Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based in Chevy Chase, Md.
The call to community service is a serious commitment to Matthew Sapko, this month's RESPy Award winner. "Community service is something that my parents instilled in me," said Sapko, now in his third year at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. "As a profession, as pharmacists, sometimes [we] do not advocate public health care as much as we could. I want to set an example to create a culture of care for our profession."
A career in pharmacy was attractive to Sapko because it offered him new ways to serve his community. "Pharmacy is a health care profession, but you are not on call and patients do not have to make an appointment to see you," he said. "It also allows me to continue to be involved in volunteerism— something that will always be central to my life."
Patricia Dowley Kroboth, PhD, dean and professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, said that Sapko "consistently participates in numerous public health?related activities that focus on the pharmacy profession and often involve collaborative efforts with other health care professionals."
As a recipient of the Paul Ambrose Scholars Program, Sapko is working a program that identifies patients at risk for osteoporosis through bone density screenings at community pharmacies, events, and clinics for underserved patients. At-risk patients are then referred to physicians and pharmacies for medication therapy management sessions and education on risk factors, treatment, and prevention. "The most valuable experience for me is when you can interact with others," said Sapko. "In the case of osteoporosis, prevention is very important, so we can really help these underserved patients."
Sapko's ability to get things done was evidenced by his recent success co-chairing the Phi Lambda Sigma (the National Pharmacy Leadership Society) Annual Auction to benefit Rx Council—an event that raises funds to help under- and uninsured patients to purchase medication. Under Sapko's leadership, a record number of students attended the event and nearly doubled the amount raised from the previous year. Dr. Kroboth said that much of the event's success can be attributed to Sapko's enthusiasm and commitment to the project.
That commitment extends to activities outside the classroom. Sapko regularly volunteers his time at a clinic for underserved patients. He also is currently helping to develop a smoking cessation project focusing on the student population of the university.
"In addition to his intense commitment to serve others, he has a remarkable ability to organize and motivate his fellow students to participate. Not only does Matthew engage in numerous volunteer activities, but he does them well, usually going above the call of duty, regardless of whether he is the leader or a participant," said Dr. Kroboth.
Sapko said that when he involves friends in his efforts, everyone benefits. "I volunteer at a family house that offers affordable housing for families of patients being treated at the university's medical center. It is easy to get bogged down in trivial things, but when you go there and see people with serious problems who are so thankful for your help, these are the experiences that mean the most to me," he said.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy is a national leader in preparing students for opportunities in pharmacy practice, research, and education. The school's innovative curriculum integrates science and practice, emphasizes student-centered learning, and gives students comprehensive preparation for pharmacy practice in any setting they choose.
Chartered in 1878, the school is affiliated with the internationally renowned University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The School of Pharmacy, a leader in research, is made up of 4 centers, with initiatives ranging from patient-care outcomes and human clinical research to research in molecular genetics.
With its 4-year PharmD program, the School of Pharmacy is on the forefront of the profession, offering professionally and technologically advanced methods of instruction delivery. The school also offers a Pharmacy PhD program and 12-month postgraduate pharmacy residency training programs.