Nicole Wegrzyn uses communication as an advocacy tool.
Whether interacting with other students, legislators, or patients, October’s Pharmacy Times/ Walmart RESPy winner, Nicole Wegrzyn, strives to advance the profession of pharmacy every day. A 2012 PharmD candidate at Northeastern University Bouvé College of Health Sciences School of Pharmacy, Wegrzyn has diverse interests that benefit from her passion for the field as well as her strong communication skills.
Wegrzyn affects change on Northeastern’s campus and the surrounding community through her tireless volunteer work. An active member of Northeastern University’s Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay Association, Wegrzyn helped coordinate campuswide initiatives to promote AIDS awareness and safe sexual practices, test students for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and encourage smoking cessation among her peers.
She is also an active member of the Northeastern chapter of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists, for which she developed and co-chaired a committee for women’s health initiatives. Wegrzyn revived the Northeastern chapter of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and has been 1 of 3 pharmacy students on the national, multidisciplinary Professional Student Coalition for Reproductive Justice for 2 years.
Wegrzyn participated in 2 information sessions for the Eastern Service Workers Association that included blood pressure clinics, for which she prepared an educational pamphlet about hypertension in both Spanish and English. She also organized a drug disposal program for the town of Brookline, Massachusetts.
A member of the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association (MIPA), she worked for 3 years as a compounding intern in a local independent pharmacy. She names the pharmacy’s owner, Steve Grossman, RPh, as one of her mentors. “He treated every patient with the utmost level of sincerity and care, even if they couldn’t pay for their medication,” Wegrzyn says. “He was exceptionally devoted to advancing the profession, as evidenced by his continuous political activism. His enthusiasm for pharmacy was contagious.”
In Pharmacy Times’ interview with Wegrzyn, it became clear that personal relationships and interactions have guided her career, from sparking her initial interest in the profession, to her legislative advocacy work, to a recent counseling session that reinforced the importance of appropriate counseling.
Q Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?
A When I was 13 years old, I developed a life-threatening pneumonia and wound up staying in the intensive care unit for over a week. I was exceptionally curious about who I was receiving care from and met some of the health professionals on the team, which included a pharmacist. My aunt helped me research the profession. Math and science had always piqued my interest, and I quickly developed a passion for medicine.
Q What has been your most rewarding extracurricular activity?
A I had the opportunity to represent Northeastern University and MIPA at both RxIMPACT Day and the NCPA Legislative Convention this year. I was able to educate health aides, legislative assistants, senators, and members of Congress about the pharmacist’s role in health care, specifically in regard to medication therapy management. I felt that for the first time, I had a direct role in shaping the future of the profession and health care reform.
Q What is the most important issue in pharmacy today?
A We know that the American public typically opposes or resists taking certain classes of medications and recent events have highlighted that there is a stigma attached to medication, using a pharmacy, and accessing health care. Pharmacists are in a great position to educate our patients that going to the doctor doesn’t have to mean you’re sick, it means that your health is your priority.
Q What is the most important quality for a pharmacist to possess?
A Integrity. I define integrity as “doing what you think is right when no one else is looking.” Whether directly or indirectly, every pharmacist touches the lives of patients each and every day. By doing honest, morally sound, consistent work, we are a strong and united profession.
Q Is there a story you would like to share about your volunteer work?
A I was volunteering at an event and had engaged a community member in conversation using American Sign Language. Through this dialogue, I discovered that the patient had been using a nifedipine gel incorrectly. Due to the shape of the tube and minimal counseling, she had been using it to brush her teeth instead of applying it to the affected area. I was able to correct her, and we ended up having a good chuckle afterwards. PT
The RESPy (Respect, Excellence, and Service in Pharmacy) Award is presented to the student who has made a difference in his or her community by demonstrating excellence in pharmaceutical care. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the School
Northeastern University Bouvé College of Health Sciences School of Pharmacy is located in Boston, Massachusetts. The School of Pharmacy offers a 6-year PharmD program as well as a variety of pharmaceutical science graduate programs in areas including toxicology, pharmacology, and pharmaceutics and drug delivery systems.