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From Wallflower to Wildflower: Finding the Voice Within

Posted By Sarah Nguyen, Friday, May 17, 2019
Updated: 17 hours ago

On day one of my final rotation, an elective with the Texas Pharmacy Association, I was immediately swept into the whirlwind of the 86th legislative session. I remember my preceptor, TPA CEO Debbie Garza, telling me that we were going down to the Texas Capitol for our weekly Pharmacy Advisory Group meeting, where representatives from all the major pharmacy groups in Texas would meet to brainstorm a game plan for ferrying our profession’s priority legislation across the finish line.

Having had minimal experience with policy-making procedures, my head started spinning with all the legislative jargon being thrown across the table. Despite years of memorizing medical terminology, I was not prepared for understanding phrases like “working the offices” or “Christmas tree bill.” However, with the patience and tutelage of the team, I dare say I now have a fair grasp of the various tactics and timelines it takes to pass a bill in the state legislature.

Advocacy may appear a monumental challenge to the clinical-minded student pharmacist who would much rather read the new hypertension guidelines than read the language of our bills, but we need to step out of our comfort zone and learn the things our curricula cannot teach us.

I have learned that it takes days of research to prepare for a three-minute testimony at the Capitol, and that you might wait five hours until your bill finally gets heard in committee at 11 p.m. I have also learned that these short testimonies do matter. Even though it seems like a huge time investment for such little airtime, the value of sharing your story with the literature to back it up is priceless. TPA actively searches for pharmacists to lend a voice to our bills, so while “advocacy” might seem like it is outside of our scope of practice, it is our duty to ourselves, our profession, and our patients to make sure laws are in place to support us.

Still nervous about getting involved? Does the thought of talking with senators and representatives give you premature ventricular contractions? I will admit, I still get that rush of adrenaline, fearing that they will throw me a curveball question that I was not prepared for and I will look ignorant. However, just like it is fine to tell your patient or preceptor, “I don’t know, but I will get back to you,” we can do the same with our legislators. They are people like us who hope to make a difference in their community.

While the legislative session has come to an end, your advocacy efforts should not. The days when pharmacists can focus only on the drug product are gone, and if you want job security after graduation, you need to start advocating now for laws that will enable pharmacists to be paid for services we perform. During the interim, I highly encourage students to organize visits with their representatives to talk about pharmacy priorities. It’s as easy as googling who your representative is and sending an email to their office. If you need some help getting started, TPA can certainly assist.

My preceptor told me, “Don’t be a wallflower.” Nothing will happen if we don’t make ourselves heard. Instead, let’s be a wildflower, unapologetically showing our colors and leaving a beautiful pharmacy stamp on this world.

Nguyen completed a six-week rotation with the Texas Pharmacy Association during April and May of 2018.

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A Jaw-Dropping Experience: Advocacy Lessons from Pharmacy Day at the Capitol

Posted By Xavi Canche, Thursday, February 28, 2019
Updated: 17 hours ago

Every other year, during Pharmacy Day at the Capitol, participants can advocate for the pharmacy profession by speaking to state legislators. There are also ample opportunities for collaboration among pharmacy students, pharmacists, and other pharmacy representatives to garner support for pharmacy-related bills. As a TPA student director, it was my duty to recruit students from my institution to participate and help with TPA’s advocacy efforts.

This was a memorable experience for me. It was my first time visiting the Texas Capitol, and I was nervously trying to come up with an elevator pitch while guiding my classmates. When we walked through the doors of First United Methodist Church Family Life Center in Austin for the morning briefing and saw the number of people in white coats, it was jaw-dropping. The enthusiasm emitted from attendees showed how much pharmacy advocacy in Texas has evolved.

When I received my advocacy packet, I was anxious because I was unfamiliar with both my assigned teammates and legislators. However, once we greeted each other, listened to mock demonstrations and created a plan of action, I knew we could get through this together.

At first, I worried I would forget what to say. I soon discovered I enjoyed speaking about my profession and educating others about what pharmacists are capable of doing. I realized I was able to gain support and people appreciated how pharmacists are working to improve healthcare. It was clear that our efforts were worthwhile and those 15 minutes of conversation were crucial. It was rewarding to witness the students I recruited from Texas A&M utilize my advice and put techniques I had taught them into action. In addition, watching the students from different schools of pharmacy collaborate on the spot gave me hope for the future state of pharmacy.

I am proud to have advocated for my profession. Events like this help pave the path for pharmacy. The scope of practice for pharmacists is limited by the law, so it is essential that we speak up to advance our profession. It’s also important that current and future pharmacists take time to explain the good our profession does, or we may be misrepresented by others.

