Tribune Print Share Text

Handles with care

Pharmacist, physician at medical center’s helm

Created date

August 25th, 2009

Long before he became the medical director at Linden Ponds, Mark Samuelson was working as a stock boy in a local pharmacy, a job that kick-started his career in medicine. The store s pharmacist took 14-year-old Samuelson under his wing, spurring his interest in the field and his decision to attend Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Upon graduating in 1980, Samuelson spent a year studying just how medications work in older populations, as part of a geriatric pharmacy fellowship. He went on to work as a pharmacist in clinical, retail, hospital, and research settings. Because I had all of these roles as a pharmacist it was a natural evolution, he says. I just wanted to get more involved in patient care.

Into practice

Samuelson did just that, moving toward a patient-centered career by earning both a medical degree and a master s degree in nutrition and pharmacology. As a pharmacist, I thought I knew a lot about medicine until I went to med school, he says, citing the many in-depth medical studies and cellular-level lessons about drugs, which boosted his knowledge. Now, as one of three doctors at Linden Ponds where he sees about 15 patients a day Samuelson often calls upon his extensive pharmacology knowledge. While he does his best to limit the number of medications his patients rely upon, he also knows the importance of handling drug doses with care. In practice, he says, Start low and go slow, because older adults can be more susceptible to side effects than other generations. He adds that it s best to be careful because there is a lack of research involving older adults. Sometimes we are just extrapolating that what s good for a 50-year-old is good for an 80-year-old.

Natural advice

With encouragement from Erickson Retirement Communities, Samuelson recently returned to Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and is in the process of getting a master s degree in applied natural products. A longtime proponent of alternative medicine, he occasionally recommends natural remedies like herbal teas to his patients. He says alternative medicine is generally gentler than mainstream medicine but must be used with caution, as the former is highly unregulated. Next month, he will teach a course about alternative medicine to people who live at Linden Ponds.

Safety first

Both inside the classroom and in his office, Samuelson takes the time to advise his patients on safe medication usage. People should review their medications every time they see the doctor so the doctor knows what they re on and that nothing has changed, Samuelson says, adding that people should always include nonprescription drugs, vitamin supplements, and herbal remedies that they are taking. One nice thing about the Erickson system is that we have electronic medical records, so we re up-to-date on what [people] are taking, as long as they communicate with us, he says. Samuelson recommends his patients ask for a printed medication schedule, especially if they re traveling, which will provide a list of medications and instructions for taking them. These lists can be printed from the electronic records at Linden Ponds. Samuelson says people taking medication should also ask their doctor to explain what each medication is for. Be proactive, he says. The more proactive you are, the safer you are.