University of Southern California

USC Student Affairs and Campus Life

Amanda Wong

Wins a Schweitzer Fellowship

By Diane Ver Steeg Anderson

Amanda Wong, doctor of pharmacy student, helps the blind and visually impaired.Photo by Ryan BallAmanda Wong, doctor of pharmacy student, helps the blind and visually impaired.

Schweitzer Fellow Amanda Wong, a third-year Doctor of Pharmacy student at USC, has found new ways to meet blind and visually impaired patients’ needs.

Wong has done this through a partnership between the USC School of Pharmacy and the Los Angeles Braille Institute. Wong, who volunteered as a high schooler at the Orange County Braille Institute, came up with the idea when a visually impaired participant at a USC Pharmacy community health fair had difficulty getting help.

“It made me think about how I could further help,” said Wong. “I met with the Braille Institute. It took a year to educate them about the value a pharmacy can provide and the importance of having patients adhere to their medications.”

To further this partnership, Wong applied for an Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, a national program that annually awards fellowships to 250 graduate students in the fields of medicine, pharmacy and public health. Each fellow identifies an unmet need in the community and develops a patient care project to meet that need.

As part of her Schweitzer project at the Braille Institute, Wong conducted medication reviews with participants; brought in fellow students to give presentations about asthma, hypertension, bone loss, osteoporosis and over-the-counter drug safety; and got donations of Braille pillboxes to hand out.

“My goal for the project was to not only educate and teach the students at the Braille Institute, but also to provide an outlet for USC Pharmacy students to learn and get a chance to interact with community,” said Wong.

Brad Williams, professor of clinical pharmacy and clinical gerontology and Wong’s fellowship mentor, noted that she “worked seamlessly with the staff of the Braille Institute and with student organizations to accomplish her goal.”

“She was most efficient and adept at working with several groups, which always is a challenge,” said Williams. “The maturity with which she handles difficult situations speaks very highly of her leadership abilities in both easy and difficult circumstances.”

She also demonstrates her leadership in meeting patients’ needs as co-president and director of the PharmSC Clinic, the first student-run clinic at the USC School of Pharmacy. Operating out of a pharmacy in Boyle Heights, Wong and her classmates provide screenings for diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and body fat analysis.

“Our clinic is different in that we do this every Friday and sometimes Saturday, too. It’s like running a mini health fair every week, and we actually raise all the funding for supplies ourselves,” said Wong, who received the Ralph Converse Endowed Scholarship from the USC School of Pharmacy. “We are primarily serving the Hispanic population, and we are able to provide these screenings at no cost.”

Wong also noted that the PharmSC Clinic was the first organization at the USC School of Pharmacy to do an interdisciplinary health fair. “I co-coordinated this health fair with the occupational therapy, physical therapy and dental programs. Last year, we also had UCLA dental students come,” she said. “We are in our third year of doing that, and it is going well.”

With ideas constantly brewing, Wong is working on developing a comic book-like fotonovella for the Braille Institute with Mel Baron, associate professor of clinical pharmacy.

“We are currently trying to raise money in order to produce these novellas for the Hispanic community about vision loss,” said Wong.

Once Wong graduates, she hopes to get a spot in a residency program at either an ambulatory care pharmacy or a hospital inpatient facility.

“I’m really interested in what happens to the patients after they leave the office,” said Wong. “That is what got me excited about pharmacy. I’m interested in that aspect of pharmacy in which pharmacists are utilized to their full potential and almost treated like specialists about medications and drugs.”