STUDENT POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT DOES IMPACT PHARMACY

Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos
Published Online: Monday, October 1, 2007
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The health care industry is constantly evolving, and it continues to be a political issue for the presidential candidates. In today?s health care landscape, pharmacy students need to do more than just get their degree. Because pharmacists are on the front lines in helping ensure patients?medical needs are met, students need to get involved with pharmacy associations? legislative arenas.

Pharmacy student Logan Davis,who attends Samford University McWhorter School of Pharmacy in Alabama, knows political involvement is important, since he wants to practice in an independent pharmacy setting. ?While many may say that independent pharmacy is becoming a thing of the past, I know that an independent pharmacy can be extremely successful if it is willing to change with the ever-changing pharmacy marketplace and the growing health care needs of its patients.?

When he began pharmacy school in 2004, he became a member of the school?s National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) chapter. His most recent position was vice president of legislative affairs. Logan also is a member of the Academy of Student Pharmacists and the Alabama Pharmacy Association. ?Through my involvement in these organizations, I have come to realize how important it is for pharmacy students and pharmacists alike to become familiar with the political process and be current on political issues that are affecting the profession.?

Logan believes that getting politically involved is beneficial for pharmacy students, especially those wanting to own their own pharmacy.

?I feel that it is important for students to get politically involved because we have chosen this profession, and it just so happens that the profession of pharmacy is regulated by the government. With the potential for this regulation on the increase, with the expansion of Medicare, now is the best time to get involved and know what is going on in our local, state, and federal governments as it pertains to pharmacy. I also feel that the profession offers so much to students, and we owe it to all who have come before us and all who come after us to do all that we can to protect the profession.?

He also feels that political involvement presents networking opportunities. ?The way I see it, I want to know pharmacists who care about the profession, and there is no better way to get to know someone than working with them on a political issue that affects pharmacy. This is especially true in independent pharmacy, as independent pharmacy owners usually feel the effects of pharmacy legislation and regulation at a very personal level.?

University of Mississippi (UM) School of Pharmacy student Brooke Emmons knows it is crucial for pharmacy students to take leadership roles and become politically active. While Emmons has worked at Magnolia Regional Health Center in the pharmacy department for almost 10 years, she is using her last year of school to explore all the areas that have interested her throughout her pharmacy experience to determine where she will have the biggest impact.

Emmons is involved in numerous pharmacy organizations including the school?s American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), where she is serving as president, NCPA chapter, and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). She recalled her first trip to Washington, DC, during the NCPA Legislative Conference.

?It was amazing to watch the individual impact that citizens can make by educating our elected officials on issues that shape the world around us,? Emmons said. ?They were so approachable and receptive to the needs of pharmacists, and they were not at all as intimidating as I had imagined.?

She credits Mississippi Rep Bobby Howell, RPh, for his efforts in helping community pharmacy. Howell owns the only pharmacy in Kilmicheal,Miss. ?He has been instrumental on the government side in expressing the current dilemma of community pharmacy with regards to reimbursement issues. He has become a mentor for me in providing insight into not only the ins and outs of the political process, but also small town pharmacy.?

One of Emmons? biggest challenges was when she served in the newly created coordinator position for the Student Political Information Network within the school?s APhA chapter. ?Because it was so new, I had to be creative with getting the word out about political issues?not just to students within the organization and in the student body, but to elected state and national officials as well.?

She said she is committed to ?the profession of pharmacy, and believe[ s] in the power of leadership as a future medication expert. Through leadership roles in ASHP, APhA, NCPA, and UM School of Pharmacy Student Body Government, I have learned there is no greater way to get the ball rolling than to be in a position to push it yourself.?

Both students agree that many challenges are impacting the future of pharmacy. Logan believes the commoditization of prescription drugs is a concern. ?As drugs become more of a commodity, the need for a pharmacist decreases. Pharmacists need to prove their worth with current opportunities such as MTM [medication therapy management] services. Many Medicare Part D plans cover this service in some form or fashion, but I do not think that pharmacists should stop there.?

He continued, ?Pharmacists have the ability to save corporations large amounts of money by managing the therapy of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, as shown in the Asheville Project and the Diabetes Ten City Challenge, to name a few projects. In a political environment where the cost of health care is a hot-button issue, pharmacists must be able to show added value for their services.?

Emmons feels that lack of leadership is a major issue. ?You cannot stand up and ask others to serve, if you are not willing to serve yourself. Because of this, I have been actively involved as a member of all the student organizations in pharmacy school to support my fellow colleagues? endeavors within their leadership growth. I enthusiastically learn from their direction and mimic positive aspects of it to apply to my own leadership skills.?



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