It’s vital that we continue to push for initiatives our profession is capable of providing, such as “test and treat” (or the ability to furnish antiviral medications based on a positive CLIA-waived flu test), collaborative practice, and furnishing non-diagnostic medications for smoking cessation or travel. We must remind lawmakers that these initiatives are not solely for our benefit, but would improve the lives of all patients including legislators themselves. Our desire to gain “provider status” would not only enlarge our scope of practice and improve our work life, but would also help improve patient’s health, their experience with healthcare professionals, and the cost of healthcare.

Expanding the role of pharmacists will expand services for patients—and at the end of the day, that’s why we all chose to be in healthcare.

Canche is a P2 pharmacy student at the Texas A&M Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy.

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Join and Support TPA!

Posted By Richard Lopez, Thursday, November 1, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I am getting close to the half-way mark during my fourth-year rotations, and I couldn’t be more thankful for everything I have learned so far. Each rotation has given me a unique perspective on the profession of pharmacy that is reflective of the specialty and focus of each.

I am on my fourth rotation, and I am fortunate to have been designated to the Texas Pharmacy Association (TPA) as my elective rotation. With the guidance and mentorship of my preceptor, CEO Debbie Garza, RPh, and the supporting staff at TPA, I can in all honesty report that this rotation has been especially instrumental to my growth as a student pharmacist.

My initial impression and conception of TPA was very misguided and lacking. I do not claim to represent all pharmacy students, but having spoken to other students, I feel that there is a consensual lack of knowledge and appreciation for the role our state professional organization plays in the advancement of our profession as well as for the importance of advocacy among those who are invested in it. As the end of my rotation draws near, and my time here is completed, I reflect on all my experiences and interactions knowing that each moment was vital to the growth of my understanding, and deep appreciation for advocacy in pharmacy.

With the profession of pharmacy changing considerably in recent years, pharmacists are often at the front line when it comes to accessing and promoting health care services to patients. These changes have begun to emphasize a less technical role for pharmacists and have also opened up many diverse opportunities for innovative pharmacists who dare to think outside the box. It is understood that the role of pharmacist must evolve to allow us to perform more duties within our scope of practice. But who will fight for the pharmacists to ensure that they don’t become a commodity and that their worth is valued to the extent of the positive impact they provide in health care? The importance of advocacy has never been so clear, and thankfully it is never too late to let your voice be heard.

Advocacy in its most basic form is simply educating others and showing support for a meaningful cause. In order to continue advancing the role of the pharmacist, it is important for pharmacists to advocate for their expanded scope of practice as health care providers. Research has proven that clinical services provided by pharmacists improve patient outcomes, which is the goal of every health care professional.

To make a difference, pharmacists need to be active and get involved. The involvement does not need to be time-consuming, however. By just becoming a member of TPA, members show their support and strength by numbers. A small amount of time can make a big difference, particularly when large numbers of people act together in a coordinated manner for a common cause.

Becoming a member of TPA has been a most gratifying and significant step I have taken as I continue my path through my fourth year of pharmacy school. In a time when I am aware that I have so much to learn but feel lost half of the time, I feel great knowing that I am doing something positive to promote for the profession I love and have chosen. I look forward to the future of pharmacy and plan to continue doing my part to support advocacy in pharmacy. I plan to continue my membership at TPA when I graduate knowing and understanding the long hours and hard work TPA tirelessly puts forward. The possibilities are immense, and our profession can and will advance, but first we must do our part. Join and support TPA!

Lopez completed a six-week rotation with the Texas Pharmacy Association during September and October of 2018.

Tags:  advocacy 

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TPA 2018 Conference Reflections

Posted By Gubeom Nam, Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2018

This summer I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 TPA Conference & Expo as a P4 intern. Having actively participated in the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) throughout my P1 to P3 years, I was already familiar with TPA but had not been able to go to the previous  conferences due to schedule conflicts.

I was told that the TPA annual conference is an important opportunity to network with other students from different colleges and active pharmacists, and I intended to make full use of it. While helping out at the registration desk, preparing exhibit booths, and scanning badges for CE credits, I interviewed more than 80 TPA members—ranging from emerging P2 students to retired pharmacists—to see why our members joined TPA.

With their membership offered at no cost to student pharmacists, many students told me they joined TPA to help with advocacy and legislative efforts. TPA student  directors shared their experience with implementing the Student Pharmacists Advocacy and Relations (SPARx) Program and educating the communities about the roles pharmacists play in daily life. Though we were educated under different curricula, it was great to see that we also worked for the same goal.

