Sandra Leal coaches students in diabetes program at El Rio

home104_0.jpgSandra Leal helps people.

A clinical pharmacy supervisor and diabetes specialist at El Rio Health Center in Tucson, Leal is also a preceptor for the UA College of Pharmacy.

A respected mentor to fourth-year PharmD students who shares her passion for healthcare policy with them, the Nogales, Ariz., native plays a large role in the health center’s new type 2 diabetes program, the Pharmacy-Based Diabetes Program.

Leal, who completed her prepharmacy work at the University of Arizona and returned home after receiving her PharmD and BS in pharmacy from the University of Colorado in Denver, helped start the program, which began as a demonstration project to show the impact pharmacists can have on treatment teams.

“We decided to address diabetes and its co-morbidities in the process, primarily because of the large Hispanic and American Indian population that El Rio serves,” Leal says. “Following the initial grant, we were able to add a second, and third, pharmacist to other satellites because of the significant outcomes we continue to experience whenever a pharmacist is involved in direct patient care.”

The latest $250,000 grant, a gift from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, will help Leal and El Rio address the burgeoning U.S. problem of type 2 diabetes, which American Indians and Hispanics suffer at rates two to 10 times greater than the rest of the population. Currently, the program serves about 1,350 patients.

An added bonus Leal sees to serving poor minority populations with individualized medication regimens is the boost pharmacy receives from the results.

“It has been our goal, and will continue to be our goal, to show the value of our profession in this type of setting in order to get reimbursement from Medicare/Medicaid and private insurance for pharmacists’ clinical interventions,” Leal says. “We are working hard to get provider recognition status and hope that every individual and organization involved in the practice of pharmacy makes this a No. 1 priority to continue advancing the profession.”