Compassionately Building a Better Future

Pharmacy Times, June 2015 Women's Health, Volume 81, Issue 6

For Angela Kao, a pharmacy student at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, empathy and compassion are important both inside and outside the pharmacy.

For Angela Kao, a pharmacy student at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, empathy and compassion are important both inside and outside the pharmacy.

During her first year of pharmacy school, the 2016 PharmD candidate cofounded GlobeMed, a global health organization that allows students to partner with grassroots health organizations throughout the world. Her chapter was partnered with Alternative for Rural Movement, a nongovernmental organization that seeks to improve sanitation efforts in rural India. Within a year, Kao and her peers fundraised over $4000 for the construction of 10 latrines, an experience that Kao considers among her most rewarding.

“Although I knew the end-goal in itself would provide a huge impact for the villages in India, it was the process in achieving that goal that made GlobeMed so worthwhile because it helped me grow as a leader and as a person,” Kao told Pharmacy Times. “I learned the value of teamwork and collaboration because the success of GlobeMed could not have been made possible alone.”

In addition, while serving as the vice president of her school’s Student National Pharmaceutical Association, Kao established a local partnership with Healthy Columbia, an organization focused on increasing access to care for medically underserved populations in South Carolina. Through this collaboration, Kao and her peers participated in student-run health screenings, where she volunteered to educate patients on hypertension and diabetes and help them implement action plans.

Kao also helped to organize “Beat the Pack,” a 4-week smoking cessation program, in partnership with the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center at Providence Hospital. Kao educated smokers on the importance of quitting and helped them to prepare to quit when they were ready, an opportunity that allowed her to develop a more empathetic relationship with her patients.

Q: Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?A: One of the main reasons was to help my parents take control of their own health. As first-generation Asian Americans with limited proficiency in English, my parents held off on care because they knew they wouldn’t understand what they were being told. Until something became a persistent issue, they would always try a home remedy or ask me my thoughts on what they should get from the pharmacy. Prior to pharmacy school, I didn’t have a clue most of the time, but I have come a long way since then. I chose pharmacy because I wanted to challenge myself and fill in my knowledge gap regarding medications. Now, I want to share that knowledge and educate people like my parents so that they can feel empowered when making decisions about their health.

Q: What do you think is the most important quality for a pharmacist to possess?A: I believe the most important quality for a pharmacist to possess is compassion. As highly educated individuals, sometimes we tend to forget that we are dealing with people from a variety of backgrounds in terms of education, socioeconomics, and culture. When we are working with patients, we need to consider them as a whole so that we can understand them better and show empathy since they are entrusting us with their care.

Q: What is the most important issue in pharmacy today, and why?A: A considerable challenge for pharmacy is changing how pharmacists are perceived by the public. I have encountered quite a few people who do not see the need for the extensive amount of education we receive in order to “count pills.” With great challenges, though, come great opportunities. Currently, pharmacy is in a state of dynamic change, especially with the push for provider status. I foresee more interprofessional collaboration and innovation in the near future. The services that we offer, such as medication therapy management, immunization services, and chronic disease management, can really help improve the quality of care provided to patients. Recognition beyond mere “pill pushers” will help us expand our role beyond the traditional pharmacy setting and foster a greater sense of appreciation for pharmacists. It is critical to make known the value of pharmacists not only to our patients but to our fellow health care providers so that they can be advocates for our profession as well.

About the School

The South Carolina College of Pharmacy, a school within the University of South Carolina, offers a traditional PharmD program as well as several joint programs that allow pharmacy students to also earn an MPH, MHIT, or MBA. The school also gives students the opportunity to further develop their knowledge and skills through several experiential and residency programs.

About RESPy - Brought to you by Walmart and Pharmacy Times

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 visit www.PharmacyTimes.com.