Beta Tau chapter of Rho Chi Honor Society earns awards
The Beta Tau chapter of the Rho Chi Honor Society has recently been recognized twice by the society’s national office. The chapter received the 2021-22 Project Proposal Award for a project titled “Braille Drug Leaflet for Patients with Visual Impairment.” Additionally, Associate Professor Alexa Carlson, the faculty advisor to the chapter, received the 2021 Faculty Advisor Award, which “recognize(s) the unique contributions and accomplishments of outstanding faculty advisors.”
Alexa was informed of the award in the early spring. She received an email from the selection committee of the national office, which is made up of the previous three winners.
“I was surprised,” Alexa said about her reaction to receiving the award. “I’m very fortunate to have such a great E-board.”
As with other chapters around the country, Beta Tau was limited in its activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meetings were held virtually, and some regular events and activities were cancelled.
“I felt like I was trying to keep us going,” Alexa said. “The year was not perfect. I recognized how hard we worked as a group.”
A normal year would feature the Rx Wars, a series of games such as forms of “Jeopardy” or “Phamily Pheud” that pit the faculty against the students. Despite the circumstances, Alexa said she and the students, “tried to make it a quality year.”
It wasn’t a normal year. It wasn’t a perfect year, but it was a year that still required students to be present somehow and do their schoolwork and co-ops. It was a year that still meant meetings had to be held, and members of Rho Chi would still seek out Alexa for her advice.
Alexa met with the officers and thanked them for nominating her for the advisor award. The officers then notified the entire chapter of the news. She officially received the award in March at the national meeting.
“Our class had an interesting experience,” Rho Chi secretary Hayoung Chang said over the telephone. “Everything was virtual. “Alexa made it an easy transition. She was very responsive to our questions. Our (chapter) president (Tingshan Gao) told us faculty nominations were coming up. We thought it would be a great idea to nominate Dr. Carlson.”
The students of Rho Chi explained in an email to the selection committee why Carlson was deserving of the award, citing Carlson’s assistance in setting up successful events and helping students with various processes for completing projects during the year. Chang said it was, “amazing” when the students learned she had won.
The Rho Chi Chapter Project Proposal Award was given to the chapter for its plan to provide common prescription instructions in braille. The project, titled, “Braille Drug Leaflet for Patients with Visual Impairment,” was an idea birthed between Chang, Gao, and Jack Reynolds, a member of Northeastern’s pharmacy faculty who also served as Rho Chi’s national president from 2012-14.
In a video posted on Northeastern’s RISE Virtual Expo, students cited the CDC’s estimates from 2020 that 12 million people are vision impaired and 1 million are blind. These patients have trouble receiving accurate information in Braille; many struggle to read labels and do not know their medication’s expiration dates or how to store or dispose of the medications.
Alexa said Rho Chi saw a significant need and came up with a detailed proposal. Members were informed they won via email, and a certificate and $500 check to help fund the project were mailed to the group from the society’s national office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The students are also examining the possibility of applying for a PEAK Bridgebuilder Award, which would provide for an additional $1,500 to support the initiative. A GoFundMe Page is also being considered.
Students have been working on this project since last year. Chang got the idea while working with a pharmacy club and the front desk at the National Braille Press on St. Stephen Street. She was on a team from Novartis that made a Braille periodic table which was used for community service. Combining the resources of Novartis with expertise in drug knowledge, Chang has been able to help those in need.
The project started small. As time went on, students felt it would be helpful to bring in Rho Chi. Chang said she would love to have more input from other students. The project is still in the draft stages, but it will be presented to the National Braille Press upon completion.
Chang is glad the students were able to find a way to help those who needed assistance in navigating their way through getting their prescriptions and understanding the instructions. She was glad the work could, “lend to the betterment of society,” and that the judges, “recognized how special it was.”
“We are very proud of the chapter,” Reynolds said. “Hayoung is an exceptional student with respect to her academic achievements, her work experience, and her service contributions.”
Students plan to include a code on pill bottles that patients can scan with their phones to receive spoken medication directions. This, however, does not help everyone.
“It’s not like everyone has a cell phone,” Chang pointed out.
Chang is hoping to see a book put together that will list the 20 most commonly prescribed medications included in the instructions for the vision-impaired. She notes it does not make sense to include all drugs and medications.
“We’re trying to figure out which ones to include, but I know this won’t be an ultimate solution to the problem,” Chang pointed out.
Chang admitted she did not know how prestigious the award was until she received the news. She noted how happy she was when she and the rest of the students learned of the awards. Interim Dean Miriam Mobley Smith also emailed the students to send congratulations.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented in-person celebrations for the society, but the executive board is planning to find a time for the students and faculty advisors to come together and properly celebrate the recent accomplishments.