Staff Spotlight: Mission driven pharmacist fills her community’s complex needs

November 13, 2019

Home visits are invaluable for Clinical Pharmacist Leah Goeres, who strives to improve her patients’ lives each day.

Growing up in Klamath Falls, Leah Goeres was disturbed to see that health care wasn’t equally available to everyone. When she faced a dangerous blood clot as a teen, a pharmacist made sure Leah got the care she needed, inspiring her future career.

Today, as a clinical pharmacist for the Housecall Providers Advanced Illness Care program, Leah makes pharmacy house calls, where her passion for justice and equity helps her advocate for seriously ill patients. Her philosophy? “Really sick people shouldn’t spend their limited energy trying to access needed medications.”

Leah’s primary role is to help our homebound and seriously ill patients access medications that ease their suffering and improve quality of life. She manages the complex medication schedules of hundreds of patients living with chronic, life-limiting illnesses.  When visiting patients in their homes, Leah gathers crucial environmental and social information that would otherwise be missed.

“Medications can be a big part of people’s lives,” says Leah. “If we can do something to simplify their regimen or reduce their side effects, we can improve their day every day.”

Leah, whose postdoctoral training was in geriatrics, epidemiology and public health, didn’t go for the highest salary when choosing her career’s direction. Instead, she was drawn to caring

for the most medically, socially and economically marginalized people in our community. This work can be difficult, but 30-year-old Leah handles life or death situations with the maturity and compassion of someone beyond her years. Her passion for justice drives her to combat the “unequal lives, unequal deaths” phenomenon by ensuring that her patients have the support they need, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Starting as a pharmacy volunteer at age 18, Leah has worked in almost every major part of the industry, including public health. She’s been nationally recognized for her research into health disparities and was lead author of “Rural-Urban Differences in Chronic Disease and Drug Utilization in Older Oregonians,” published in the Journal of Rural Health. In 2017, the Oregon Institute of Technology presented her its Scientific Achievement Award — the first non-engineer and second woman ever to receive this honor. 

Her clinical expertise and passion are especially important now as Housecall Providers addresses the unique challenges of treating terminal and persistent pain during an opioid epidemic. She   assists our care teams in developing best practices for safely reducing our patients’ symptoms while reducing the risk of harm and abuse associated with opioid use.

Not many pharmacists choose to work within the health care safety net, and almost no pharmacists choose to visit patients in their homes. Her colleagues and patients appreciate that Leah has dedicated her career to helping those in our society who have the hardest time getting the care they need. Her story underscores how pharmacists play a critical role in Housecall Providers meeting our mission to deliver quality health care to those who need it most.

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