Michael Ernst excels in several areas of the pharmacy profession. As his career has matured, he has brought students along on the journey.
Ernst, who earned a University of Iowa Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 1997, works with patients, conducts research, and educates pharmacy students from his home base in the Family Medicine Department at the UI Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). He is a clinical professor in the UI College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, and in the Department of Family Medicine of the UI Carver College of Medicine.
He is married to Erika J. Ernst, an associate professor at the college, who is also a clinical pharmacist on a UIHC team under the antimicrobial stewardship. They have three children.
Working with students year-round, he teaches in several College of Pharmacy courses and guides Doctor of Pharmacy students who “rotate” through the family medicine clinic every five weeks, observing and gaining real-world experience. At times, he works with individual students on projects.
He offers students feedback and guidance, while fostering their independence. He helps them navigate the “gray areas” encountered in practice.
“Many questions that come up in clinical practice don’t necessarily have black and white answers,” Ernst says. “I lead students through the thought process and rationale behind the answers because there is often more than one approach, rather than just tell them what to do.”
For Ernst, working with students is rewarding, and he enjoys giving back to the next generation, just like his faculty mentors did for him.
“I enjoy seeing the light-bulb click on for students,” he says. “I also enjoy seeing them achieve their goals and be successful when they enter their career.”
Over the years, Ernst’s research has improved life for people who have high blood pressure: through proving which drugs are most effective, and through studies that paved the way for pharmacists and physicians to collaborate closely to manage patients’ health.
Recently, a clinical trial that Ernst helped conduct made international headlines for its findings: that low-dose aspirin may do more harm than good in healthy older adults. He expects that fewer providers over time will have their healthy patients use aspirin to prevent illnesses.
Notably, Ernst was the only pharmacist involved in the multi-year, international aspirin study. Due to this, the two students who worked with him directly on the research—and a post-doctoral fellow under another pharmacy professor—had a unique experience.
“It was great to mentor these exceptional learners and have them involved in the study,” Ernst says.
College of Pharmacy faculty members like Ernst work with Iowans in clinics across the state, Ernst says.
“And since these faculty have learners with them, we are improving the health of Iowans while also preparing a talented and highly-educated pharmacist workforce behind us,” he says.