Clinical Spotlight: Infectious Disease Spotlight – The University of Illinois
Alan E. Gross, Pharm.D., FCCP, BCIDP, BCPS, is a clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy. He is a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist and a board-certified infectious diseases pharmacist. Gross graduated from Purdue University College of Pharmacy in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he earned his Pharm.D. degree. After graduation, he completed his PGY1 residency at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, followed by a PGY2 infectious diseases specialty residency at Midwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. Gross is the co-series editor of the ACCP Infectious Disease Self-Assessment Program and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy.
Please describe the area of pharmacy that you practice in.
I am a clinical associate professor at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy and an infectious diseases pharmacist who leads the antimicrobial stewardship program at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences (UI Health). My practice focuses primarily on growing the antimicrobial stewardship program at UI Health in the inpatient and outpatient settings, where I collaborate with other health care practitioners to optimize anti-infective use.
You were recently appointed in January of this year as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (JACCP). What made you pursue this position and what is your role as an editorial board member?
JACCP is a great journal to see what other clinical pharmacists do in their practice. Not many journals focus on the different types of clinical research that pharmacists are involved in or pharmacy-based interventions. I agreed to serve on the editorial board to help promote and advance clinical pharmacy practice. As an editorial board member of JACCP, my role is to help ensure that the research and articles submitted for the journal are novel, of high quality, and of general interest to pharmacy practice. The peer-review process is a major role for editorial board members to evaluate the articles submitted and identify high-quality studies that draw the reader’s interest to promote and advance pharmacy practice.
Please describe your primary research interests and how your research changed your practice.
Most of my research is focused on respiratory tract infections as well as evaluating the impact of stewardship interventions. For example, my previous studies focused on characterizing risk factors for multidrug-resistant pathogens in community-acquired pneumonia and emphasizing the importance of not overtreating patients with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Planning interventions in a robust way upfront where interventions and outcomes can easily be measured that are particularly important to measuring our impact as well as disseminating our findings. This serves many goals – not only naturally improving the care of our patients, but also mentoring our students and residents in research and ultimately publishing the findings so that others can learn from them.
You were recently named a Fellow of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy at the 2020 ACCP Annual Meeting. Please explain the recent contributions you have made to ACCP and your goals moving forward.
When you think about organizations that focus on clinical practice in pharmacy, ACCP is what comes to mind because it has a long history of promoting the advancement of clinical pharmacy practice. ACCP is known for providing lots of educational opportunities nationally and internationally to help pharmacists expand their clinical knowledge and skills. My recent contributions to ACCP have included helping educate pharmacists to advance their clinical practice, whether that is contributing through the Infectious Diseases Self-Assessment Program or providing case-based lectures and workshops in China, Taiwan, and the Philippines as part of ACCP’s international educational efforts. Topics that I often cover include optimizing the treatment of multidrug-resistant pathogens, antimicrobial pharmacodynamics, and measuring the effectiveness of antimicrobial stewardship programs. My plan moving forward is to continue to advocate for clinical pharmacists and advance our practice.
What advice do you have for students looking to pursue a residency in infectious diseases?
Students should take advantage of their faculty resources. I recommend that students talk with faculty members who practice and/or conduct research in the areas they are interested in. Letting the faculty know of your interests can lead to working with faculty in their research or collaborating in preparing manuscripts, etc. Students should reach out to their professors because this will allow them to explore different pharmacy specialties or career paths and realize what they may be interested in.
You recently wrote about the role pharmacists play during the COVID-19 pandemic in the JACCP. What has changed in your practice in face of the ongoing pandemic?
The article is focused on the importance of drug information and evidence-based medicine. The rapidly changing evidence for certain drugs to treat patients with COVID led to frequent discussions among our care teams and required constant revision of our practice. Therefore, not immediately reacting to news headlines was important because drugs that we thought might be useful early on in the pandemic ended up with negative results after higher-quality studies were conducted and peer reviewed. This pandemic has reminded everyone of the importance of applying evidence-based medicine when making therapeutic decisions. With respect to my practice, it has changed a lot, given that I must react to constantly changing evidence. Therefore, I spend a lot of time reviewing the literature, educating other health care practitioners, and working with multidisciplinary teams to discuss the pros and cons of certain treatments and what patients they should be used in. This pandemic has certainly highlighted the role of pharmacists as drug information and literature evaluation experts.
How has being part of ACCP enhanced your professional development?
As a clinical pharmacist, I have really enjoyed being part of ACCP. ACCP, especially through the ID PRN network, facilitates great discussions among members around the world – regardless of whether they are about challenging clinical scenarios, news about drug shortages, or collaborations for research or teaching. Moreover, whether conducting research or teaching internationally, it is really satisfying to work with pharmacy colleagues around the world. Being part of ACCP has allowed me to learn and work with so many individuals with the goal of advancing and improving pharmacy practice in the United States and internationally. In addition, attending ACCP meetings and hearing about what other clinical pharmacists do in their practice, taking part in poster sessions at ACCP Annual Meetings, and talking with clinical pharmacists about what they are implementing have expanded my pharmacy network and practice.