For Lauren Epperson, a 2014 PharmD candidate of the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at the University of the Pacific, learning to adapt to the ever-expanding role of the pharmacist involves more than just studying drug information.
“A great pharmacist needs to be extremely knowledgeable about medication, but they also need to be personable and approachable so that patients feel comfortable discussing their health and medications,” she said.
To that end, Epperson has dedicated her time to developing leadership skills both inside and outside the classroom, earning a 4.0 GPA and participating in over 130 hours of community outreach. She has served as the secretary of the National Pharmacist Leadership Society, Phi Lambda Sigma, has helped to organize and participate in a Medicare Part D outreach program, and has served as the co-chair of the Drug Awareness Committee since her first year of pharmacy school. In this position, she leads her fellow students in providing medication therapy management services to their community, in addition to coordinating several other outreach programs.
“I have been able to talk with first graders about the importance of washing their hands, to fifth graders about the dangers of look-a-like products and poison control, and to ninth graders about prescription drug abuse through the Generation Rx Program,” she said.
Using her leadership skills and her passion for the community gained from these outreach programs, Epperson assisted her professors on 2 research projects that focused on medication adherence and the effects of counseling services provided by pharmacists. While working on both projects, she distinguished herself as the leader among her peers and was heavily involved in every stage, including the initial research, data analysis, and presentation.
As pharmacy continues to change, Epperson believes that students can help to lead the way in advancing the practice: “In the future, I see pharmacy students impacting the field of pharmacy by embracing the changing field, and then others may be more likely to follow.”
Q: Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?
I knew that I wanted to be in the health care field, where I could work with patients to improve their health. I started to think about all the different professions in health care, though, and that is when I decided on being a pharmacist. I loved that pharmacists were the most easily accessible health care professional, and I also loved learning about medications, such as how they worked and what they were for.
Q: What has been your most rewarding extracurricular activity, and why?
The most rewarding extracurricular activity that I have had the pleasure of being a part of was Medicare Part D Outreach health fairs. At these events, I helped Medicare beneficiaries sign up for the lowest cost Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) for the upcoming year. PDP plans and a patient’s current medications change over time, and so last year’s lowest-cost plan may not be the lowest-cost plan for the upcoming year. Medicare beneficiaries are often on fixed incomes, and so this cost savings makes a great difference to them. In addition to helping them save money, I also assisted beneficiaries by providing a full-blown Medication Therapy Management intervention. This activity was so rewarding because the patients assisted were so appreciative and thankful for the time my colleagues and I took to save them money and also to make sure that their drug therapy was optimal.
Q: What do you think is the most important issue in the field of pharmacy today?
The most important issue in California is the pharmacy provider status bill, SB 493, which declares pharmacists as providers and expands the scope of practice to be more consistent with the level of training and expertise pharmacists attain. This is so imperative because if pharmacists achieve provider status, they can do so much more to assist patients, which is important since they are the most accessible health care professionals.
About the School
The Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, loca- ted on the campus of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, offers an accelerated, 8-semester PharmD curriculum. Founded in 1955, the school also offers degrees in physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and dual PharmD/MBA, PharmD/PhD, and PharmD/MS degrees.