Advancing the Profession of Pharmacy Earns Graham RESPy Award

JANUARY 01, 2008
Barbara Sax

Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Heather Graham

Heather Graham, a third-year pharmacy student at Ferris State University's College of Pharmacy, believes that, since health care is a limited resource, pharmacists provide plenty of value to patients.

This month's Pharmacy Times/Wal-Mart RESPy Award winner is convinced that educating patients about their medication and helping them manage their health care is a job that is best done by pharmacists, and she is already committed to providing that care for patients through her work with professional and public health?related activities, such as Operation Diabetes screening events and Operation Heartburn.

"I organized 2 glucose test screenings by myself and helped to organize a third. We screened a total of 100 patients," said Graham. She is proud of her ability to make a difference and to have made a connection with many of the patients she screened. "One patient wrote me a poem about phlebotomy," she said. "It was really cute."

The Wal-Mart/Pharmacy Times RESPy AWARD (Respect, Excellence, and Service in Pharmacy) 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 visit

Graham's commitment to pharmacy extends beyond the classroom and her volunteer efforts, according to Nabila Ahmed-Sarwar, PharmD, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Ferris State. "Heather has demonstrated a continued commitment not only to developing as a pharmacy professional, but also to promoting public health issues," said Dr. Ahmed- Sarwar. Graham also is very involved in voluntary public service activities. "Heather feels that it is important to serve as a role model for young lives. This led her to serve as a volunteer for the Bulldog Area Reading Klub, reading to young students and assisting in homework completion, and working with elementary students on science projects at the local school district's Math/Science/Technology Center Outreach Program," said Dr. Ahmed-Sarwar.

As a volunteer at the Kalamazoo Caring Network, a resource for single mothers with small children, Graham helped organize food and gift donations for the holidays. Part of that project included hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for needy families.

About the School

The College of Pharmacy at Ferris State University is the principal source of pharmacy practitioners for the state of Michigan. The college is committed to preparing students to meet the challenges of a constantly changing global society through programs that reflect contemporary practice. The college is focused on maintaining an optimal academic environment through faculty development, an active service component, a commitment to scholarly activity, and resource development.

Ian Mathison, PhD, DSc, dean of the college of pharmacy, said Ferris's pharmacy program is one that has enjoyed an exceptional reputation, both within the state and throughout the nation, for over 100 years.

She brings that upbeat attitude to her extracurricular university work as well. Dr.Ahmed-Sarwar said that Graham not only participated in the honors program, she was actively involved in improving the program by serving on its advisory committee. "Heather's excellent leadership skills contributed to her role as chair of the Dean's Advisory Board, where her responsibilities included organizing elections, student volunteers for orientation, and meetings with the dean of the college of pharmacy to discuss student issues," said Dr. Ahmed-Sarwar.

"As the chair of the advisory board, I had to know the students' concerns and not be afraid to tell them what was happening," said Graham. The biggest student concern was balancing competing demands from the university's honors program and its pharmacy track. "While we did not solve the issues, we were able to open a dialog to encourage people to find ways to meet the demands of both areas," she said.

Ambulatory care, hospital pharmacy, and community pharmacy all appeal to Graham. She plans on pursuing a residency, but she is not certain which practice setting will be her final goal. "Ambulatory care offers the chance to be involved in drug therapy right at the beginning of a patient's treatment; hospital pharmacy provides an opportunity to really see the effects of drug therapy quickly; but I cannot imagine not working in a community setting," she said. "I would like to find a job that allows me to do all 3."