Opioid training leads to highly competitive R36 grant for Auburn pharmacy student

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Lindsey Hohmann, a graduate student in Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy, is working to find ways to prevent opioid overdose deaths in the United States by empowering pharmacists with access to naloxone.

Many of the more than 47,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2017 could have been avoided with access to the antidote naloxone.

Recognizing the importance of her work, Hohmann was recently awarded a highly competitive research grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or AHRQ, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS.

AHRQ Grants for Health Services Research Dissertation Program, or R36, supports dissertation research that addresses the agency’s mission, which is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable and affordable, and to work with HHS and other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used.

Hohmann is the second Harrison School of Pharmacy student in as many years to earn an R36 grant, following Tessa Hastings, who received one in 2018.

“I was very excited and grateful to receive the AHRQ R36 dissertation grant,” said Hohmann. “The grant will help to set a great foundation for future research endeavors that spring from my dissertation study.  This also sets a great foundation for future grant proposals.”

Hohmann received $39,967 for her project titled, “Preventing opioid overdose deaths by empowering pharmacists to dispense naloxone.” The goal of her project is to enhance community pharmacy-based naloxone services.

“I interviewed community pharmacists throughout Alabama, as well as opioid and naloxone experts, to find key naloxone training needs and barriers to naloxone services implementation, plus strategies to overcome these barriers,” said Hohmann. “With input from a stakeholder panel, I incorporated these needs and strategies into the creation of a targeted naloxone training program specifically for Alabama community pharmacists.”

The training was delivered to pharmacists through a live webinar and included a virtual workshop to practice naloxone administration, practical naloxone service implementation strategies and resources, as well as communication strategies and “go-to” phrases for opioid and naloxone counseling in the busy community pharmacy setting.

“The state of Alabama has one of the highest opioid prescribing rates in the nation,” said Hohmann. “As such, community pharmacists may encounter more individuals, or their caregivers, asking about naloxone. The state of Alabama now allows pharmacists to provide naloxone without an individual physician’s prescription via a statewide standing order and by taking a proactive stance and having the structures and processes in place to provide naloxone, pharmacists can help to play a part in preventing opioid overdose deaths.”

Research has shown that states with naloxone access laws allowing pharmacists to provide naloxone via their own prescriptive or direct authority have an almost 30 percent lower rate of opioid overdose-related deaths compared to states that do not allow pharmacists this direct authority.

A native of Santa Barbara, California, Hohmann attended the University of California-Santa Barbara and completed her Doctor of Pharmacy degree at the University of California-San Diego. She went to work as a community pharmacist and became very involved with Medication Therapy Management, or MTM, at that time.

“I wanted to be able to affect patients’ health outcomes on a larger scale and pursue my passions for research and teaching,” said Hohmann. “Therefore, I decided to come to Auburn University to pursue a doctorate in health outcomes research and policy. The program at Auburn really stood out due to its diverse faculty, well-rounded curriculum and opportunities to explore various research fields via six-week faculty rotations, as well as the friendly, supportive and family-oriented atmosphere.”

While pursuing her doctorate, Hohmann worked under the direction of Salisa Westrick, Sterling Professor and head of the Department of Health Outcomes Research and Policy.

“Dr. Westrick was the best mentor I could have asked for, allowing me to work independently but always with an open door when I had questions,” said Hohmann. “Through her mentorship, I was able to gain new skills in research methods and develop expertise in implementation science, allowing me to pursue my passion for research in the opioid misuse field.”

While some graduate students nearing graduation may stress about the next step in their career, Hohmann has already accepted her first faculty position. She will be staying with the Harrison School of Pharmacy in a newly created role as a research faculty member in the Department of Pharmacy Practice. While most faculty members in the department are active practitioners, Hohmann’s focus will be on clinical and translational science research.

“This is very exciting for me, since my research expertise is in implementation science focusing on two areas: substance misuse prevention and implementation of services in healthcare organizations,” said Hohmann. “Although my passion is substance misuse research, my expertise can be applied to help adoption and implementation of many different services in a diverse array of pharmacy settings.”

Pharmacy Practice faculty come from a variety of areas, including ambulatory care, infectious disease, cardiology, geriatrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, internal medicine and pain management. With this diverse base, Hohmann will have the opportunity to collaborate and work with faculty on multiple topics.

“I have completed my doctorate in health outcomes research and policy, and I will now transition to a position as a faculty member, applying what I learned during my doctoral studies to help translate new services into pharmacy practice,” said Hohmann. “My Doctor of Pharmacy degree and experience as a practicing pharmacist will serve as a great foundation for future collaborations with Harrison School of Pharmacy faculty, other departments across Auburn and other universities. I am looking forward to collaborating with everyone at the Harrison School of Pharmacy and being a part of the friendly, supportive network I’ve seen over my time at Auburn.”

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Auburn University's Harrison College of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master's in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit the Harrison College of Pharmacy website.