It was also great talking to both new practitioners and veteran pharmacists. Not only did I receive much-needed guidance and encouragement, but I also got to hear about experiences with diverse specialties of pharmacy practices. Many were employed by chain pharmacies, but I also met compounding pharmacists, independent community pharmacists, clinical pharmacists, and academic pharmacists including deans of other colleges across Texas. It was a humbling yet inspiring experience to hear the accounts of various practices.

More than 50 percent of TPA members said they joined “to advocate and support profession of pharmacy.” Despite different pharmaceutical backgrounds and specialties, many TPA members want to advance the profession of pharmacy and to be able to provide additional services to their patients.

I was once again reminded that we may vary in our pharmacy practice settings, but we are all pharmacists at the core. IPPE projects, back-to-back exams, and long nights—we all have been there before. Whether it is medication reconciliation in a rehabilitation hospital or medication counseling in the drive-through at a community pharmacy, we are all professionals taking care of patients. We are all in the same boat together, and Together Pharmacy Advances.

Nam completed a six-week rotation with the Texas Pharmacy Association during July and August of 2018.

Tags:  conference  student pharmacist 

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The Benefits of Networking

Posted By Shawn Ahmad, Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2018

As a recent graduate, this will be the last time I write an article from the perspective of a student. I will use this opportunity to discuss networking. It is a topic that I
believe is extremely important, but something that many students do not fully understand.

During my time in school, it became very apparent that the job market and residency programs are increasingly competitive. No longer does receiving a Pharm.D. degree guarantee someone their dream job or residency.

What I witnessed from the 2018 graduating class is that those who spent their time in school building a network of professional contacts and mentors were more likely to get the job or residency they wanted.

Networking is much more than attending a conference and collecting business cards from the booths you visit. Networking involves building relationships. These relationships are what will not only help you achieve your own personal goals, but will ultimately strengthen the profession of pharmacy. That is why “relations” was included as the “R” in the SPARx (Student Pharmacists Advocacy and Relations) Program, which is designed to help students learn the importance of advocacy and building relations.

Before you attend your next conference, reflect on the following questions and see what you can do to better build professional relationships:

  • Are you spending most of your time with friends from your own school, or are you branching out to meet students from other schools?
  • Are you introducing yourself to both the experienced pharmacists and new practitioners?
  • Are you planning on following up through email or social media with the people you met?

Good communication and follow-through are the foundations of networking. Without them, professional relationships and mentorships are almost impossible to form. Attending a conference is great, and if you list several on your CV it may look like you were involved, but it probably won’t be the deciding factor on whether or
not you get a job or residency offer.

What could help you, though, is meeting someone at a conference who can open up a new opportunity about which you were previously unaware. Pharmacy is a small world, and the more you are connected with other pharmacists, the more you will realize this. Not everyone will be able to help you get the job or residency you want, but just being around other pharmacists can provide a great support system. It is nice to be around people who have similar struggles and goals.

One of the benefits of TPA membership is that it provides a network for all pharmacists to come together. As a student, I took full advantage of my membership and discounted conference registration fees.

When I went to conferences, I made sure to meet fellow students from different schools, because if we are the future of pharmacy, then it is important that we start meeting each other today. I also made sure to talk to experienced pharmacists who attended the conferences. I was able to learn from what they told me, and I met several who have become my mentors.

TPA’s motto is “Together Pharmacy Advances,” and I believe that includes all pharmacists from all fields and generations. The more united our profession
is, the more we will be able to achieve individually and collectively. One of best ways to achieve this is through networking.

Ahmad is chair of the TPA Academy of Student Pharmacists.

Tags:  neworking  student pharmacist 

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Introducing the SPARx Program

Posted By Shawn Ahmad, Sunday, April 1, 2018
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2018

The Student Advocacy and Relations (SPARx) Program was created over this past school year as TPA looked to address the needs of students. It’s creation and implementation was student-led, as student representatives from each of the pharmacy schools in Texas worked together to design the content that they thought would be most relevant for their peers. The goal was to “spark” a fire in students across the state and have them become engaged in advocating and building positive relationships that will strengthen the profession. To advocate means to speak up, plead the case of another, or to champion a cause. Advocacy is not just going to the state Capitol every other year. It is advocating every day for your profession with your patients in your community as well as with policy-makers.

