Advocating for our ‘why’ and our profession
Student pharmacists have different motivations and goals. However, they often converge into similar reasons “why” they have committed themselves to pharmacy. For me, it was to belong to a profession that strives to improve quality of care and patient outcomes. The challenge I faced in pharmacy school was that I wasn’t sure how I could follow up on my “why.”
I saw areas of practice that could be improved, but was intimidated to express my ideas and hesitated to get involved. After my original doubts, I decided that it was time I “live my why” and deliver on my motivations to come to pharmacy school. I saw advocacy as the best way I could contribute. Since that realization, I have made it a point to share my experiences with others.
Advocacy efforts in AZ
Pharmacy advocacy is at an exciting crossroads with participation from pharmacists and student pharmacists alike. The push toward successful pharmacy policies is being made on national and state levels, and further growth is expected in the future. In Arizona, the two schools of pharmacy, Midwestern University–Glendale and the University of Arizona, have participated in pharmacy advocacy for many years by collaborating with the Arizona Pharmacy Association (AzPA).
In previous years, efforts were made to promote provider status, medication therapy management, and other hot topics. Collaboration among student pharmacists at these universities has had a profound and widespread effect on the ability of pharmacy as a whole to lobby on key issues.
Earlier this year, the annual Pharmacy Day at the Capitol (PDaC) event was held in Phoenix. Student pharmacists and legislators discussed key policy points facing pharmacy. The event, held on the State Senate lawn, hosted 50 state legislators and close to 200 students. With the help of AzPA, key topics in pharmacy were presented to state legislators to illustrate the expanded roles pharmacists can play in future models of health care. We provided blood pressure and serum-glucose screenings, and gave presentations about medication synchronization, immunization expansion, poison control, medication therapy management, and the role of independent pharmacy. We screened 24 patients for diabetes and 21 patients for hypertension.
The event was capped by a lunch, where legislators mingled with student pharmacists who shared their experiences and explained the role they hope to fulfill as practitioners. Spending personal time with the state legislators allowed us to convey our passion for the profession and explain why we pursued pharmacy as a career path.
The personal touch
Student pharmacists from both universities began the planning process several months before PDaC took place. In addition to handing out invitations through the lobbying arm of AzPA, students wrote more than 100 personal letters informing their legislators about the upcoming event. A majority of legislators who attended cited the invitations from their constituents and were excited to meet them.
We hope to carry this momentum into the years ahead and participate in more national initiatives to help promote the role of pharmacists.
Why to get involved
Daniel Bell, incoming Twlug–ASP Policy Vice-President at Midwestern University–Glendale, shared his thoughts about advocacy. “I advocate to help shape a future where patients can have convenient and timely access to high-quality health care,” Bell said. “I live this out not only by educating and lobbying my local and national political officials, but by encouraging my colleagues to be sublime pharmacists who in turn share their stories with our public officials, health care providers, and patients to shift the perspective on the level of care pharmacists provide.”
In my 2 years of involvement, I have realized that pharmacy is still climbing the hill but the peak is in sight. The push for provider status and other crucial policy ideas are gaining momentum in Washington, DC, and state capitals. Now is not the time to relax.
Pharmacy is at an exciting crossroads but it will require the involvement and cooperation of all those who share a stake in health care. By emphasizing our passion, focusing on our patients, and sharing our stories, I believe the public will understand the role pharmacists can play in tomorrow’s health care. Anything is possible as long as we continue to voice our “why.”
Jay A. Sheth is a final-year PharmD candidate at the Midwestern University College of Pharmacy–Glendale and the 2014–15 Region 8 Regional Delegate.