Dr Virginia Hernandez Santiago, Clinical Lecturer in General Practice at the School of Medicine, has recently been appointed to the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group (SAPG). The group, established in 2008 at the request of the Scottish Government, promotes the safe and effective use of antibiotics in hospital and community settings. Antibiotic resistance, a major global public health issue and a threat to the future of healthcare, is driven by the inappropriate use of antibiotics. The SAPG aims to reduce harm, waste, and variation in antibiotic prescribing practice by coordinating a national framework for antimicrobial stewardship. They provide guidance, not only for infection management in community and hospital settings but for the ongoing education and development of clinicians.
Dr Hernandez Santiago believes that as a registered GP in St Andrews and Tayside, Dundee, she has an important role as an advocate for the safe use of antibiotics. 80% of antibiotics are prescribed in the community, and it is thus essential to concentrate on this area when trying to optimise the use of antibiotics and combat antibiotic resistance. Dr Hernandez Santiago has seen first-hand how antibiotic resistance can cause havoc to the effective treatment of serious infections, worsening patient-related outcomes, and in some cases can even lead to fatality. In the community, practitioners do not always have the diagnostic capacities to identify whether an infection is bacterial or viral, often leading to the over-prescription of antibiotics, despite antibiotics having no effect on viral infection. This has a huge impact on antibiotic resistance in patients, and the SAPG endeavour to improve training and educate practitioners about the appropriate use of antibiotics. Dr Hernandez Santiago is also an out-of-hours GP and believes that this setting can see an increased level of antibiotic prescription, as the doctor does not have the same in-depth relationship with the patient.
Dr Hernandez Santiago’s research interests, which include infectious disease epidemiology and antimicrobial resistance, are closely aligned with the work that the SAPG do. She hopes that her role within the group will advance her research by being on the cutting-edge of development and allowing her to identify research gaps. As a GP, an out-of-hours doctor and an academic, Dr Virgininia Hernandez Santiago brings a unique, broad perspective to the SAPG and her students. She hopes that she can apply her experience with the group to her lectures, stating that infection, clinical reasoning, clinical communication skills, and patient history taking, which are important aspects of her teaching, are imperative in promoting practices that prevent antibiotic resistance from occurring.