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Rho Chi Talks: The Pharmacist’s Role in a Drug Information Center  

Featuring: Nicole Maisch, BS, PharmD
By: Justin Budz, PharmD Candidate c/o 2023

Growing up with close relatives in healthcare, Dr. Nicole Maisch was inspired to pursue a career in pharmacy practice. Dr. Maisch graduated from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences with her PharmD and then completed a PGY1 residency at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Health Care. Dr. Maisch currently serves as a clinical faculty member at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. In addition to her didactic teaching, Dr. Maisch serves as the co-director of the Drug Information Center at Long Island Jewish Medical Center where she precepts sixth year pharmacy students undergoing advanced pharmacy practice experiences, as well as pharmacy residents.

Tell us about your education experience.

I graduated from Albany College of Pharmacy with both my Bachelor of Science and my Post-Baccalaureate PharmD. After that, I went over to Massachusetts and completed a PGY1 residency at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Health Care. During residency, I was looking for all sorts of things; I liked psychiatry, pediatrics, and ambulatory care. At the time, you could go right into a PGY2 if you wanted to do a specialty, so I did get an ambulatory care residency in Buffalo, but I chose to do the PGY1 because I felt like I needed to be more well-rounded. Actually, that was a good choice because through the year I did focus a little bit in ambulatory care to try to explore it…and similarly, I did do community just to try it out. So yeah, I found that I liked to work with healthcare practitioners more directly.

How did you find yourself at the LIJ Drug Information Center?

When I started, I was in internal medicine at LIJ rounding with physicians and with the medical teams. LIJ was a community teaching hospital at the time, so we had rounds every morning with the residents. After morning rounds, they would have teaching rounds where the attending that was a hospitalist would come and discuss different topics. At the time, Dr. Laura Gianni was the director of the Drug Information Center and was hiring a faculty co-director. She asked for a faculty line to come and help her, so I just officially applied for it and then transitioned from internal medicine to Drug Information. It was a great fit because I was always listening to the questions the students got and helped them while Dr. Gianni was teaching.

For a student who’s never been in a drug information center, how would you describe a typical day?

A day in the life of a student is checking the phones and emails for new questions.  The phone is a LIJ phone number, but anyone can call it. We have our Northwell email system and then our St. John’s email system, so we check those as well. Those are the mechanisms through which we get questions. If one of the faculty members gets a question from another faculty or practitioner, then they will forward the question to our email and the students check them. Once the student starts working on the question, they’ll start their research and formulating their draft. We have a standardized mechanism for formulating responses, especially if it requires a literature search. We also run the adverse drug reaction reporting service. So nurses on the floor or the pharmacists will enter their adverse drug reactions. We check the electronic system, evaluate the reports, and then that gets sent to medication safety on a quarterly basis. LIJ also asked us to help out with the Paxlovid hotline…helping the health system has been rewarding for us.

Aside from the LIJ Drug Information Center, what roles do you have at St. John’s?

At the college, I teach didactically in the drug information and literature evaluation courses. There’s a drug information and laboratory course in the fall for fourth year students and then in the spring, there is a drug literature evaluation course. That’s where I primarily teach. I have committee work that I’ve been involved with through the years. The college has a Library and Learning Resources Committee. I’ve also been the chair of the Assessment Committee, the co-chair of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education Self-Study Steering Committee, …and I’m also a member of the Personnel and Budget Committee for the CHP department.

With all the drug literature you read every day, do you find yourself working on your own publications or research?

There are three pillars that we (faculty) have to fulfill: scholarly activity, teaching, and service. Right now, I’m actually working with two students on a research project on the timing of aPTTs in patients on a Heparin standardized dosing protocol. They did a research elective with me in the spring of their fifth year. We started with the IRB process in the spring, got them on board with Northwell, …and now we’re working on evaluating the data. We had an adverse drug reaction where an aPTT wasn’t drawn appropriately; now we’re having data pulled to see if that’s happening more often. We (faculty) can also write review articles…we actually wrote a book chapter on herbals. One of the North Shore physicians was editing a supplement to the Journal of Therapeutics and then she made that supplement into a book.

Any tips for pharmacy students when approaching a drug info question?

The first tip is to remember that the answer might be known! So look at your tertiary resources! Do not just jump to PubMed. You should also verify the information that you find by looking for it in more than one place.

Any tips for pharmacy students looking to do residency?

Get involved…do those things that make you stand out! If you want a research opportunity, try to connect with a faculty member. Maybe something they say runs true with you and is in your interest area, or you just think their personality meshes well with yours. If you’re on rotation, look for those opportunities. Maybe you could write a case report. Get involved in organizations!

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