March 29, 2016
"I would like to see increased awareness by clinicians and educators of clinicians of the unique health-related needs of the people with disabilities and the people who assist them," explains Dr. Erickson.

Steven Erickson, PharmD, is a tireless advocate in the field of pharmacy for individuals with disabilities . His efforts led to a certificate of appreciation awarded to him by the U-M Council for Disability Concerns at the 2015 James T. Neubacher ceremony. Dr. Erickson is an Associate Professor of Social and Administrative Sciences within the Clinical Pharmacy Department. Beloved by his students, Dr. Erickson has been the five-time recipient of the U-M College of Pharmacy Student Appreciation Award.

For the past several years, Dr. Erickson has facilitated a number of research projects to assess the issues and needs to successfully manage medications by people with disabilities and their support networks. Dr. Erickson spent his most recent sabbatical at the Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI) at Wayne State University examining medication issues for people with disabilities and their caregivers.

What outcomes from your research do you want the medical community to know about?

Generally, my research efforts are guided by the notion of ensuring the safe and effective use of medicines by people with disabilities.  I would like to see increased awareness by clinicians and educators of clinicians of the unique health-related needs of the people with disabilities and the people who assist them.   It's important to realize that many people with disabilities are able to fully manage their health care, while others are able to participate to some extent with help from their support network.   As clinicians, we need to work on communication skills, become familiar with the support systems, and understand the unintentional barriers in our systems that create disparity in health outcomes of people with disabilities. 

How do caregivers play an important role in healthcare delivery?

Caregivers provide the support to people with disabilities that allow them to participate to their fullest capability in society.  Depending on the needs of the person with a disability, the caregiver provides essential support.  In regards to medication, the caregiver may be involved in a wide range of activities related to the medication management, from communicating with prescribers, obtaining medication from the pharmacy and receiving counseling, properly storing medication at home, administering medication when necessary, performing monitoring tasks related to drug therapy monitoring, and reordering therapy when needed. 

How has your personal life influenced your work?

My wife Barbara and I have four great kids.  Our oldest son, Christopher, has Down syndrome.  We have always been very active in all of our kids’ lives.  With Chris, we've been involved in Special Olympics, summer camps, school dances, and more.  We've met many families along the way, and we've made many friends through shared experiences.  I realize that people with disabilities are no different than the rest of the people in society when it comes to the things that make us human.  They just need some extra help now and again, sometimes more often, to lead full lives. 

What are you working on now that excites you?

I'm working on a number of initiatives.  The first is education of health care providers and students about the health needs of people with disabilities.  I'm working with Dr. Michelle Meade from the U-M Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department, and other dedicated clinicians and education specialists, to develop programs to help clinicians understand the need to teach and empower patients to engage in self-management of their health care needs.  A number of clinicians from this group are also working to develop an interprofessional education elective to be titled Health and Disability, which will be offered in the near future to U-M health professional students.  I'm also working on initiatives to increase the safe use of medications by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  This has led me to partner with a number of health care providers and administrators from support agencies in Southeast Michigan to develop efforts to identify causes for errors and adverse medication outcomes, and to work to develop meaningful interventions.  There is so much that needs to be done - I just wish I had started on this work 20 years ago!