Pilar Murphy is a pharmacist, but to the people of Perry County, Alabama, she is much, much more. Dr. Murphy, an assistant professor of pharmacy in the McWhorter School of Pharmacy at Samford University, found her calling helping piece together a patchwork of health care services for some of the poorest, most underserved people in Alabama.
In this predominantly African American community, the average household income is roughly half of the national average, and diabetes, hypertension and obesity far outstrip the national average. Murphy’s answered a calling to show people at greatest risk for diabetes and heart disease that their condition isn’t inevitable and that they do have control over their health.
Today, Murphy runs the Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Clinic at Sowing Seeds of Hope®, a nonprofit organization based at the Perry County Health Department. She manages a patchwork of health care initiatives, and every month, students from the McWhorter School of Pharmacy join her as part of the pharmacy school’s required rural clinical rotation. Students help extend Murphy’s reach to patients who struggle to access health care of any kind.
“We have no hospitals in Perry County,” Murphy said.
“We have few, if any, specialists of any kind. They may see a doctor in Selma and specialist in Birmingham and another specialist somewhere else. At the Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Clinic, we often act as a bridge between the various resources people use. For too long, people down here had nowhere to go, so they ignored important symptoms until it was too late. We’re part of this community to help correct that. We’ll meet with patients before their doctor visits and coordinate their care. It’s not a role that people expect from their pharmacists, but it’s a role we are happy to play," Murphy said.
Pharmacy students in their fourth year can do a five-week rotation with Murphy at the Perry County Health Department. Additional service opportunies may be available for students within other disciplines in the College of Health Sciences.
To learn more, please contact Pilar Murphy, assistant professor for McWhorter School of Pharmacy.
Note: There is a house owned by Samford University in Perry County in the city of Marion. The house is open to all of Samford.
Danielle Alexander, class of 2017
“Working in Perry County gave me the opportunity to extend a healing hand in ways that I didn’t expect. Each week we conducted health screenings, discussed health topics on a radio show and worked with alongside a doctor and nurse practitioner for patient care. Yes, it’s busy, but not pointless. Each assignment was beneficial for my development as a student pharmacist.
Due the healthcare disparity, I was able to see a lot of different disease states as well as provide a personable service to the people I shared a community with for that time. Dr. Murphy challenges you to think through real life situations and work your way to a reasonable conclusion.This experience allowed me to grow as a practitioner. I walked away with a greater understanding of patient care and a greater awareness of the areas of need for pharmacists and the positive impact we can have on the community.”
Adria Neely, class of 2017
"My fondest memory of my time spent in Perry County was educating the residents on various aspects of health care on our weekly radio program. I was also afforded the opportunity to assist members of the community with blood glucose and blood pressure management during weekly clinic visits. While in clinic, I routinely had one-on-one, in-depth discussions with patients regarding any of their health care concerns. Patients were very open and trusting of us as students and it was a blessing to be of assistance. It was truly a memorable and rewarding experience to be able to use the training I received at Samford University to give back to the community and help the residents of Perry County."
Ebony J. Adams, class of 2017
“Purposeful, would be the best way to describe my time in Perry County. I embarked on this path of pharmacy with prayers that God would work through me to serve others and less did I know that He would allow those that I serve to leave such a big impact on my life. The people and patients there are so vibrant and seem to appreciate and enjoy the services and education that otherwise may not be afforded to them. Someone once said, “Gaining knowledge is the first step to wisdom, sharing it is the first step to humanity.”