Understanding the Patient Context
Assistant Professor Olihe Okoro trained as a pharmacist in Nigeria. While working at an HIV clinic that offered free health care including medications, Okoro observed that many patients didn’t consistently return for follow-up care or adhere to their medications. She wanted to know why.
“I realized that to be helpful as health care providers, we need to understand and consider the context of each patient — sociocultural, economic and otherwise,” she said. “Additionally, we need to be aware of our own behavior during patient encounters. When a patient perceives that their provider cares and understands them, they are more actively engaged in their care and more likely to adhere to treatment.”
Since joining the College of Pharmacy, Duluth faculty in 2014, Okoro has continued to study the determinants of health in vulnerable populations, as well as the role of pharmacists in assuring optimal patient outcomes.
She is currently working with African-born immigrant communities to address HIV risk and improve outcomes for persons living with HIV.
In the classroom, she works with students to build cultural competency.
“To effectively deliver care to the diverse patient population in the U.S., our students need to understand the impact of culture on patients’ health-related behaviors, and learn to be culturally sensitive and responsive,” Okoro said.