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Pharmacy student wins national award for public health advocacy

Louisiana native inspired to fight health disparities with better education and pharmacy care

Janel Shoun-Smith | 615.966.7078  | 

Kristine Hoang receiving her award

Hoang receiving her national award for public service at the May 2021 year-end COP recognition ceremony.

Kristine Hoang (’21), a Houma, Louisiana, native who has seen firsthand the impact of health disparities on a community, entered Lipscomb’s College of Pharmacy intending to become an advocate for more pharmacy in public health.

Kristine Hoang

She has already succeeded, as evidenced by her selection as one of the top 10 Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Awards given out nationally by the United States Public Health Service for the 2020-21 year. While 90 awards are presented each year, the organization designates the top 10 recipients annually, and this year that includes Hoang.

The USPHS gives out the Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award each year to recognize and encourage pharmacy students to learn about public health and engage in public health efforts in their communities. 

The award recognizes pharmacy students who have made significant contributions by promoting wellness and healthy communities, especially through voluntary health-related services or contributions that advance the goals of Healthy People 2030 or the National Prevention Strategy. 

Houma, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, is what made Hoang who she is today, she said. So as she entered her time in pharmacy school, she wanted to tackle the health care inequalities that she saw deeply rooted in her hometown community. Hoang took an active role in many public health organizations, initiatives and research projects to continuously improve the health and wellness of those battling public health issues. 

Kristine Hoang giving a Covid shot

Kristine Hoang at a Covid vaccine clinic.

As a P2, Hoang participated in the Vanderbilt Program for Interprofessional Learning (VPIL), where she worked at a clinic for opioid-dependent pregnant women. Her project and role at the clinic was to educate women on NARCAN, a nasal spray administered to those who could have had a potential opioid overdose. This experience was foundational in opening her eyes to how useful pharmacy could be in improving public health. 

Hoang also partnered with the Tennessee Prison Outreach, a rehabilitation program for previously incarcerated men re-entering society. She coordinated a tobacco cessation program with the goal to alleviate their dependence upon cigarettes.

With her mentor Dr. Sarah Uroza, associate professor, she did a public health research project looking at the effect of a diabetes management program at a clinic for uninsured patients. She assessed the effect on patients  of the clinic’s monthly diabetes education day where patients could get free information and monitoring. 

“I saw, when I applied at Lipscomb, that the professors were really supportive and helpful in giving me the room to pursue the things I wanted, such as public health,” said Hoang.

Not only has Hoang herself been instrumental in improving public health, she also worked hard to encourage her fellow pharmacy students to take up their own initiatives. She served as the policy officer for the Tennessee Society of Student Pharmacists. While in this position, she arranged meetings for students with legislators at Lipscomb to discuss the impacts that law or policies have on pharmacy and boasted the largest student attendance yet at the society’s annual “Day on the Hill” lobbying event. 

Kristine Hoang with a state representative and others

Hoang arranged a visit from State Representative Bob Freeman to introduce him to discuss issues affecting the profession.

She also did a presentation on mental health first aid training for pharmacists at the Tennessee Society of Student Pharmacist’s annual summer meeting.

Hoang is now a first-year resident in medical pharmacy at a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she works with many underserved patients. She hopes to complete a second residency in ambulatory care and then work professionally at a clinic for underserved patients.

“Eventually, I want to go back to New Orleans,” the Tulane University graduate said, “and give everything I have learned back to the place that made me who I am.”