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Navy Lt. Earns Geriatric Pharmacological Board Certification

Image of man in white coat and gloves, holding a prescription bag. Navy Lt. Ayoyinka Aluko, a pharmacist at the Navy Medicine and Readiness Training Command Guantanamo Bay, poses for a recent photo. (Photo by Dawn Grimes, NMRTC Guantanamo Bay.)

Less than 1.5% of all U.S. pharmacists are board certified in Geriatric Pharmacology. Part of the reason may be the rigorous exam that fewer than 50% pass the first time.

Those odds didn’t deter Navy Lt. Ayoyinka Aluko, a pharmacist at the Navy Medicine and Readiness Training Command Guantanamo Bay (NMRTC GB). Aluko volunteered for hundreds of hours of independent study to prepare for the test. He was among 286 who tested during the last quarter of 2020 and one of only 137 who passed the exam. The certificate and training it represents is regarded as the gold standard for geriatric pharmacological care and Aluko is putting it to use, providing specialized care to a unique group of elderly patients in the Navy’s only home health facility.

“In this age group, regular pharmacokinetic rules do not always apply as it does in the younger population, so you would not necessarily go through the same route in achieving optimal therapeutic outcomes as you would in younger patients." Aluko explained.

NMRTC GB senior patients were, at one time, members of the Cuban workforce who were employed on the naval station. During the Cuban Revolution in 1959 they sought asylum while continuing to work. The Department of State ultimately granted them a special status, Special Category Residents (SCRs), with benefits similar to those of active duty and retired military and their families. Aluko’s duties include review of medication regimen for all SCRs to ensure they are receiving optimal therapy, using both pharmacological and non-pharmacological approach according to professional guidelines, and ensuring they have an uninterrupted flow of treatment and care. “This is very important because I get to be their advocate when it comes to identifying, preventing, and resolving medication-related problems especially given their advanced age.”

According to the Institute of Medicine, medication errors kill more than 100,000 people each year, including errors in medication dosing or administering a drug. Because older patients take more drugs, their risk of interaction is higher. Geriatric pharmacists are trained to screen for and help reduce these risks. “At advanced age sometimes means patients present with multiple comorbidities and a likely complex medication regimen. It is very crucial to have the expertise to recognize that sometimes, less is more, to eliminate unnecessary medications likely to cause more harm than good.” Aluko explained.

“Knowing and observing the direct impact that professional expertise has in improving clinical outcomes is remarkably satisfying!” Aluko said. “It is even more special when you are in the only Defense Department facility with this unique home health setting and so I can say, ‘when I had the chance, I gave it my best and my all.’”

Aluko prepared for the specialized certification putting in more than 400 hours of study over several months.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Carl Powell, Pharmacy department head commended Aluko’s accomplishment, “Lieutenant Aluko is someone who sets goals and achieves them and he put in a tremendous amount of work, not for himself, but directly in support of our unique mission.” Powell concluded, “It was a completely selfless effort.”

Aluko, who was born in Nigeria, enlisted in 2006 out of a desire to serve. “I believe there is no other better way to express how much I believe in this country,” he stated. After training for and serving at multiple duty stations as a Hospital Corpsman then, Petty Officer Second Class, Aluko was selected on his first attempt for the Doctor of Pharmacy program through the Medical Service Corp In-Service Procurement Program.

“I love what I do, and that is why I did not hesitate to pursue this advancement for the service of our patients,” Aluko emphasized.

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Last Updated: February 05, 2021

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