Professor Recognized by APhA for Career-Long Achievement

Portrait of Dr. Baron at the Pinnacle Awards ReceptionAssociate Professor Mel Baron was honored with the American Pharmacists Association Foundation Pinnacle Award for Individual Career Achievement, at the APhA headquarters in Washington, DC on June 27.

The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership in enhancing health care quality and medication use. Baron was chosen for the award for his novel approach to providing health information to the Latino community.

“Baron is tireless when it comes to helping people get the information and services they need to optimize health,” stated the APhA in a new release announcing the award. “He has been a strong advocate for the profession of pharmacy for over 50 years, illustrating the pharmacist’s abilities to improve patient outcomes, educate the public and save health-care dollars.”

Believing that knowledge is a powerful tool and that effective health materials for low-literacy populations are especially lacking, Baron has led a team that has published a series of six fotonovelas, written in comic book fashion in both Spanish and English, that address medication compliance, diabetes, dementia, folic acid, depression, and pediatric asthma. Each fotonovela is based on research conducted in Latino communities to determine what common myths and misconceptions exist and how best to address these issues to remove barriers to treatment adherence.

Empirical studies conducted by the Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research at USC and the Healthcare Management Corporation have shown that the fotonovelas are effective tools in increasing knowledge and changing behaviors among at-risk Latino populations.

Baron first realized the need for health literacy materials geared towards low-income, Spanish-speaking populations while working in the safety-net clinics that provide many of these patients with health care. He spearheaded the USC School of Pharmacy’s involvement in these clinics, located in areas where many people are un- or underinsured, and has been actively working within them for the past decade.

The integration of pharmacy services into the safety-net clinics has produced stellar results, improving patient outcomes on a statistically significant scale while saving health care dollars.

Baron’s receipt of the Pinnacle Award was honored by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who noted his exceptional community service in a proclamation entered in the Congressional Record on June 23.

What’s next for Dr. Baron? A fotonovela on childhood obesity is in final stages of production and a series of DVDs for prospective kidney transplant patients and their families, made possible by a $599,887 grant from UniHealth Foundation, is also underway.