The four modules in the SPARx Program are “Advocating in Your Community,” “Inter/& Intraprofessional Collaboration,” “Regulation,” and “Legislation.” Students complete each module by attending a workshop at their school, which is led by Student TPA leaders. The workshop consists of a student created presentation, and watching a video interview with a practicing pharmacist from Texas who shares their knowledge and insights on the topic. After the workshop, students then complete a mini-project and reflection, which helps them apply what they have learned.  Students who complete all the modules will be awarded a certificate.  This past school year, TPA implemented two of the modules “Advocating in Your Community” and “Inter/& Intraprofessional Collaboration” which received very positive reviews from students, faculty, and pharmacy leaders in the state. Moving forward, all four modules will be completed by students every year; two per semester.

As Student Chair of TPA-ASP, I am very proud of the work that the student TPA leaders across the state were able to accomplish by creating the SPARx Program. I was able to witness firsthand as students from different schools worked together to create it. This is one of the greatest strengths of the program, as it can be modified by students each year to remain relevant. It was very exciting to watch and participate. The lesson that it teaches is something that every pharmacy student needs because our profession more than ever needs strong advocates.

Ahmad is chair of the TPA Academy of Student Pharmacists

Tags:  advocacy  relations  SPARx  student pharmacist 

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Getting Involved in Advocacy

Posted By Mary Tran, Monday, January 1, 2018
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2018

Every two years, students and pharmacists get an exciting opportunity to meet at the Capitol in order to represent and advance the profession of pharmacy. For most students and some pharmacists, it will be their first time to visit the Capitol and to speak to thier representative or senator which can be nerve wracking. During my first visit, I overheard several questions such as “what do I say” or “why am I here?” The SPARx program is a great way to address these concerns and instill confidence to future pharmacists. Too many of us complain about the issues, yet either do nothing or do not know where to start. The regulation and legislation workshops are a great tool for educating students on how government works, the current issues in pharmacy, and how to take action.

Recently, I was at a residency mentoring social which consisted of at least 150 students and pharmacists. When the speaker, Dr. Anjanette Wyatt, asked the audience how many people know who their representative or senator is, less than 5 people raised their hands. These people are the movers and changers in our field, yet less than 1% could identify their legislator. I expect that this will change after the SPARx Program and that we can produce more active and passionate pharmacists. Moving forward, I hope we can all come together as leaders in the community, in order to change the profession of pharmacy to how WE see fit, so patients are able to receive the best care at the end of the day.

Tran is chair-elect of the TPA Academy of Student Pharmacists

Tags:  advocacy  involvement  SPARx  student pharmacist 

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Student Pharmacists Advocacy and Relations (SPARx) Program

Posted By Lucas Cannon, Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Advancing a career can be highly needed but extremely difficult to do, especially when you’re on the outside looking in. As one of the Student Directors of the Texas Pharmacy Association (TPA) representing Texas Tech School of Pharmacy, and with the guidance of TPA, my goal is to advocate for the advancement of pharmacy practice. Why does this need to be done? Pharmacists are highly trained and well versed individuals who have spent four or more years learning about medications, including when to use them, how to use them, how they work, etc.

When pharmacists graduate and go into this amazing career field, we are struck with limitations that do not allow us to practice at our level of education. For example, if a patient is wanting to go out of the country, they will most likely need travel medications. To get these, they would have to make an appointment and take more time and money than they need to, to see a physician. In another scenario, what if a patient is feeling sick with a common condition such as strep throat, a common cold, or the flu? As of right now, they would have to go through the same process as they would to get their travel medication; that is, make an appointment with their doctor and take time out of their day to visit the physician for a routine illness. What if a patient could come to the pharmacy, have a pharmacist look up what medications are needed for travel to specific countries, or as in the second scenario, run a quick test and prescribe the patient what they need, if a positive test, and have the patient on their way or feeling better in just a few days?

This is why advocacy through the Texas Pharmacy Association is critical. The TPA Academy of Student Pharmacists is promoting advocating for the profession from several angles through the Student Pharmacists Advocacy and Relations (SPARx) Program. This program is broken up into three sections to be completed over the course of the 2017-2018 school year. The first section, to be completed by December, is the “community” section. The two remaining sections will be completed in the spring.  The second and third sections are the “interprofessional” section, where we will promote pharmacy to other health care professionals, and the “regulation” section, where we will study pharmacy regulation and legislation. With each of the three sections, a student director from each school of pharmacy will host a seminar to explain the individual sections and what we, as students, are working to accomplish. Each section also has a mini-project and a short written reflection. For the community portion, students must make a presentation to educate the communities in which we reside about the training and education needed to become a pharmacist and the roles we can play in everyday life. After the mini-project has been presented or submitted online, students will write the reflection covering what they got out of it and what they think the community learned. When all three sections (community, interprofessional, and regulation) have been completed, students will receive an advocacy certificate that recognizes their efforts in advancing the pharmacy practice.

