Expert Interview: Dr. Veronica Vernon

vernon veronica pharmacist womens health choose controlMost people are familiar with the roles of physicians and nurses, but don’t always know what pharmacists roles are. Dr. Veronica Vernon is a clinical pharmacist specializing in women’s health and shares a little about what she offers her patients.

How did you become interested in women’s health?

Through high school, I struggled with some gynecological issues, and this really sparked my interest in learning more about women’s health. During pharmacy school, my interest grew as I discovered more about the differences in how medications work in men and women and how to treat women’s health conditions. I noticed that many practicing pharmacists and fellow classmates were uncomfortable discussing women’s health issues. I desired to further grow my knowledge in order to meet a need I saw in my community.

Who benefits the most from having a women’s health pharmacist caring for them?

I see patients by myself sometimes and other times with a doctor. The gynecologist refers patients to me who have menopausal symptoms, side effects from birth control, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and those who are pregnant or want to be. The patients who have multiple chronic illnesses or complicated medical issues seem to be benefiting the most from having me work with their doctors. I treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and low thyroid function as well.

Pharmacists are an integral part of any women’s health care team, since we understand how medications can work differently in women and we are the medication experts. Discussing your medication use with a pharmacist is extremely important to make sure that you are not experiencing any side effects and the medication is optimally working. We can also help prevent and manage chronic illnesses. I always discuss how to live a healthy lifestyle with all of my patients. My favorite part of my job is helping women lead healthier lives.

Do you think other hospitals or clinics should hire a women’s health pharmacist?

I firmly believe other VAs, health systems, and clinics should hire a pharmacist focused on women’s health. I have been able to spearhead initiatives, such as providing emergency contraception to our female veterans and the use of methotrexate for ectopic pregnancies, in our health system. I also lend my services to the smaller VA hospitals in our region that do not have the resources to hire their own women’s health pharmacist.

I can see patients using a video conference system (similiar to Skype) and assess their symptoms and manage their issues virtually. I enjoy this more than a phone call since the patient and I can actually see each other without having to be in the same room.

I serve as a resource to all of our providers in my VA faciltiy and provide quarterly education sessions each year on women’s health topics. This allows my facility to improve the overall quality of care provided to female patients.

What are your top 3 tips for women based on what you’re seeing among your patients?

  1. Women should make sure they are getting regular check-ups (including pap smears if indicated) and talk with their doctor regarding ways they can prevent chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  2. Women should find a healthcare provider with whom they feel comfortable voicing their concerns. Many women are embarassed to bring up gynecological-related symptoms, such as pain during intercourse or vaginal burning or itching, but these are important issues to discuss with your healthcare provider.
  3. Women should keep an updated medication list with them at all times (I recommend keeping one in your purse or wallet) and know why they are taking each medication. Being well-informed about your health is empowering and allows you to take control of your health instead of your letting your health control you.

What do you wish you could do for your patients?

I would really enjoy starting a prenatal class for our patients who are pregnant. I think meeting with a pharmacist throughout their pregnancies would be extremely beneficial. I think my patients would like the support system that could be formed through this class. I would want to bring in other healthcare professionals, such as nurses and dieticians, who could support my patients.


About the Expert: Dr. Veronica Vernon, PharmD, BCPS, BCACP is a board-certified pharmacist practicing at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs L Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Butler University.  Dr. Vernon is a North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Certified Menopause Practitioner.  Female veterans who would like to make an appointment with Dr. Vernon should call (317)988-4917. 

Radio Interview About Pharmacists & Birth Control

Last week, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a radio program about the different areas where pharmacists provide clinical services.  The host of Health Update Radio, Dr. Gerry Graf, is a retired pharmacist himself and was very interested in pharmacist roles with family planning and birth control.  The program aired live last Monday, September 5, 2014.  The portion of the show where I am interviewed can be found in the video clip below.

We talk about why family planning is important for women of all ages from menarche (when a young woman begins menstruating) to menopause.  Some of the topics we discussed include all the different methods of birth control, considerations in women with medical conditions, access and privacy in pharmacies, and contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act and Hobby Lobby decision.

You can access the full program featuring Drs. Steven Atallah and David Ha discussing their roles in trauma care and infectious diseases care on the WS Radio website.

Should You REALLY Be Worried About All Those Birth Control Risks?

Hesitant to start birth control because of side effects? Or worried about long-term effects after years of use? This interview with physician experts gives you practical answers to some of those questions.

Remember there are many birth control options and your health care provider can help you find one that fits your needs.

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Before you panic, read what the experts have to say.

birth-control

If you’ve ever leafed through the packet of prescribing information that comes with your birth control, you were probably thoroughly terrified. It’s about as scary as those television commercials that ask if anyone you know has died while taking a certain form of contraception.

It’s true that some health risks have been associated with birth control, but it’s also a fact that hormonal contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy, as well as help with a host of other health issues—like alleviating PCOS and endometriosis, calming PMS and acne, and even lowering your risk of ovarian cancer.

So to find out how worried you should really be about these scary health risks, we reached out to three experts: Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstestrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine; practicing ob-gyn Alyssa Dweck…

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Expert Interview: Dr. Tracey Wilkinson

With the recent changes to expand access to birth control for youth, pediatrician Dr. Tracey Wilkinson helps explain the importance of the progress so far and what still remains to be done.Dr. Tracey Wilkinson

What changes have you seen recently with birth control for youth?

In 2013, emergency contraception (EC), also known as the morning-after pill, was made an over-the-counter medication for everyone.  This means that anyone (girls or boys) can walk into a retail pharmacy or drugstore and purchase EC without having to show identification or find a pharmacy that is open.

How has over-the-counter EC impacted your patients?

Having EC over-the-counter helps ensure that everyone (regardless of age) can access this medication when they need it.  Remember, EC works better the sooner it is taken–so, it is important that when someone needs to get this medication to prevent pregnancy, there are no delays when they go to the pharmacy, doctor’s office, or clinic.

What challenges are your patients facing despite these changes?

There have been a lot of changes to the law regarding EC access over the last few years.  So, it is not surprising that there is a lot of confusion–amongst clinicians, pharmacy staff and even teenagers–as to who can get this medication and when it should be taken.

What needs to be done to address these challenges?

We are going to need to have a lot of education and outreach to both the public and the medical community about the recent changes around EC access.  It is important that youth know about this medication and when to take it, that doctors talk about it with their patients and that pharmacy staff know how to answer questions from consumers buying this medication.

What advice would give youth who would like to get birth control?

First, do some research before you go to the doctor on what types of birth control is out there and what may be a good fit for what you are looking for. Second, it is important that youth find a clinician who they feel comfortable talking to about options for birth control.  These conversations rely on trust and it is important that you find that relationship with a clinician.  Also, remember your rights when going to the doctor’s office, clinic, or pharmacy–you have a right to privacy and confidentiality no matter how old you are.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?  

One of my favorite things as a pediatrician is talking to adolescents as they transition to adults and start making decisions around sexual activity and how to be safe.  Remember, there are a lot of ways to do that and it is important to find a birth control method that works well for you and your partner so that you can stay healthy and also not get pregnant until you are ready.  The number of contraceptive methods continues to increase and so if you don’t like one method–there are a lot of other ones to try!


About the Expert: Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, MD, MPH is a board-certified pediatrician practicing at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  She is also an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.  Dr. Wilkinson’s research interests are pregnancy prevention and access to contraception.  To make an appointment with Dr. Wilkinson, call (323)669-2113.