FEBRUARY 01, 2008
Wendy Bodine

Renee Larouche, Jenna Merlo, Anna Brekhman, and Hang Truong

Pharmacy Times held a roundtable for pharmacy students during the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) 41st Annual Pharmacy & Technology Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, in August 2007.

For the first time, NACDS invited the deans from local area pharmacy schools to select student leaders to attend the conference. NACDS offered this 1-day Pharmacy Student Program for the first time to introduce current pharmacy students to opportunities in the chain community pharmacy industry.

The roundtable discussion with 9 student attendees was mediated by Fred Eckel, RPh, MS, editor-in-chief of Pharmacy Times and executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists, and focused on the students' feelings about the conference and if they felt it affected their views about chain pharmacy.

All of the students agreed that they benefited a great deal by coming to the conference. Summer Bruchwalski, a second professional year student at Northeastern University (Boston, MA), said that it was "a great way for students to get involved," and she was excited at the wealth of information that was available. She also was enthusiastic about the discussion taking place about ways to fix the problems in pharmacy today, "because these are the issues that [today's students are] going to be dealing with in a few years," she said.

Afton Yurkon, executive resident for NACDS and 2007 graduate of Northeastern University, noted that the conference was "a fantastic opportunity for students to learn about issues that they do not normally see in pharmacy school, especially regulatory and policy affairs issues." Jovonne Jones, a third professional year (P3) student at the University of Pittsburgh, was encouraged to see "a lot of pharmacists...who have different positions throughout the...chain industry. It is great to take the...information [we learn] in pharmacy school...and actually see companies putting it into action," she said.

Eckel then asked the students if their impressions of chain pharmacy had been altered by their experiences at the conference. Yurkon said she was pleased at seeing the technological and business aspects of chain pharmacy in action and how they work together to bring "what we are taught in school to reality." One aspect of pharmacy the students were glad to see being demonstrated was medication therapy management (MTM). Jones noted that in her experience with community pharmacies, there were varying degrees of MTM utilization, and she was encouraged that graduating students were "going to have that liberty and opportunity" to practice MTM in the pharmaceutical arena as a whole.

Andrew Bzowyckyj, a P3 student at the University of Connecticut (UConn), said that although some students may not be considering chain pharmacy, conferences like NACDS's offered workshops about a variety of topics that could apply to all pharmacies, such as patient counseling, immunizations, and MTM. He said that receiving a list of topics in an advance e-mail encouraged him to attend, and other students agreed that the agenda was a key factor in their decisions to come to the conference.

The students also were encouraged by the growing use of technology in pharmacies. Gregory Mainella, a second professional year student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy (MCP), noted how it allows pharmacists to "get...away from doing the small, little tasks that would usually overburden the pharmacy in times of stress," giving them more time for patient counseling. Jenna Merlo, a fourth professional year student also from MCP, "enjoyed the [technological] presentation...about [pharmacy] automation. It just shows how far we can go with technology to help make things more accurate and efficient," she said.

Afton Yurkon, Holly Wheeler, and Summer Bruchwalski

Holly Wheeler, a sixth-year student at Northeastern University, said that it was important for pharmacists to work on changing how they are viewed by the public, so that when technology does become more prevalent, pharmacists will be seen as personalized health care providers for their patients. Renee Larouche, a P3 student from UConn, noted that "there has been a lot of focus on... how we can make a better experience for the [patient]."

The students were asked if they would recommend the conference to other pharmacy students, and the response was decidedly positive. Wheeler believed that "getting them [students] to the conference to see people in all these different aspec of really important." Larouche suggested that, to encourage more students to attend, groups such as NACDS should "go to the [pharmacy] schools and tell them about the conference," as well as waiving or lowering the registration fee for students. Bruchwalski pointed out that groups should keep schools' schedules in mind when planning conferences if they want students to attend.

Merlo wanted to encourage students and organizations to pursue "anything that helps us have more one-on-one time with the patient and make sure that [the patients] know how to take their medication." Anna Brekhman, a fourth professional year student at Northeastern University, also hoped more students would attend, because as she pointed out, "they say it takes only one person to change the world. There is always going to be one person that will take that opportunity, and they might do something big with it one day."

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