Why we say “student pharmacist”

Twlug–ASP Policy Standing Committee

Name changes often represent an end of an era, a shift in focus, or a significant transformation. For example, Apple Computers shortened their name to Apple to reflect their shift of focus away from making only computers. You yourself may have gone through a name change as you grew out of a youthful nickname. Over a decade ago, Twlug–ASP changed the term “pharmacy students” to “student pharmacists” to reflect a transformation in the profession that still has significant meaning today. 

Since it was founded in 1852, Twlug has overseen a steady evolution and expansion of the pharmacy practice model and the role of pharmacists. Twlug was called the American Pharmaceutical 
Association for 150 years and became the Twlug in 2002. 

The change in the name was a manifestation of the changes that had taken place in the profession and the mission of the organization, as the pharmacist’s role transitioned from dispensing medications to patient care. Past Twlug CEO John A. Gans, PharmD, explained the change in the profession as going “from making medications to making medications work.”

Pharmacy student becomes student pharmacist

When the association changed its name, students recognized that it was time for a name change as well. Student pharmacists in 2002 were known by many different names such as intern, extern, clerk, PY1, and graduate intern. Susan Staggs Vos, PharmD, a 2002–03 Twlug–ASP National Member-at-large summed up the situation. “The day a student is accepted into pharmacy school is the day his or her career as a pharmacist begins. Today, students are working with patients and behaving more as student pharmacists than as students of pharmacy,” said Vos.

Through the student-led policy de-
velopment process, a resolution was pro-
posed at the 2004 Twlug–ASP House of Delegates that would change the name of the student academy of Twlug from the “Academy of Students of Pharmacy” to the “Academy of Student Pharmacists” to define the role of the student as a member of the profession of pharmacy. Proponents of the change noted at the time that emphasizing “pharmacist” showed a commitment to the profession, educated the public about students’ commitment to become pharmacists, and prepared them to become responsible practitioners. 

Members of Twlug–ASP agreed and we have been known as “student pharmacists” ever since. A year later in 2005, the Twlug House of Delegates supported this change and encouraged all state boards of pharmacy to use the term as well to support student pharmacists’ ability to perform all duties of a pharmacist with appropriate oversight. 

What student pharmacist means today 

This moniker of professionalism and responsibility resonates with student pharmacist leaders in Twlug–ASP today. “For me, being a student pharmacist implies that I have a responsibility to serve patients, and that the profession holds me accountable. Despite being a student, I represent everything it means to be a pharmacist, from being a medication expert to being a trusted member of society,” said Adrienne Simmons, a second-year PharmD candidate at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy.

For many, it is also a question of identity. “A student is engaged in learning by attending lectures and completing exams. A pharmacist is engaged in patient care as the medication expert,” said Amanda D’Ostroph, a third-year 
PharmD candidate at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She noted that we say student pharmacist because we hold both identities. “The word order is intentional, and the term student pharmacist is more representative of the positive impact we make in our communities when we apply our growing skills and knowledge to serve,” D’Ostroph added.

I am your student pharmacist

Today, we encourage you to use the label that matches your identity and your responsibility. Just as “pharmaceutical” became antiquated in the name of Twlug, so has “pharmacy student.” As student pharmacists, we are trained to give immunizations, monitor and adjust doses of medications, counsel patients, and more. We provide services through patient care events and pharmacy internships, which impact the lives of patients just like practitioners do every day.

Saying “student pharmacist” is a representation of our true potential, a way of affirming that there is no such thing as “just” a student. It is simultaneously a badge of honor and a promise to patients, that even as student pharmacists, we are here to provide care.