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ACCP Member Spotlight: Madison Irwin

Published on: Dec 27, 2022

IrwinMadison Irwin, Pharm.D., BCPS, is a clinical and translational sciences postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. She graduated with a B.S. degree in biology from the University of Dayton in 2015 and a Pharm.D. degree from the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy in 2019. She subsequently completed PGY1 pharmacy practice and PGY2 pain management and palliative care residencies at University of Michigan Health (UMH). Irwin is now in her second year of fellowship under the supervision of Dr. Michael Smith at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy.

Irwin divides job responsibilities between research, direct patient care, and teaching. Her research interests center on optimizing insomnia management in vulnerable populations, including older adults and palliative care patients, and expanding innovative models of clinical pharmacy practice. During her first year of fellowship, she obtained funding for her own work and significantly contributed to other successful grant applications led by Dr. Smith. She practices as an ambulatory palliative care pharmacist, providing support to UMH outpatient palliative care clinics through a partnership with the institution’s Pharmacy Innovations & Partnerships group. Through collaboration with ambulatory palliative care providers, Irwin and Smith have grown outpatient palliative care pharmacy services as well as implemented transitions-of-care services for palliative care patients in the health system. As an educator, Irwin serves as a preceptor for pharmacy residents on research and clinical rotations. At the college, she teaches and coordinates multiple courses, including a required experiential course for third-year pharmacy students and pain management electives offered to undergraduate and professional students.

Irwin developed an interest in clinical pharmacy as a career during her sophomore year of college. Her aspirations as a freshman in college included a career as a neuroscientist; however, these plans evolved into an interest in a pharmacy career after taking organic chemistry her sophomore year. As she progressed through school and prepared to apply to pharmacy school, she came to appreciate the many paths, including those based in academia, that were available to her as a pharmacist. She became interested in palliative care during her first year of residency. Although she finds many practice areas in pharmacy interesting, palliative care pharmacy allows her to center on patients and their families and is a much-needed, ever-growing area of pharmacy practice. Her overarching career goal has always been to find a job that she loves on the best of days and can still find meaningful on the worst of days. She is thankful for a practice area and career path that allow her to achieve this goal.

Irwin’s mentors have been some of the most influential forces in her career. Within the pharmacy world, Dr. Molly Thompson encouraged Irwin’s early interest in clinical research as a student pharmacist at the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy. Irwin credits the influence of Dr. Kyle Quirk for her decision to explore palliative care pharmacy during her first year of residency. Dr. Kate Starosta has taught her invaluable lessons about mentorship and leadership. Finally, as mentioned earlier, she owes much in her career so far to Dr. Michael Smith. She has grown immensely as a clinician, researcher, and educator under his tutelage. He has advocated for her from day 1 as his mentee and, in doing so, taught her to advocate for herself and her patients. Due in no small part to all of those mentioned, she firmly believes in high-quality mentorship as a tool to improve health care by advancing clinical pharmacy practice.

In her clinical responsibilities, Irwin encounters complex health challenges. It is important to her that her patients recognize that medications are only one of the tools used to manage their symptoms. To put this into practice, she needs to be mindful of all treatment options, both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic. Building relationships with interprofessional team members and realizing the various patient resources offered within her organization allow her to connect patients with health care professionals across disciplines to optimize patient care.

With respect to advocacy, Irwin recognizes that getting involved can be daunting, especially for trainees. She believes a good place to start is by tapping into the advocacy efforts of professional organizations. Most organizations outline ways to get involved, including writing letters, joining advocacy committees, and spreading the word about different legislative efforts through social media. She believes it important that all pharmacists engage in these very intentional, direct, legislative advocacy efforts. However, she recognizes that other activities like health services or implementation science research, local patient and health care professional education about pharmacist roles, and community outreach also play a vital role in advancing clinical pharmacy practice.

Finally, Irwin’s advice to other ACCP trainees is to surround themselves with colleagues who challenge them. She says that being told you are doing “a good job” is nice but that the most valuable feedback pushes you to grow. Find those who respect you enough to provide meaningful feedback, she says, even if it is sometimes hard to hear, and hang onto them. They will become invaluable mentors and sometimes friends.

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