Public health announcements earn URI pharmacy students national acclaim

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 6, 2009 – Two teams of University of Rhode Island pharmacy students finished among the top 15 colleges in a national video public service announcement contest sponsored by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

There were 67 entries, many aided by substantial production budgets, in the contest called, “It’s Global.” The URI students produced their videos without any funding support.

The two video spots were among eight prepared as part of a semester-long project in URI Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy Jeffrey Bratberg’s class, “Public Health Consequences of Infectious Diseases.” The pharmacy students researched the content for their ads, and were the actors in two of the commercials.

The seventh-place entry, entitled, “Don’t Let the Flu Catch You,” showed how easy it is to get a flu shot at a local pharmacy and the 11th place entry, “Do You Know Your Exposure? Get HIV Tested,” emphasized the importance of universal HIV testing. Representatives from both teams traveled to the conference and award ceremonies in Minnesota.

Third-year pharmacy students Nathan Bookbinder of Middletown, N.Y, Amanda Dugal of Winslow, Maine, Samantha Longo of Oak Ridge, N.J., Sarah Norton of Beverly, Mass. and Rebecca Varney of Turner, Maine developed the flu shot ad, which depicted a flu shot clinic in a local pharmacy.

Dugal who represented her group in Minnesota, played the patient in her group’s ad, which was shot at the North Kingstown Rite Aid pharmacy. Norton, who is already certified to give flu shots, wore a lab coat and played the pharmacist in the ad.

“I thought that the title, ‘Don’t let the Flu Catch You’ was catchy,” Dugal said. “We wanted to emphasize how fast and easy it is to get your flu shot at your local pharmacy as opposed to waiting in line at the doctor’s office, having to make an appointment. People are already out picking up their prescriptions, picking up a few things at the store, so the pharmacist can do it right then and there.”

Norton said, “There were so many different issues and topics we wanted to cover, but we only had 30 seconds, so in our PSA, we showed the pharmacist consulting with the patient, and at that point, we just want them to get to the pharmacy and talk to the pharmacists. Then the pharmacist can then explain that you don’t get the flu from the flu shot and can explain the importance of getting the flu shot.”

Bookbinder, who works at Rite Aid in North Kingstown as part of his URI experience said his boss, George Escobar, the pharmacy manager, paved the way for the film to be shot there. The crew was also helped by Lisa Marzilli, pharmacist immunizer at Rite Aid. Escobar and Marzilli are URI pharmacy graduates.

“My boss at Rite Aid is really interested in helping URI students and in helping promote the pharmacists’ critical role in health care, so he was happy to allow us to film in the pharmacy,” Bookbinder said.

Pharmacy students Christine Barabas of Clifton, N.J., Dagny Card of Assonet, Mass, Amanda Ingemi of Norwood, Mass, Audrey Menard of Topsham, Maine and Craig Messer of Ashford, Conn. produced the 11-place HIV spot.

Their spot leaves viewers speechless. “We wanted this to hit home,” Menard said. “It is a scary issue. I noticed after the PSA was finished, the whole room at the conference was silent. After the other PSAs, people would giggle, laugh or talk with the person next to them. This probably made people think. It probably made them all think, “That could be me,’” Menard said.

The HIV spot also won $400 in the PSA category of the URI Visualizations Film Festival Contest.

The pharmacy students received technical and production assistance from URI film media students Kris Castro and Nicholas O’Brien.

Bratberg said he divided the class into eight groups and each had to come up with an idea for a 30-second PSA. The students had to pitch their ideas to the class. “The information in each ad had to be evidence-based, meaning the claims made in the ads had to be backed up research studies.”

Bratberg said such a project taught the students more than just the information about certain health topics. “We wanted to show the pharmacist as the practitioner who is critical to prevention efforts, and we wanted to prepare our students for the real world. So this exercise taught them how to get an important message across simply and quickly and with maximum impact.”

In addition to working with the URI’s Film Media Department, the students worked with the University’s Instructional Technology Department, the Rhode Island Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

To view all the College of Pharmacy videos go to the University of Rhode Island channel on YouTube.