The FBI has bestowed the Community Leadership Award to the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy's Generation Rx chapter in honor of its students' work to fight prescription drug abuse.
The FBI has bestowed the Community Leadership Award to the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy’s Generation Rx chapter in honor of its students’ work to fight prescription drug abuse.
Nicole Perea, a 2017 PharmD candidate and chair of the school’s Generation Rx chapter, told Pharmacy Times that the student-led initiative is geared toward educating the community on the use and abuse of prescription medications. Its main goal is to provide accurate information (including how to properly dispose of medications) and resources in order to help decrease the number of fatal drug overdoses.
The students accomplish these goals by providing presentations to different groups in the community and promoting National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days in collaboration with local pharmacies, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the New Mexico Board of Pharmacy. They also hand out prescription drug use and abuse information, plus stickers and magnets, at health fairs and other events.
“Our student pharmacists have a passion that translates into notable patient care especially when it comes to educating the public about the dangers related to the misuse and abuse of prescription medications,” Perea said. “I think our team’s efforts have been recognized based on this passion and the ability our students have to turn this passion into results to combat drug abuse in our community.”
Perea wasn’t exactly sure how her school got nominated for the award from the FBI.
“We have several community partnerships and have a hunch that it was through one of these partnerships that the FBI caught wind of our initiative,” she said. “I believe they chose us for this award because it is geared toward individuals or organizations that are helping combat violence, crime, drugs, or terrorism in their community.”
The FBI recognized the school’s chapter both in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Washington, DC. Perea accepted the award from FBI Director James Comey on behalf of the University of New Mexico team. She described the experience as “amazing,” noting that Comey was gracious to all of the award recipients.
Comey gave out 56 awards to individuals and organizations from a variety of backgrounds and professions. In a FBI press release, he said all of the recipients were “united by a single thing: an effort to do good.”
“With such a high-profile job that I am sure keeps him very busy, it was refreshing to see him familiar with each recipient’s community service outreach,” Perea said. “He was so genuinely grateful for all of the community efforts that it made receiving this award that much more special.”
Perea decided to get involved in Generation Rx because she saw the positive impact it had on both the students involved in the initiative and the surrounding community.
She acknowledged that the drug-related material that the students needed to relay to the community was sometimes heavy, but the ability to use their clinical knowledge, the challenge of making the information accessible to all age groups, and the relationship to the audience made the presentations fun.
Perea encouraged pharmacy students to get involved in their schools’ American Pharmacist Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) chapter, especially with Generation Rx. She added that if a student’s school doesn’t have a chapter yet, there are resources on the APhA-ASP website to help start one.
“Our team is very fortunate to be able to work with the exceptional student pharmacists at the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy,” Perea said. “Each one of our volunteers works so hard and donates so much of their time, and that makes it possible for us to continue to make an impact in our community. This also wouldn't be possible without the help of our community partners and all of the support they give us. There is no way we would be able to thank everyone enough!”