Students Learn Valuable Pharmacy Skills Through Hepatitis Clinics

Early in his career, Dr. Brian Seagraves ‘04, a Clinical Academic Professional Associate at UGA’s College of Pharmacy, noticed the impact of Hepatitis C in Athens and the surrounding communities. He observed and recognized how the disease disproportionately affects the disenfranchised and underrepresented citizens in the area. He spent hours researching and learning about the hepatitis viruses, the pathophysiology of the diseases, and the established therapies.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver that is transmitted through blood. Left unchecked, the virus can scar the liver and potentially lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, or death. The World Health Organization estimates that 71 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis C; it is estimated that 2.4 million people in the U.S. are chronically infected. Unfortunately, hepatitis C is insidious in the early stages of the infection. Detection and treatment of those infected and public education are imperative to eradicating the virus. 

In an effort to decrease the effects of these diseases, Dr. Seagraves helped establish a hepatitis treatment clinic at Mercy Health Center, and later, he expanded his efforts to the Athens Nurses’ Clinic. With help from the local Georgia Department of Public Health, he added hepatitis screening tests to the Nurses’ Clinics’ community outreach program. He also consulted and aided free clinics in the Athens community in establishing  hepatitis screening and treatment programs.

A passionate educator, Dr. Seagraves, who has been recognized with numerous teaching honors and community service awards, began taking pharmacy students and residents to the clinic in order to train the next generation of pharmacists in the detection and treatment of the disease. An additional priority for Dr. Seagraves was to teach these students how to be sensitive and all-inclusive with patients. 

Dr. Seagraves remarked, “My hope is that these experiences will bring community awareness to the hepatitis disease state as well as produce pharmacists who are compassionate and zealous caregivers for their patients. In addition, we know that educating the public will allow for more screenings and successful treatment of those infected with viral hepatitis as well as remove any societal stigmas against those infected.”

The results of this unique training opportunity have been astounding.  Students who have served at these clinics have words of praise for their experiences. Gelina Sani, a P3 from Nazareth, PA, who worked last year with Dr. Seagraves in the Athens Nurses’ Clinic, said “It was a great experience to talk to these patients, because there is often a stigma against them in society. It was humbling to realize they get judgment free treatment just like any other patients. Along with my medication knowledge, my empathy and communication skills were greatly developed in this elective, and I honestly will remember it for the rest of my career. These were real patients with real stories who needed our help.”   

Several students who have worked in the clinics offered testimonials of their training. These overviews can be read here.