Building Skills for Success

Lauren Fasth, PharmD candidate ’24, is preparing for the real-world challenges of ambulatory care

Story by Ryan McDaniel | Published March 21, 2023

Outdoor headshot of Lauren Fasth, PharmD candidate '24

Until her junior year of undergrad, Lauren Fasth, PharmD candidate ’24, had no intention of being a pharmacist. She had been committed to medical school – a drive that began with her high school biology classes. It was three years into her higher education studies when Lauren’s path shifted.

“I was doing an internship with a family medicine doctor,” Lauren recalls. “We were reviewing a patient’s medication and I had a lot of questions. The doctor said, ‘these are all great questions, but I don’t know the answers. We have a clinical pharmacist who works down the hall from me – we can stop by and chat with her.’ I ended up spending the rest of the day with her and realized this is really what I’d love to do.”

Since that first day shadowing a pharmacist in undergrad, Lauren has known the ambulatory care setting was where she wanted to be. Her focus is on osteoporosis and deprescribing for geriatric patients. “What I love about outpatient practice is keeping people out of the hospital and the difference you can make,” she reflects. “And the relationships you can build with patients, longitudinally, after getting to know them for many, many years.”

Lauren chose to pursue her graduate studies at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Asheville campus because so many aspects of the health care community in Asheville align with her interests. “The Asheville campus is definitely the place that I was meant to be,” she explains. “Western North Carolina has a higher population of older adults, compared to the rest of the state, which fits with my interest in geriatrics. But it’s also so innovative with pharmacy practice, specifically with ambulatory care. We’re always pushing the boundaries of what pharmacists are able to do.”

Lauren has applied her interest in geriatrics through the Research and Scholarship in Pharmacy (RASP) curriculum. With RASP, Lauren is working on a research project with Dr. Joshua Niznik at the UNC School of Medicine. She is leading an analysis to compare responses from interviews with prescribers and caregivers to determine best practices for discussing deprescribing in patients. “Her enthusiasm for geriatric care and osteoporosis really shines through. She raises thought-provoking questions that showcase both her scientific curiosity and her passion for improving clinical care for older adults,” says Dr. Niznik. “Lauren is an incredibly mature student and has a clear trajectory for a career as a pharmacist in geriatrics and ambulatory care.”

Lauren is also part of the inaugural class of the Ambulatory Care Certificate program, a pathway only offered at the School’s Asheville campus. The program gives early, in-depth exposure to what ambulatory care is and explores the services pharmacists can initiate as an ambulatory care clinician. The program combines didactic instruction with real-world-oriented projects. In her capstone course with the program, Lauren and her peers are working on a business plan to construct a service at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) that has never been done by a pharmacist before. “We have to look at the need, at workflows, what reimbursements look like – all these practical things that most pharmacists don’t learn how to do until residency, if at all,” Lauren says. “Having this opportunity to do that while in pharmacy school is so distinguishing and unique to UNC. It will make going into residency that much better with some of those skills already under my belt.”

With these skills and more, Lauren has her eyes set on a PGY1 residency in an ambulatory care or outpatient setting, followed by a PGY2 in geriatrics. After that, she says, “My dream job would probably be working in as an embedded clinical pharmacists specializing in osteoporosis, deprescribing, dementia care, end of life care. That would be what I would love to do.”