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Member Spotlight Profile: Anjoli Punjabi, Pharma, MPH

By Laurie Pumper, MPhA Communication Director

Anjoli Punjabi, PharmD, MPH, is a Pharmaceutical Care Leadership Resident at Broadway Family Medicine Clinic in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. Her first job in pharmacy was as Carl F. Emswiller Intern at the American Pharmacists Association Headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is her first year working as a licensed pharmacist. In fact, she just recently started her job at Broadway Family Medicine.

Anjoli earned her PharmD and Master’s in Public Health from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. She has a BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Albany, N.Y.

Anjoli chose a career as a pharmacist while she was working as a middle school science teacher. “My student’s mother had health issues related to medication mismanagement. At this time, I had my BS in Pharmaceutical Sciences and felt compelled to continue my education in pharmacy because I knew what a difference I could make in people’s lives as a pharmacist!”

Her decision to become a pharmacist has been reinforced by her time on rotations. “I really enjoyed developing a trusting relationship with patients and following up with them to make sure any changes or suggestions made in previous appointments were improving their medication experience!”
Anjoli has a strong commitment to addressing health disparities and is passionate about helping underserved communities. Two challenging experiences have shaped these interests and underscore her determination to accomplish results.

“In 2011, I was recruited to join Teach for America and was placed as a middle school science teacher in an Afro-centric charter school in North Minneapolis. I joined in an effort to close the academic achievement gap between minority and underserved students and their most affluent peers. When I got to the school, I was told that the children had a 4% pass rate on their standardized science exam.

“I was determined to make a change. I told my colleagues about my plans for an intensive curriculum to change the status quo, but was met with skepticism. They told me it wouldn’t be possible in this school and that I should bring some experiments into the classroom and just have fun with the kids. Despite this, I decided to go forward with my plans.

“Over the course of the next year, I designed a rigorous curriculum that included hands-on learning and guest speakers from the African American community. I quickly realized that the children wanted to learn, but it was how they learned that made the difference. My customized approach kept my students engaged. I was able to help the children create a vision for their future, were they to choose a career in science. My efforts paid off — when my students took their standardized science exam at the end of the year, their pass rate went up to 57%, exceeding the Minnesota state average, putting my students on an equal playing field with their more affluent peers. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment for my students. Several months later I received the Sue Lehmann Award for putting my students on a different life trajectory in the sciences. I continue to keep in touch with many of my students and applaud their decisions to pursue careers in engineering, biological sciences, and other scientific disciplines.”

Anjoli’s next challenge came during her first year of pharmacy school. “A group of interprofessional colleagues and I recognized a need for help services in the Little Earth community. Little Earth of United Tribes is a Section 8 Housing Development in the East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. The American Indian community there faces disproportionate rates of obesity and diabetes. Therefore we created a diabetes prevention program consisting of onsite fitness classes, nutrition education and monthly community events to celebrate progress.

“When first starting the program, it was a challenge to get community buy-in. Residents were missing their health coaching appointments, and attendance at the fitness classes was less than ideal. Through structured focus groups we were able to learn more about community needs and adapted the program accordingly. We changed the health coaching appointments to walk-in appointments rather than scheduled time slots. Additionally, we incorporated cultural classes such as native dancing. Furthermore, we adapted our methods of communication from a standard flyer approach to using word of mouth and social media — which resonated better with the community. This flexibility resulted in the program’s ultimate success. We found that residents who participated in the program at a 75% participation rate had a significantly lowered hemoglobin A1c, thus reducing their risk for diabetes.”

Anjoli has been an MPhA member for nearly 4 years, and has taken a very active role by participating in the Public Affairs Committee and the Student & Resident Relations Committee. “MPhA is a great way to stay connected with other Minnesota pharmacists, stay updated various clinical topics, advocate to advance pharmacy, and give back to profession. I love to stay involved and up to date on all things MPhA!”

She would like to see greater focus by MPhA to address health disparities and standardizing the Comprehensive Medication Management practice model across the nation.
In her spare time, Anjoli stays busy with several interests. “I am a really good cook! I particularly enjoy cooking Thai and Indian dishes.” She’s also an avid road biker and enjoys making handmade greeting cards for family and friends.

The last movie she saw was LaLa Land — and she loved it. “Ryan Gosling is the best!”

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