“You have a unique confluence of culture and community that you don’t necessarily get with other places,” says preceptor Maya Thompson about working at the Sells Indian Hospital on the Tohono O'dham Reservation in Sells, Ariz.
Thompson, assistant director of pharmacy at the Indian Health Service hospital, has been working with Sells’ Native American population since 2001. The Maryland native began supervising fourth-year pharmacy students on their clinical rotations as a preceptor for the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in 2003.
As a preceptor, Thompson ensures students are involved with in- and outpatient aspects of the service, such as helping to improve medication safety errors, creating a more patient-centered model of healthcare and making the pharmacist more visible and approachable in the hospital environment.
“I make sure the students get from their rotations what they should,” Thompson says. “That includes experience with medication therapy monitoring, clinical decision-making skills, and having them fine-tune and build upon the skills they already have.”
The 1999 and 2000 Philadelphia College of Pharmacy graduate, who studied French at the Sorbonne and Spanish in Argentina, enjoys working with pharmacy students because of their fresh knowledge and ideas about the pharmacy profession.
“I like the new perspective and enthusiasm that they bring to the site,” Thompson says. “It helps the people who have been out of pharmacy school keep abreast of the new technologies and just remember why we went into pharmacy school in the first place.”
Although Thompson’s work is enjoyable, it also provides challenges. She says working on the reservation is good because the healthcare system is very well established there.
“But while the good things can continue working, it takes longer to change the things that need to be changed,” she says.
Challenges are nothing to new to Thompson, who was deployed to Haiti in 2004 and 2005 after Hurricane Jeanne.
“The first time I worked with a physician from the National Institute of Health to assess the local hospital serving a major region—what they needed to get up and running again,” she says. “The second time was more pharmacy-related, distributing supplies and working with government officials and non-governmental organizations to have accountability.”
There’s always a chance Thompson will be deployed again, but until then she enjoys working at the hospital in Sells and spends her free time learning languages, ballroom and Latin dancing, jogging, running, weight lifting, doing arts and crafts, and traveling when she can.