Fulfilling a Pharmacist's Social Responsibilities

Pharmacy Times, October 2015 Diabetes, Volume 81, Issue 10

Kelsey Japs, a pharmacy student at the Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is driven by a belief that pharmacists have a duty to help not only the patients in their immediate communities, but also those in need of health care all across the globe.

Kelsey Japs, a pharmacy student at the Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Des Moines, Iowa, is driven by a belief that pharmacists have a duty to help not only the patients in their immediate communities, but also those in need of health care all across the globe. The 2017 PharmD candidate has long engaged in dialogues and volunteer work concerning important social justice issues such as poverty, hunger, and education. Upon enrolling in pharmacy school, she committed herself to bringing these conversations to her fellow pharmacy students. “Since arriving at Drake University, my focus, both personally and professionally, has continued to be on these topics, but shifted to creating opportunities for my colleagues to engage in and reflect on their community service,” Japs told Pharmacy Times.

Japs considers her most rewarding effort to be the Global Health Learning Collaborative (GHLC), a discussionbased seminar led by her and 3 medical students that sought to equip future health care professions with the knowledge they need to assess and improve global health.

“Over the course of the semester, our goal was to create interprofessional dialogues about health care practice, learn from each other, and develop as engaged citizens and reflective practitioners,” she explained. “Among the topics we discussed were immigrant and refugee health, counterfeit medications, and climate change.” Following the conclusion of the seminar, Japs and her fellow GHLC participants embarked upon a medical service trip to the Dominican Republic, an experience that gave her and her peers the opportunity to live out the values they cultivated during their discussions.

Japs also likes to tutor children in afterschool programs and volunteer with the elderly, but she is not afraid to partake in more demanding community service activities as well. “I enjoy the occasional 4:30 am wake-up to volunteer with the Salvation Army’s mobile feeding unit on a bimonthly basis or the all-day Habitat for Humanity builds,” Japs said sincerely.

Q: Why did you decide to become a pharmacist?A: Pharmacists are uniquely positioned within health care. Pharmacists are trained in business, management, human behavior, and pharmacology. Because of this, one can find pharmacists at a patient’s key transitions of care. They can be a constant source of support for patients at all levels of the health system. I wanted to be part of initiatives that contributed to the improvement of patients and populations. For me, the profession of pharmacy has allowed me to do just that.

Q: What do you think is the most important issue in pharmacy today? Why?A: The most important issue facing the pharmacy profession and the broader realm of health care is related to how we meaningfully and consciously incorporate the social lens to health care practice—at both the population and the individual level. Our work, regardless of location or patient population, directly impacts our communities—socially, economically, politically. As practicing pharmacists and future pharmacists, understanding this interconnectedness and concerning ourselves with social perspectives is key to making a lasting and meaningful impact on our health care teams and communities. It provides us opportunities to think outside the box and to seek new avenues for advancing the health and well-being of our communities.

Q: Is there a specific patient or person you’ve worked with who taught you something that will help you be a better pharmacist?A: About 7 years ago, late Thanksgiving eve, I met an elderly woman at a community center where I was assisting in the preparation of Thanksgiving dinner. I walked into the converted gym and saw a fragile woman hunched over sorting and packaging the canned goods that were to be taken to a local food shelf later that evening/morning. I remember feeling shocked. I could not believe that a woman of her age would be up this late on a Thanksgiving eve. I asked if I could help, and over the next hour, we simply worked and learned from each other.

She taught me 3 lessons directly applicable to my future pharmacy practice. First, even if you do not recognize it, you make an impact regardless of your age and position in society. Second, people will need your help regardless of the time of day. Third, sometimes we have to think outside the box in order to produce the greatest impact. These teachings will help me to become a better pharmacist and stronger leader within the profession.

About the School

The Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences offers a traditional PharmD program, as well as several joint programs that allow pharmacy students to pursue a JD, MPH, MPA, or MBA; students can also choose to concentrate in diabetes care. Additionally, students will be able to further develop their knowledge and skills through several experiential and residency programs.

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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.