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Rodriguez de Bittner Delivers Founders Week Kick-Off Lecture

Presentation spotlights social entrepreneurship and its role in solving some of health care’s biggest challenges.

By Malissa Carroll
October 17, 2013

“This is a transformative time in health care, and there are many historic opportunities that exist for entrepreneurship. These opportunities call for action and call for us as health care professionals to be innovative,” declared Magaly Rodriguez de Bittner, PharmD, BCPS, CDE, FAPhA, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, as she delivered her Entrepreneur of the Year lecture on Oct. 14, effectively kicking off Founders Week at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).

“Founders Week is the tradition that allows us to celebrate ourselves as a University,” said UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD. “Because entrepreneurship is what distinguishes us as a University, it is appropriate that we begin this week by celebrating a distinguished faculty member who has set an entrepreneurial example for all of us. Dr. Rodriguez de Bittner is a ‘poster-pharmacist’ who consistently demonstrates the role of a professional in her field and that field’s expanding contribution to health care delivery.”

Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FAAPS, FCP, dean and professor of the School of Pharmacy, added, “For those of us who work with Dr. Rodriguez de Bittner, we know that this is a well-deserved honor. She has a portfolio of innovation and progressive persistence that support her selection as this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year. She is not only a social entrepreneur, but also a savvy businesswoman, patient advocate, dedicated team-based player, innovative pioneer, and devoted pharmacy practitioner.”

Examining the role of entrepreneurship in academia, Rodriguez de Bittner noted that universities are hubs of innovation and new ideas. Public universities such as UMB have a social responsibility to help improve the well-being of citizens nationwide, she insisted.

One of the societal challenges that Rodriguez de Bittner is most interested in solving in her role as a social entrepreneur relates to individuals’ inappropriate use of medications.

According to a 2013 study published by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, misuse of medications by patients and health care providers costs the United States’ health care system more than $200 billion each year. This medication misuse also leads to an additional 10 million hospitalizations, 246 million prescriptions, and four million emergency department visits per year.

“We have a health care crisis that has resulted from individuals not using their medications correctly as well as inappropriate drug selection,” said Rodriguez de Bittner. “The aging population is increasing, and we have seen a rise in chronic diseases that require individuals to take multiple medications each day. We need better systems to manage drug therapy for these patients; systems that leverage the drug expertise of the pharmacist as part of the health care team.”

In an effort to combat this crisis, Rodriguez de Bittner worked with her colleagues at the School of Pharmacy to establish the Center for Innovative Pharmacy Solutions (CIPS), which has become a national resource center in developing innovative patient care and business solutions to health problems under her direction. Housed within the Center is the award-winning Maryland P3 (Patients, Pharmacists, Partnerships) Program, a pharmacist-delivered chronic disease management program.

Seven years after its inception, the Maryland P3 Program has gone national, with its innovative model of care now implemented at worksites in Maryland, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Louisiana, and California. Its unique patient care approach and emphasis on continuity of care have repeatedly demonstrated improvements in clinical and economic outcomes, with one employer who participates in the program reporting improved employee productivity and decreased rates of absenteeism that amounted to a total savings of $919,768, including $475,338 – or $1,047 per person – in indirect savings due to improved productivity.

“I think we have shown that the program can make a difference,” said Rodriguez de Bittner.

And make a difference she has, not only in the lives of the patients that she and her programs serve, but in the lives of her colleagues with whom, she admits, she shares this award.

“Being named the University’s Entrepreneur of the Year is not an award that is mine alone,” said Rodriguez de Bittner. “I share this award with my colleagues at the School of Pharmacy, Maryland Pharmacists Association, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Maryland General Assembly, as well as with the patients, employers, and practitioners involved in the Maryland P3 Program. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘it takes a village,’ and it truly does take a village to do the kind of work that we do.”

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