As an undergrad student at the Ohio State University studying pharmaceutical sciences, I was not aware of the impact that substance misuse was having on my community until I sat through a lecture that changed my perspective. In that lecture, I learned that more people were dying every day in Ohio from accidental overdoses than from car accidents. It was in this moment that I realized the importance of the pharmacist in combatting the opioid epidemic and prevent- ing prescription drug misuse.
After class that day, my instructor informed me of a program called Generation Rx, which was founded at Ohio State’s College of Pharmacy in 2007. The mission of the program is to educate people of all ages about safe medication practices and the potential dangers of misusing medications. Through working with Generation Rx as a student, I continued to develop my passions for caring for those with substance use disorders and teaching others about medication safety best practices.
This theme grew as I completed my doctor of pharmacy degree, residency training, and fellowship. I am grateful to say I have been able to turn these passions into a career as a faculty member. Each week, I have the opportunity to care for patients with substance use disorders through my clinical practice site, promote medication safety as a Generation Rx team member, and teach undergraduate students about the profession of pharmacy through the same course that inspired me as a student. I have found that the opportunities I had to explore my areas of interest as a pharmacy student have made a considerable impact on my current career, and as a faculty member, I aim to help future pharmacy students do the same.
As the opioid epidemic continues to be a major public health concern, it is more important than ever for pharmacists and pharmacy students to take an active role in combatting the issue. As the most accessible health care provider, pharmacists are uniquely poised to meet patients where they are in the community and provide meaningful education and interventions.
I encourage pharmacy students who wish to become more involved in medication misuse prevention efforts to learn more about Generation Rx. This program educates people of all ages about safe medication practices through evidence-based educational resources packaged as easy-to-use tool kits. All Generation Rx materials are turnkey and designed to provide everything a facilitator needs to hold
a presentation or program. Facilitators can deliver these resources as student pharmacists through a short virtual or in-person educational presentation or program.
Generation Rx also supports facilitators through 2 approaches: including facilitator guides in each tool kit that contain instructions and talking points for delivering the resources, and providing a self-directed online training program called Generation Rx Ambassadors that supports facilitators who are working to develop the knowledge and skill set to appropriately implement Generation Rx education. As I reflect on my career as a student, involvement in Generation Rx allowed me to develop my communication and facilitation skills in addition to learning best practices in science education and prevention.
Another way student pharmacists can get involved is through advocacy efforts, as student voices are powerful and have the potential to make meaningful change. An advocacy issue I was passionate about as a student was increasing access to naloxone, the medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. Through becoming an active member of my state pharmacy association, I was able to advocate for legislation that would expand access to naloxone in the state of Ohio. Now Ohio pharmacies can dispense naloxone to patients without a prescription under a physician protocol.
This experience allowed me to build my network and collaborate with others involved in this work around the state while also providing education about this lifesaving medication to students, pharmacists, and community members. If students are interested in learning more about advocacy and taking an active role in advocacy efforts, I encourage them to join their state pharmacy association to learn about legislation that is affecting pharmacy practice in their state.
These are just a few of the experiences that I had as a student that helped shaped my career. If I had not taken the opportunities available to me to become involved and expand my professional network as a student, I do not believe I would have the opportunities I have today.
My advice for student pharmacists would be to take time to think about the areas of pharmacy that they are most passionate about and form a personal mission statement around these areas of interest. With that mission in mind, students can strategically build their network, become involved in relevant projects or organizations, and ultimately build a story that will help shape a career they are excited about every day.