Clinical pharmacy specialist Dehuti Pandya, PharmD, has an academic bent toward chemistry and research. For the past decade, she’s combined these interests along with patient care at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
“My position is the perfect match for my interests,” says Dr. Pandya, who made her career choice toward the end of her first year in an accelerated baccalaureate program at The University of Texas at Arlington. After completing the two-year undergraduate program, she was accepted to the College of Pharmacy Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin.
“The honors curriculum puts more emphasis on research,” she says. “At that point I realized I really enjoyed the process of research.”
The opportunity to pursue her combined interests came in 2004, when she was offered a position at TIRR Memorial Hermann after completing a yearlong pharmacy practice residency at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, located a short walk away from the rehabilitation hospital. “I enjoy the teamwork it takes to create the best pharmacotherapy plans for patients,” she says. “As a team of physicians, nurses and pharmacists, we’re very focused on finding ways to improve outcomes that lead to new and more effective protocols through respective expertise in the field.”
Dr. Pandya spearheaded a recent quality improvement project involving the Pharmacy and Nursing departments, which resulted in a novel way of suspending medications given via percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy (PEG) tubes and focused nursing education to eliminate the problem of drug adherence as a cause of tube clogs. The intervention led to a 77% decrease in PEG tube clogs; they are currently presenting their findings at regional and national meetings.
In a current study, Dr. Pandya is investigating whether a cranberry supplement can reduce catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) in spinal cord injury (SCI) patients. All inpatients admitted to TIRR Memorial Hermann with a diagnosis of SCI are taking part in the study, which began in September 2014.
Prior studies included a collaborative study with Carolyn Alessi, PharmD, and David Arciniegas, MD, senior scientist and medical director for brain injury research at TIRR Memorial Hermann, on suicide risk in SCI patients at the hospital. The study’s objective was to determine the percentage of SCI patients who report suicidality, and if their characteristics match those described in the literature for both the general population and the SCI population, who are most likely to commit suicide. A secondary objective was to determine if admitted patients who exhibit suicidal ideation or depression are being managed appropriately.
Dr. Pandya also evaluated a noted trend of low magnesium levels in patients admitted over a six-month period. The study resulted in changes in magnesium supplements that provide better magnesium absorption with fewer lower gastrointestinal tract side effects.
Dr. Pandya has thrived in the work environment created by Lourdes Cuellar, administrative director of pharmacy for TIRR Memorial Hermann. “Lou encourages us to think outside the box in looking for new ways to improve the patient experience and outcomes,” she says. “I’ve come up with hundreds of crazy ideas, and she thoughtfully entertains them all. She also works hard to ensure that pharmacy relationships with physicians and nurses are strong.”
Dr. Pandya is the primary pharmacist working with Jacob Joseph, MD, clinical chief of specialty rehabilitation programs and medical director of international programs at TIRR Memorial Hermann. They meet formally in weekly pharmacy rounds to review medications to ensure their appropriateness. She also sees patients at the hospital’s Outpatient Medical Clinic weekly, and has prescriptive rights through a collaborative practice agreement with the physicians.
“Dehuti follows all my patients with me as an added measure of safety,” says Dr. Joseph, an assistant professor in the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “What I like most about her is her intellectual curiosity. She’s a fountain of knowledge about medications and keeps me up to date with information about new drugs that I may not be familiar with. She meets with all patients before they’re discharged to answer questions about their medications and is available for questions after they leave.”
In her 12 years as a pharmacist, Dr. Pandya has seen dramatic changes in health care. “The need to improve quality and document improvement measures and results continues to grow,” she says. “We never stop looking at how we can improve outcomes and provide care more cost effectively. It increases our workload but in the end, it’s the well-being of the patient that counts.
“Practicing what I enjoy has brought me enormous satisfaction in my career,” she adds. “TIRR Memorial Hermann is the ideal fit for me.”