Committing to Care Outside the Pharmacy

Pharmacy Times, November 2014 Cough & Cold, Volume 80, Issue 11

As a college sophomore, Ray Jhala began volunteering with the Alliance of Students Against Poverty (ASAP) at the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE) to bolster his resume and increase his chances of being accepted into the school of pharmacy. Now that he is a second-year professional student of the pharmacy program, the community service organization has become his passion.

"In a very short amount of time, it was not about my resume or how many hours of community service I could get, but instead it just became about our mission to help those in need," Jhala said to Pharmacy Times.

The ASAP is a nonprofit volunteer student organization that aims to serve those in the St. Louis area who are homeless and living in poverty. Once a month, members of the group deliver 40 to 50 boxed lunches, in addition to clothing, hygiene items, and other supplies, to community members in need.

Jhala serves as the president of the organization and is working to expand its reach. Recently, he organized student efforst and co-created a video that helped obtain $5000 from the Sodexo Foundation to fund a Campus Kitchen Project -- a student run kitchen that produces nutritious meals for those who struggle to provdie food for themsleves.

Jhala believes that his experiences with and passion for assisting the homeless in the community will heop him to better serve his patients as a pharmacist.

"Being homesless has an exptremely negative connotation to it, and people who are homeless are treated poorly," he said, "But at the end of the day, we are all human and deserve the same level of respect. Understanding this concept will help me treat patients equally and with the same level of care and respect as I would any member of my own family."

Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?

Growing up, I was always that kid who was getting sick for one reason or another. I spent a lot of time waiting at the pharmacy with my mother or father. I learned quickly that going to the pharmacy and feeling better went hand in hand.

I also had the opportunity to shadow a pharmacist in the hospital setting in my hometown of Corona, Claifornia. I know it isn't the most glamorous of stories, but after that experience, I decided I would give the pharmacy field a shot.

What is the most important issue in pharmacy today? Why?

I believe that we do not have enough pharmacists in the field who are willing to go against methods that are set in place if they do nota gree iwth the way things are done. I think that many of us fall into complacency and abide by our institutions' rules and guidelines instead of fighting to change them when we know of a better way. I think that we need more pharmacists in administrative roles, and fewer in the dispensing role. I believe this is the way that we can keep advancing our field in direction that encourages innovation and optimazation to better meet our patients' needs and expectations.

What is the most important quality for a pharmacist to possess?

I think that the most important quality for a pharmacist is humility. This quality can be extremely powerful in the pharmacy. Being an entirely unintimidating figure to our patients, as well as someone who does not make people feel inferior or belittled, sends a silent message to patients that it is okay to ask us questions when ty don't quite understand something. A little modesty can go a long way when dealing with patients and is important ot me when trying to optimize patient care.

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