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My Manchester Story

Alex Mills

by User Not Found | Dec 03, 2019
Alex Mills

Alex Mills, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, describes how flexibility and pharmacy can go hand in hand.

“What kind of programs are you teaching?”

“I teach some of our infectious disease courses, which focus on therapy related treatments for patients with HIV and other viral infections, like hepatitis. Come spring semester, I’ll teach more about my clinical practice setting: ambulatory care.”

“Your background is in ambulatory and chronic care. How did you get interested in those fields?”

“I think the thing that interests me most is the relationship building in both areas. In ambulatory care, it’s different than in a hospital. When Mr. Smith comes into the hospital, you never want to see him back in the hospital. In my clinic and ambulatory care, I’m seeing those patients from the beginning of their disease state to the point when their disease is better under control. So I’m able to see that progression, build a relationship with a patient, and empower them to take ownership in improving their health. I like that more − I want to see my patients again in a positive outcome, rather than having a patient come into the hospital over and over again potentially due to their chronic condition getting serious.”

“How do you help students learn how to build that relationship and trust with a patient?”

“I think the biggest thing is being vulnerable with your patients to an appropriate level − making sure they know that you understand that you’re both human beings, you understand that having a particular chronic disease is not necessarily easy yet it’s manageable; you can help meet them where they are. In my particular clinic, it’s a federally qualified health center, and we see patients regardless of their type of insurance, so many patients who see me don’t have insurance, or it’s not the best insurance for their current situation. The latest and greatest treatments may not be able to work for those patients because they can’t afford it, so I have to pick where I can meet the patient, what they can afford – and it may not be plan A, but I make sure it is the right plan for them.”

I see you’re wearing a bracelet that says ‘Kenya’. Is there a story behind that?”

“When I was a student in pharmacy school, I had the opportunity to spend eight weeks in Kenya on a rotation, and while I was there I developed a lot of my passions. I never thought that I’d be interested in caring for patients with HIV; but in Africa you see a lot of that, as well as patients who also live with a lot of other disease states. We have treatments for HIV that are so well advanced that patients are now living with other conditions like diabetes, blood pressure and heart disease. It’s easy for people to solely focus on HIV and look past those other conditions; and that helped me realize that you should always look for that gap that you can fill, regardless of what you think you can do –  it’s about what that patient needs from you. I’m always looking to be flexible, and Kenya has always been my reminder of that. I may go into something thinking, oh, I’m just going to be treating diabetes, but if that’s not what my patient needs – instead they need help with high blood pressure – then I adapt.

Another thing that appealed to me so much when I was there was this unmet need coupled with a stigma − there was tunnel-vision focus on the HIV and the preconceived notion on how they contracted the virus. Stigma is something I'm passionate about addressing, and I work with my students on using the right language –  people first language, or ‘a person with diabetes,’ not ‘a diabetic.’ It removes the idea that the disease defines the person. If I can change even one student or provides language and perspective on stigmatizing language, I know I’ve made an impact on both them and their patients.”