COP alumna new chief of pharmacy at VA

“I love teaching, I love research, I love practice…I love all of it!”

But can COP alumna Kristina De Los Santos, new chief of pharmacy at the Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Tucson (SAVAHCS), choose an aspect of pharmacy she “loves” the most?

“There is no greater satisfaction,” she says, “than watching a student or trainee or even employee grow and see them develop towards the next phase of their professional career.”

De Los Santos graduated with honors from the College of Pharmacy in 1999. 

“I really appreciated my professors at COP because they not only taught us theory, but it was applied theory, how people were actually practicing their profession. For example, the therapeutics courses had practicing instructors rotate in and teach within their area of expertise. I felt as if the community was coming together to train us for the practice that was going on at the time. ”

Ten days after De Los Santos left the COP classroom, she began working at the SAVAHCS. For a number of years she was clinical coordinator and residency program director. In this role, she oversaw all clinical services in the hospital and coordinated all education for her department. She also helped facilitate the research in the department. On March 26, 2012, De Los Santos started her new position as chief of pharmacy service line. Now she is ultimately responsible for everything and everyone in the pharmacy section, from budgeting, and planning, to operations.

Because of her promotion, and having her first child recently, De Los Santos has had to scale back some of her other weighty activities. For example, the last several years she surveyed private sector residency programs for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ Commission on Credentialing. The commission is responsible for the accreditation of pharmacy residencies and pharmacy technician training programs. She also was the principal investigator of two recently closed-out research protocols. One focused on diabetes and the other on the impact of corticosteroids on pneumonia admissions.

One noteworthy aspect of pharmacy practice at the VA is the level of interprofessional collaboration.

“Our pharmacists are all embedded in patient-care teams,” explains De Los Santos. “We have two pharmacies, but we have an equal number of staff working outside the pharmacy on the frontline where the patients are and where the care is being delivered. Every decision we make is completely cross-sectional. We work with nursing, we work with physicians, we work with the nurse practitioners, both inpatient and outpatient providers, even those involved with budget and fiscal concerns. We are relied upon as a member of the health-care team.”

What does De Los Santos see for the future?

“I would like to see the concept of pharmacist-driven care at the bedside maintained and expanded. This means expanded roles and involvement in more disease states, more prospective management and preventative care. This is all with the focus of supporting patients and providers in delivering the best care.”

Story and photos by Larry Hogan.

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