstitions ormyths about health care such as “the flu shot gave me the flu,”or that depression is not a disease.

Complicating things further, many olderadults take multiple medications and see several doctors – all of whom may ormay not communicate properly witheach other. The final ingredient in what has the potential to be a toxic brewof socio-economic factors – drug costs. “Due to fixed incomes, some elderly usemultiple pharmacies to fill their prescriptions, all in an effort to find thelowest price,” said Alyssa. “On the topic of price, Medicare Part D is extremely confusingand changes every year. If we can proactively advise our older adults, we maybe able to spare them potential health dangers and other problems down theline.”

Eagerto take action, Alyssa applied for a CAREs grant to help fund and launch hercommunity outreach initiative. Offeredby Penn Medicine, the CAREs Foundation Grant Program was established in January 2012, in an effortto continue its commitment to underserved communities and to support andrecognize faculty, student, and/or staff efforts to improve the health of thecommunity and increase volunteerism in community-based programs.


Thanksto the aid of a Penn CAREs Grant, Alyssa and her Pharmacy colleagues are nowable to present healthy living educational sessions at St. George’s SeniorHousing,on 850 Locust Streets – just one block from the Hospital. The grant fundingwill help the Pharmacy team compile and create educational materials and offerseniors products to help them better manage their personal health care such aspill organizers and vaccine record cards. The presentations – a team effort tobe given by both Inpatient and Outpatient Hospital Pharmacy staff – willinclude such timely topics as medication adherence, therapeutic lifestylemodifications, and vaccines.

“WhenI started the process of applying for this grant, I sent an email to thePharmacy department and I got so much feedback from our team. I could notbelieve how many people wanted to be involved. I was thinking of doing twotalks, one on vaccines and one on medication adherence, but now that we have somany team members we will definitely do more.” And while some are fond of theexpression “less is more,” this is one time where more is more, and a goodthing. “The most important topic we need to address with this population in my opinionis prevention,” said Alyssa. “Through our work we want to prevent infections,falls, worsening of conditions and drug misuse. We can make a big impact bydiscussing vaccines and medication adherence and the proper use of medicationwith our older neighbors and hopefully change any misconceptions they may have.It’s been brought to my attention that some of the St. George residents havelost faith in medicine. These are the people we want to reach! We want to givethem some attention and show that we care.”

Alyssa and the rest of the Pharmacy teamplan on beginning their educational sessions at St George’s this spring. “Ihope to find more sites for us to visit in the near future so that we can reacha wider audience,” said Alyssa.

More about the CAREs Grants

The CAREs Foundation Grand Program has funded programsthat have addressed health disparities, provided care to seniors, administeredfree medical care to homeless in Philadelphia, helped fund medical care for uninsured and underinsured, and more.

Each quarter, theFoundation awards grants of up to $5,000 per project to community andhospital-based programs on behalf of the employee(s) or Perelman School ofMedicine student(s) who volunteer their time to support the program. Thefunding is eligible for expenses related to initiatives in community healthimprovement services, health professions education, subsidized health services,cash and in-kind contributions, or community building activities.

For more information and apply, please visit and read aboutthe program at the Penn Medicine News blog.

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Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

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