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Delivering Big Care to Small Towns

Sep 19, 2017

Growing up in Parma, Ohio, Amy Fanous, Pharm D ’12, was used to the excitement of nearby Cleveland. Life in a small village was not on her radar.

Today, Fanous is living the small-town dream in a big way as director of the ONU HealthWise Mobile Clinic. Several times a month, Fanous navigates the cornfields and small towns of Hardin County to deliver health care free of charge to anyone who visits the clinic. “I never would have imagined that this is what I would be doing,” she says.

So how did Fanous land at Ohio Northern as a student, and what prompted her to return as a professional?

“I could tell from visiting campus that the students and faculty were like a big family,” she recalls. “I could see how much everyone genuinely cared for one another, and I really wanted to be part of that. I loved being a pharmacy student at ONU, and now I love coming to work and being surrounded by amazing faculty, staff and students.”

Fanous’ ONU education led her to opportunities serving as a community pharmacy intern at Walgreens in Cleveland and then as an intern for the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

“Louis Stokes was where my passion for ambulatory care pharmacy started,” says Fanous. “I was able to take on a very clinical role in the anticoagulation clinic. This experience, as well as a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic and an APPE rotation in Kenya, really prompted me to pursue an ambulatory care residency and career. All of these experiences were very eye-opening to me,” she says. “I really began to see how fortunate I am and how many people need help.”

After graduating from ONU, Fanous completed her PGY1 residency at ONU HealthWise. She then worked for two years at Memorial Health in Marysville, Ohio, as a clinical pharmacist. Remembering her intern and rotation roles, she felt called to return to Ohio Northern when the opportunity for a mobile clinic director opened.

“Hardin County is very rural, and it is considered to be medically underserved,” says Fanous. “One of the communities is actually unincorporated, and less than 1,000 people live in the entire township. Unfortunately, poverty rates are high, and many people do not have access to regular health care. Screenings that you and I may take for granted, such as blood pressure or cholesterol, are not always easy for Hardin County residents to access.”

In the early days of the mobile clinic, Fanous says the biggest challenge was determining how to reach people who could benefit from the clinic’s services and convincing them to participate. Now, with a couple of years under her belt, she finds it less difficult to find willing participants. “We’ve joined in local events like community dinners and food pantries,” she says. “As we get to know people and we help with the activities they already have, they are trusting us and exploring what else we can offer.”

These days, it is difficult to miss the huge orange motor coach as it pulls into a village like Alger or Dunkirk. “The mobile clinic is getting a lot of attention, and I hope that curiosity prompts people to visit and see how we can serve them,” says Fanous. “We do have patients who follow up with us regularly, but we will continue to develop appropriate follow-up care for patients, whether it’s to see us again or a referral to a primary care provider.”

Fanous is thrilled to be at her ONU home and provide much-needed health care, but she is equally excited to pass on the passion for caring to current students and residents. “There is no better way to prepare to provide rural health care than to actually deliver it as a student,” she says. “The first step to providing care is to get to know people – they are more than their blood pressure numbers. They are parents, grandparents, friends and volunteers. The mobile clinic allows us to fulfill our goal of preparing practice-ready pharmacists who can go into their communities and meet patient needs.”

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