Alumni’s study to advance HPV vaccination rates published in public health journal

Meliza Roman

Addressing Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination uptake is crucial within public health, particularly for communities disproportionately affected by HPV-related adverse outcomes, such as the Native Hawaiian and Filipino populations. Fostering collaboration between physicians and pharmacists stands as a valuable strategy to allow patients more opportunities to receive and complete vaccine series.

Meliza Roman, a bachelors of public health alumna of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa's Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health won the Hawaiʻi Journal of Health & Social Welfare 2021 Writing Contest for her paper, “Understanding Factors Affecting Health Providers’ Perceptions of Pharmacist Roles in HPV Vaccine Administration." Her paper was recently published in the journal’s April 2024 issue. Roman’s paper looked at Hawaiʻi physicians’ initial awareness and perception of pharmacists after a 2017 amendment was passed that allowed pharmacists to vaccinate for adolescent vaccines.

Roman’s study consisted of distributing a survey to practicing Hawaiʻi physicians specializing in pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and family medicine. Findings revealed that while physicians acknowledged the beneficial role of pharmacists, they expressed concerns about the accuracy of vaccine administration and dose tracking. These findings highlight the potential for enhanced collaboration between physicians and pharmacists, emphasizing the need for additional education and training initiatives for pharmacists. 

Roman conducted this study as part of the Public Health undergraduate Applied Learning Experience, which provides students the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills learned throughout their undergraduate degree toward a personalized project experience. “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to collaborate on this study under the mentorship of Dr. May Rose Dela Cruz," said Roman. "My background in public health provided a solid foundation for this study, teaching me valuable writing and presentation skills and the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork in advancing healthcare outcomes."

"This study was fortunate to have a student like Meliza interested in research and seeing it through from the beginning with an IRB application to data collection and finally to an award-winning publication,” said Dr. May Rose Dela Cruz, Office of Public Health Studies Assistant Researcher. “I am very proud of her accomplishments and commend her for her continued work in public health research."

The HPV vaccine, which has been shown to be safe and effective, has been modified over the past decade to protect against nine of the most common strains of the virus that can cause cervical and other cancers. This study broadens the understanding of physicians’ pre-pandemic perspectives and practices about the referral of adolescent patients to pharmacies for HPV vaccines. By implementing these practices, physicians can make more informed decisions, providing patients with additional options to receive and complete the vaccine series.

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