This year marks the 10th anniversary of The University of Montana’s Improving Health Among Rural Montanans, or IPHARM, program. IPHARM is a traveling health-screening program designed to provide wellness checks to those who are unable to access health care while providing health professions students with interdisciplinary experience in screening and counseling patients.
At an IPHARM screening, UM health professions students administer tests including bone density, hemoglobin A1c (average blood sugar), cholesterol, blood pressure and balance assessment. Recently added screenings include tests for memory and mood. The screening and counseling are provided at a low cost.
The results of the screenings are reviewed with patients immediately. Students counsel patients on diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Students are supervised by a pharmacist and UM faculty. Some patients are referred to a health care provider for further testing and follow-up.
“IPHARM is a great program; it allows us as students to practice and improve our clinical skills, and it gives patients basic access to health care,” said Jatin Gandhi, UM pharmacy doctoral candidate. “Patients also get to spend time with us as health care professionals, asking general health questions that they may not be able to ask at a doctor appointment – everyone benefits.”
“IPHARM is a great interdisciplinary experience for students, faculty and the community,” said Rachael Zins, IPHARM clinical pharmacist. “Identifying health risks and early intervention are important in maintaining health as we age.
“It is really exciting that we can take students into rural communities and have them practice the skills and techniques they will need in their careers. Some students go on to practice in communities where they have participated in screenings.”
IPHARM is a partnership between the UM Skaggs School of Pharmacy and the Montana Geriatric Education Center. The program was established in 2002 through the efforts of Tim Stratton and Robert Williams, UM pharmacy practice faculty members. Since 2003, UM pharmacy practice faculty member Donna Beall has coordinated the IPHARM project.
IPHARM travels to sites across Montana. Upcoming screening events are scheduled for the following communities:
- Columbus: 8 a.m.-1 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 23, Health Mart Pharmacy located at 133 W. Fifth Ave. North.
- Missoula: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 24, Project Homeless Connect at First United Methodist Church located at 300 E. Main St.
- Hamilton: Thursday, Feb. 21, Valley View Estates, 225 N. Eighth Street, time to be announced.
- Whitehall: Saturday, April 20, location and time to be announced.
IPHARM also will travel to Butte, Shelby, Pablo and Thompson Falls. To host an IPHARM screening event in your community, call Zins at 406-243-2339 or email email@example.com.