4 Community Engagement Activities for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Students

APRIL 23, 2017
Pharmacists can play an important role in implementing and participating in community engagement projects. It is a rewarding experience to give back to the community and also showcase the profession.  Pharmacy schools are also incorporating the importance of community health programs to create culturally competent healthcare professionals.1 Check out these 4 ideas for community engagement activities for pharmacists and pharmacy students. 
Partner with law enforcement to host drug disposal programs.
These programs are a great way for the public to dispose of expired, unused, or unwanted medications, especially controlled substances. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 29, 2017 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Since the program began 6 years ago, 7.1 million pounds of prescription drugs have been safely disposed.2 If your pharmacy does not have a continuous collection program, then partnering with law enforcement can be a great community engagement activity.  Pharmacists can play an important role in educating the public and assisting law enforcement to prevent prescription drug abuse and diversion. 
Present at your local library.
Speak with your local library about creating a monthly health and wellness program. This is also a great way to involve pharmacy rotation students. Each month you can select a different health topic such as immunizations, osteoporosis prevention, navigating reputable online resources, and over-the-counter medications. Pharmacy students can help to prepare and present the health topics, which will serve as a great learning experience and confidence booster. Interactive presentations where questions are encouraged will involve the audience and keep their interest. Libraries are always looking for health care professionals to volunteer their time to educate the public.
Educate teens during National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week.
Partner with local high schools, places of worship, or libraries to educate teens about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. This is an annual program to help “Shatter the Myths” about drugs. There were 2,174 national events registered this year.3 The next program is held January 22-28, 2018, and registration opens August 2017.3  Event ideas include the following:
  • Presentation at school assembly
  • Create a radio public service announcement
  • Lunch N’ learn discussion with teens and teachers
Participate in career day.
Reach out to a local middle or high school to discuss your pharmacy career path.  Discuss the expanding role of the pharmacist and various career opportunities including community, hospital, academia, pharmaceutical industry, drug information, informatics, and medical writing.  If you have pharmacy rotation students, then definitely have them participate in this program.  Pharmacy students can discuss their didactic and clinical experiences.
From my personal experience, these community engagement programs educate the public and serve as a way to promote the pharmacy profession. Pharmacy students also have the opportunity to enhance their communication skills.
The best of luck with your community engagement programs!
  1. Haddad AR, Coover KL, Begley KJ, et al.  An advanced pharmacy practice experience in community engagement.  Am J Pharm Educ.  2012;76(5):90.
  2. Americans flock to National Drug Take Back Day.  DEA website.  https://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2016/hq102816.shtml.  Accessed April 21, 2017.
  3. National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week.  NIH website.  https://teens.drugabuse.gov/national-drug-alcohol-facts-week.  Accessed April 21, 2017.

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2