Pharmacy is Right for Me Student Innovation Challenge Winners Announced

Student Innovation Challenge Winners Announced

<0> OptumRxDavid Himmel, 949-988-6000 </0>

, the (APhA) and the (AACP) today announced the winners of the inaugural high school Innovation Challenge.

The contest provided an opportunity for students in grades 9-12 to practice their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills while developing inspired solutions for issues currently facing the pharmacy field.

Fourteen teams comprising more than 60 students entered the pilot Innovation Challenge, which tasked students in select cities across the country to come up with ideas that could lead to better health outcomes for Americans. The grand prize winners – three seniors from Seaman High School in Topeka, Kan. – were recognized for their approach to addressing the issue of non-adherence to medications through a rebate plan monitored by equipping medications with a micro-sensor and camera. The idea builds upon existing medical technologies that are currently in experimental stages. The students will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., that includes a special reception at APhA headquarters with professional pharmacists and STEM leaders.

Throughout the United States, pharmacists are playing an increasingly important role in working alongside other health care providers to help people better manage their health conditions. At the same time, the pharmacy field is experiencing a host of critical challenges, including medication non-adherence, inadequate access to pharmaceutical services in rural America, and many more.

“We created the Innovation Challenge to give high-school students a true glimpse into the broad opportunities that pharmacy and other STEM fields can offer. We also want to tap the imaginative potential of these young students,” said John Jones, R.Ph., J.D., Senior Vice President, Professional Practice and Pharmacy Policy, OptumRx and Advisory Board Chair. “Our goal is to reach students – particularly young people from underserved and underrepresented communities – early in their education to engage the next generation of STEM and pharmacy leaders.”

“Seaman High School is pleased to participate in the inaugural 'Pharmacy is Right for Me' Innovation Challenge,” said Ron Vinduska, Principal of Seaman High School in Topeka. “High school is an important time for students to explore skilled, creative fields such as pharmacy, gain valuable career knowledge, and connect with professionals as they prepare for future careers.”

The second- and third-place teams are from Dunbar High School in Ft. Myers, Fla., and another team of seniors from Seaman High School, respectively. These teams’ submissions demonstrated a strong balance of ingenuity and practical application. Each student in the top three finalist teams will receive an iPad Mini.

Entries were reviewed and scored by an expert judging panel on the basis of creativity, technical practicality and overall presentation. Judges included Caroline Atwood, Pharm.D, Clinical Account Executive, OptumRx; Steve Bartlett, M.S., science educator and National Science Foundation (NSF) Einstein Fellow; and entrepreneur Colin Touhey, CEO, Pvilion.

“The judges were very impressed by the inventive solutions developed by the student teams in response to real-world issues facing today’s pharmacists,” said Bartlett. “We were especially impressed by the top three teams, which identified thoughtful approaches to addressing STEM-related challenges.”

Statistics show that there is a great need for increasing STEM education throughout the United States. It is projected that more than 1.2 million STEM-related jobs will be unfilled in the U.S. by 2018. In the first-ever “State of STEM” address delivered in February, John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, stressed the critical importance of higher levels of STEM education for students.

Launched in October 2011, is a national educational campaign designed to provide middle and high school students, their families and educators with information and resources about the exciting and diverse career opportunities available in pharmacy and STEM fields.

is a collaborative effort by OptumRx, a leading pharmacy benefits management organization and an Optum company; APhA, the national society representing pharmacists in all settings; and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. The campaign and website content are guided by an Advisory Board of pharmacy leaders and experts from academia and the health care industry.

OptumRx provided the funding for the development and ongoing implementation of the program as part of its STEM and social responsibility commitment, which includes participation in (CTEq), a nonprofit CEO-led initiative. OptumRx is one of 110 CTEq member companies committed to transforming STEM learning in the United States.

For more information about or the Innovation Challenge, contact , or visit the program website , or and pages for the most recent program news and updates.

The American Pharmacists Association, founded in 1852 as the American Pharmaceutical Association, is a 501 (c)(6) organization, representing more than 62,000 practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and others interested in advancing the profession. APhA, dedicated to helping all pharmacists improve medication use and advance patient care, is the first-established and largest association of pharmacists in the United States. For more information, please visit .

Founded in 1900, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy is the national organization representing the interests of pharmacy education. AACP comprises 129 accredited colleges and schools of pharmacy, including more than 6,500 faculties, approximately 60,000 students enrolled in professional programs and 5,100 individuals pursuing graduate study. To learn more about AACP, visit

OptumRx is part of Optum, a leading information and technology-enabled health services company dedicated to making the health system work better for everyone. OptumRx is an innovative pharmacy benefit management organization managing the prescription drug benefits of commercial, Medicare and other governmental health plans, as well as those of employers and unions through a national network of 64,000 community pharmacies and state-of-the-art mail service pharmacies in California and Kansas, both of which have earned the prestigious Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites™ (VIPPS®) accreditation by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy®. Visit or more information.

Optum is a leading information and technology-enabled health services business dedicated to making the health system work better for everyone. Optum is comprised of three companies – OptumHealth, OptumInsight and OptumRx – representing more than 30,000 employees worldwide who collaborate to deliver intelligent solutions that modernize the health system, improve overall population health and support Sustainable Health Communities. Optum serves the broad health care marketplace, including care providers, plan sponsors, government agencies, life sciences companies and consumers.