Making the case on Capitol Hill and beyond
Advocacy for the pharmacy profession is a way of life. It requires passion, persistence, and follow-up. The scope of practice cannot flourish without the support from those within the profession. The practice of pharmacy has the ability to expand and further develop, but it requires a strong unity among pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and student pharmacists. It is the duty of student pharmacists to advocate for the profession of pharmacy to ensure its continued integrity and advancement.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) organizes an annual 2-day event each spring known as RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill. The objective of RxIMPACT Day is to take a stance on legislation that impacts the future of the practice of pharmacy.
In March, pharmacists and selected student pharmacists from across the country united in Washington, DC, to discuss bill H.R. 592/S. 314, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act, with their congressional representatives. If passed, this legislation would recognize pharmacists as health care providers under Medicare Part B, allowing pharmacists to continue to provide quality services at affordable costs to those residing in medically underserved areas within the country.
As one of the 50 student pharmacists who participated in the event, I began the first day by attending the RxIMPACT U Academy program. During this day-long seminar, students learned the significance of current legislation H.R. 592/S. 314, and how to effectively communicate with senators, representatives, and legislative correspondents. Following the seminar, we had the opportunity to put our new communication skills to use. Students engaged in mock discussions regarding the legislation to prepare speaking with congressmen and legislative assistants the following day on Capitol Hill.
Time to advocate
The next morning, on RxIMPACT Day, we attended a final briefing meeting before departing for our scheduled appointments with congressional representatives. Here, I was assigned to a team of fellow advocates from the state of South Carolina. My team included three South Carolina district pharmacy managers/pharmacists from Rite Aid and Fred’s Pharmacy. I had the opportunity to represent the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy (PCSP).
My advocacy team was scheduled to meet with seven South Carolina representatives: Republican Reps. Mick Mulvaney, Tom Rice, Trey Gowdy, Joe Wilson, Mark Sanford, Jeff Duncan, and Democratic Rep. James Clyburn. Those representatives who were unable to meet with us in person had a legislative assistant available and ready to hear our concerns. After meeting Rep. Wilson, a co-sponsor of H.R. 592, I was pleasantly surprised to hear how thrilled he was that I attend PCSP. He even requested to take a picture with my team!
Sharing the passion
As I reflect upon an earlier experience I had at South Carolina’s Pharmacy Day at the State House, I realize that I am more prepared to speak with congressional representatives now after attending both RxIMPACT U Academy and RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill. As I progress into my final year of pharmacy school, I hope to share my knowledge and experience from RxIMPACT Day with other students interested in advocacy. Sharing these concepts with other students can only improve our interactions with congressmen and lead to another successful Pharmacy Day at the State House.
I am honored to have been selected for this opportunity and grateful for the invaluable experience. It is truly inspiring to be on Capitol Hill advocating with other students and pharmacists for the betterment of the profession and patients. My experience was fulfilling and enlightening, as I witnessed the impact pharmacists can make both on a state and national level.
I encourage all student pharmacists to pursue advocacy and positively influence the profession. After all, we are the future of pharmacy!
Arathi Pillay is a final-year PharmD candidate at the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy.