Feature Stories


Levi Gadye, September 2018


Clinical Pharmacy’s Gruenberg Honored for Sustainability Work

This June, Katherine Gruenberg, PharmD ’15, BCPS, a faculty member in the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s Department of Clinical Pharmacy, was awarded the 2018 Sustainability Award in the faculty category by the UCSF Academic Senate Sustainability Committee. This was the second year in a row she received a Sustainability Award.

Gruenberg works with UCSF internal medicine clinics on the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and also teaches a three-hour interactive session on pharmaceutical environmental sustainably. In 2017, Gruenberg won the Sustainability Award in the student category for her work incorporating sustainability issues and practices into the School of Pharmacy’s required curriculum for Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students. “As a PharmD resident, I developed coursework that grappled with interactions between climate change and health care,” Gruenberg said. “For pharmacists, this means taking a closer look at the carbon footprint of drug development and distribution, in addition to waste.”

Since joining the faculty, she has continued to build on this sustainability-related pharmacy coursework and has engaged the wider pharmacy community at conferences and with collaborations. “One major benefit of this award has been the visibility that it brought to my work,” she said. “There are so many people on campus who are passionate about sustainability, and I’ve been able to connect with individuals in the School of Medicine who are now working on their own didactic efforts to teach best practices to future clinicians.”

Gruenberg, who specializes in infectious disease, is particularly motivated to help patients and doctors understand how drug use itself, rather than just drug production and disposal, can affect the environment. “We must ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately—and we must avoid their over prescription, to decrease microbial resistance to available drugs,” she said. “Simply prescribing more drugs can have a real, unintended impact on the environment.”

Another challenge, she explains, lies at the boundary of the hospital, when patients return home with their prescriptions. Oral chemotherapies, used to treat cancer, come with explicit guidelines for use and disposal when prescribed to hospitalized patients, but these instructions are not required to be given to patients for home use. Gruenberg is co-investigator on a cross-sectional prospective survey to characterize knowledge and behaviors regarding the handling and disposal of oral chemotherapies among California cancer patients,  caregivers,  and healthcare providers with the aim to promote compliance and safety in these practices.

Gruenberg is hopeful that her ongoing advocacy will increase awareness and use of available resources, like safe drug disposal, by more patients and health care providers. She is currently collaborating on a review article to raise awareness of sustainability in pharmacy practices—something she says is already a fundamental part of pharmacy education abroad. “It’s fascinating to see how young pharmacists are already being trained on these issues, say, in the UK,” she said. “Every pharmacy school in the US deserves a similar, sustainability-minded curriculum.”