In a few short years, we as students, will be fully submerged into the profession of pharmacy. After studying hours on end, experiencing stress like we have never had before, and taking test after test in pharmacy school, why would we want to be so limited? Why would we work so hard for our doctoral degree if we do not want to use all this pertinent information to help patients to the best of our ability? I believe I can speak for most students and say that we do not want these limitations and restrictions. It can start at the ground level with pharmacy students and work its way up to improved patient care at a state and national level.

Lucas Cannon is a pharmacy student at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and is a TPA student director.

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In Defense of Pharmacy

Posted By Yasmine Alhasan, Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hundreds of exams. Countless quizzes. Endless late nights and early mornings. Every pharmacy student has been there. We are hard workers and silent strategists. We take pride in understanding medications and their disease states, and we love our kinetics.

As a current fourth year student in pharmacy school, I feel as though I have been able to immerse myself within my profession. I have learned so much throughout this journey and I have waited for this moment for such a long time, to be in my final year. The excitement rolls in and reality begins to quickly set in. Within this territory of being so close to graduation, I am consistently being asked about my plans in regards to pharmacy practice. Regardless of what my response is, I already know that at least half of the individuals asking the questions will tell me that I am making the wrong decision. I understand that these types of sentiments are most likely commonplace regardless of the profession, but in the practice of pharmacy, we tend to take it a step further.

For those not familiar with the profession, pharmacy practice allows numerous opportunities in several different types of fields. Residencies, fellowships, community practice, pharmaceutical sales, consultant pharmacy, and independent pharmacy are all options, just to name a few. One of the main reasons why I chose to become a pharmacist is because I like having options, and I like knowing that regardless of what I choose to do, there is always opportunity to expand and learn about a new part of my profession.

Currently, depending upon where a pharmacist practices, some are unable to fully utilize their doctoral-level skills due to different laws across state lines. Again, as this may be true for several professions, with the profession of pharmacy, the difference in law is prominent. Numerous data is available indicating how beneficial pharmacists are when integrated within the healthcare team and the tremendous cost-saving healthcare outcomes we provide when working alongside other healthcare professionals. The laws are adapting and the profession continues to expand and develop.

Despite the laws that may currently tie our hands, I firmly believe that we as a profession are our biggest hindrance. We are segregated within our own lines of practice. We believe that what we are doing is the most important thing for the profession and have lost sight in what makes our profession so unique in the first place. Retail pharmacy practice is just as important as critical care pharmacy practice. Independent pharmacies are vital for our communities. Pharmacists are needed in field of industry for continued growth and development. All of these roles were established because they are needed.

We are there during medical rounds. We are part of the healthcare professional team. We save lives. We are there, but to some extent still invisible. We roll our eyes when someone asks if we actually have a doctorate degree, and we become frustrated when the medical resident ignores our input. We become frustrated when we have to convince everyone else of our value, so why do we do it to each other? I have worked alongside brilliant pharmacists in every aspect of the profession. I am in awe of how much opportunity and growth my profession allows, and I hope that my fellow colleagues see this as well.

When you choose to make a condescending statement about an area of practice that differs from yours, know that you made a decision, and that you chose against the profession. I know some people might be thinking, “Why such a bold statement?” Well, because I am tired, and I know that many of you are too. One area of practice is not greater than the other. We all work to contribute to health and wellness by providing exceptional patient care. When we lose sight of this vision and start repeating this sentiment of, “Mine is better than yours”, we are enabling and teaching the next generation of pharmacists to do the same, and are doing a great disservice to ourselves.

Many other healthcare professionals practice in different areas depending upon their interests. Although they may have different opinions, they are still working together as team and supporting each other. The urologist, neurologist, plastic surgeon, and even the “doc in a box” are on the same team. They are politically active by joining associations and staying vetted in their similar interests, together.

I recognize the importance of diversity and skill set within our profession, as do many of my colleagues. However, we should utilize this diversity to support each other instead of breaking each other down.

My hope is that one day when we student pharmacists transition into preceptors for the next generation of students, that we can teach this same philosophy and continue forward into growth, and onwards into positive change.

Yasmine Alhasan is a fourth-year student pharmacist at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy, in Dallas, Texas, and is president of the TPA Student Board of Directors.

Tags:  pharmacy provider status residency profession  student pharmacist 

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