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WEALTH, POWER, AND FAME are the primary measures of perceived success in American society today. When pharmacy students look out into their futures, or new graduates look to potential career paths, they have a tendency to pursue an opportunity that will bring them one or more of these options. What most students miss, however, is that seeking multiple opportunities throughout their academic careers, instead of seeking a single opportunity at the end, is the real key to success (and sometimes comes with the aforementioned perks). It was through my work with the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) student chapter at the University of Southern California that I found my passion for the pharmacy profession.
By the beginning of my second year, I had decided that I wanted to work in the independent pharmacy setting and be an owner one day. Even though I had made a decision on a specific career choice, I was determined to continue seeking various opportunities for growth within the field so I would be confident that this is where I wanted to end up. Projecting 3 years ahead to graduation, I made a decision to be continuously involved with NCPA in hopes of increasing my knowledge of ownership and keeping pace with the progression of independent community pharmacy practice. By May of my second year, I was elected NCPA National Student President-Elect. This guaranteed that I would remain intimately involved with NCPA until graduation. October 2004 marked the beginning of my presidency and the opening of a myriad of doors to vast opportunities.
During my term as National Student President with NCPA and a summer rotation at their headquarters in Alexandria, Va, I was given the opportunity to influence the career choices of other pharmacy students all over the United States. I was also allowed to affect decision-making regarding the future of independent community pharmacy as a whole. I helped start an NCPA student chapter at the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in Stockton, Calif, that would go on to become the first-place winners at the NCPA Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition in 2005.
I made presentations on entrepreneurship to students attending the McKesson Trade Show in Washington, DC, and the New Jersey Pharmacists Association Convention in Atlantic City, NJ. I sat at a Pharmacy Service Technical Advisory Coalition meeting to listen and give input on the development of new procedural terminology codes to bill for pharmaceutical care services, or what we now call medication therapy management services. I also sat on the committee of the Pharmacy Value Alliance that was charged with changing America's perception of the value of a pharmacist and the misconception of drugs as merely a commodity. This group consisted of numerous upper administrative staff from all walks of pharmacy, from industry to independent.
Between traveling and committee meetings, I spent a lot of time supporting other NCPA student officers at other colleges and schools of pharmacy across the country. I served as a liaison between NCPA headquarters and Student Regional Council/Student Leadership Council members. I spent a significant amount of time editing and updating a chapter operations manual that is mailed out to any school that is interested in starting a new chapter. I also conducted phone interviews with new practitioners who have become recent owners, documenting the paths they took and choices they made to become a pharmacy owner soon after graduation.
Traveling to different cities throughout the country to make presentations and sitting on multiple high-powered committees seems like a lot of fun and a great opportunity, but only if you are invested. A lot of the travel consisted of flights the evening before a scheduled presentation or meeting, and another flight right after that meeting. Many of the committee meetings lasted the entire day. To be realistic, it was no vacation.
Witnessing what would soon be my profession and having a hand in changing it, however, was the most exhilarating thing in the world. Being fortunate enough to bring a student and future pharmacist's perspective to the table on national issues that would affect a nation of independent pharmacists and pharmacy owners was an experience I would never trade.
In recollection of the whole experience, the most fun I had was meeting students from different colleges and schools of pharmacy. When a student would approach me with their fears of being an owner, I received full compensation for all of the time and energy I put into this position by watching the same student walk away even more ambitious and confident about their future as a pharmacist.
Mr. Sedrak is the immediate past president of the student chapter of the National Community Pharmacists Association at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Pharmacy and is a PharmD/MS regulatory science candidate at the USC School of Pharmacy.