Martin Cortez '12, a medication historian, works in the pharmacy at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's in Sioux City. Photo by Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal
SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Being a medication historian is more of an art than a science.
Martin Cortez and Andrew Welding interview patients who are admitted to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's about the medications they're taking, which can range from a couple of prescription drugs to more than a dozen.
Patients shouldn't be apprehensive about asking their community pharmacist, 'What does this medicine do?'
— Martin Cortez '12, medication historian, UnityPoint-St. Luke's Hospital
The process seems simple, but Cortez said it's not. Patients often don't know the names of these drugs, nor do their family members. Cortez and Welding make multiple calls to primary care providers, specialists and pharmacies in order to compile an accurate list.
"So many medications out there have different formulations, but they're all under the same name," Cortez said. "If a patient tells you the name of a medication, then you have to decipher, 'Which form are you on?' Most patients don't really know which one they're on."
The Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says medication errors are among the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people every year.
Adverse drug interactions occur when a drug interferes with another drug. Prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and vitamins can be involved. Some common symptoms of drug interactions include nausea, headache, heartburn and lightheadedness.
Cortez and Welding are licensed pharmacy technicians. They've done a lot of on-the-job training at St. Luke's working alongside hospital pharmacists to become medication experts.
"Patients shouldn't be apprehensive about asking their community pharmacist, 'What does this medicine do? Does it interact with anything?'" Cortez said. "Being an advocate for their care is the biggest thing."
Martin Cortez '12, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology at Briar Cliff, with a pre-med emphasis. He was a member of the Science Club, a student STEM mentor, and active with BCU campus ministry — including two mission trips to poverty-stricken communities in Honduras.