Campus News

Interactive learning helps to engage pharmacy students

Trisha Branan

Trisha Branan’s dedication to teaching, coupled with her commitment to critical care pharmacotherapy, are daily experiences that complement her role as a clinical assistant professor in the UGA College of Pharmacy.

“In the hospital acute care units, the health care team has to quickly interpret a great deal of patient data and communicate effectively with each other, often to keep patients alive,” said Branan, 2006 alumna of the UGA College of Pharmacy. “The critical care program is vitally important as it develops the knowledge and skills our students need to optimize patient care and outcomes, not just in the critical care setting, but in all pharmacy practice settings.”

Branan’s research interests expand beyond the critical care setting to include innovative teaching methods and interprofessional education. Last year, she combined these interests and led a major redesign of PHRM 5370, a critical care pharmacy course at the pharmacy college. Collaborating with colleagues Anthony Hawkins, Russ Palmer and Katie Smith, Branan developed a virtual intensive care unit patient room that allows students to interact with various health care disciplines and providers, along with patients and their families. The virtual patient care room uses pre-formed dialogue, replicated vital sign monitors and access to laboratory data to mimic clinical practice.

“Her innovative instructional approach and careful attention to the learning needs of students combined to create an exciting learning environment that is positively impacting our students today,” said Palmer, who, along with Smith, is an instructional designer at the college.

Hawkins, a clinical assistant professor at the college’s clinical campus in Albany, agrees.

“Trisha’s innovative efforts provided a set of immersive and interactive learning tools that allow our students to think critically and communicate effectively to make clinical decisions in scenarios that are reflective of real-world critical care pharmacy problems,” he said.

Branan’s innovative virtual reality teaching module led to her receiving a major university award. This past spring, she was one of the recipients of UGA’s Creative Teaching Awards, which recognizes faculty for excellence in developing and implementing creative teaching methods to improve student learning.

“I was very humbled to receive this award,” said Branan. “I am fortunate to collaborate with others within the college, especially Dr. Hawkins, Russ Palmer and Katie Smith, who share the same excitement and passion for innovative teaching. As a faculty member, there is little that is more rewarding than connecting with your students and partnering alongside their learning.”

Her students are not short on affirmation for their pharmacy professor.

“The critical care class with Dr. Branan [and Dr. Hawkins] has taught me how to ask the right questions to prioritize my patients’ therapies and optimize their outcomes,” said Caitlin Casper, a third-year pharmacy student.

Brad Proctor, another third-year pharmacy student, said, “Dr. Branan’s class allows a student to learn using real world examples, which provides a great foundation for someone who wants to practice in a critical care setting.”

“This class has provided me with some of the most applicable information I have learned in pharmacy school,” said fellow third-year student Tim Jones. “Dr. Branan is one of the best at simplifying complex topics, and her critical care class has stimulated my interest in this important area of pharmacy. Her teaching method makes it easy to ask questions and have discussions, which ultimately will allow us to be better practitioners.”