Pharmacy Students Have Myriad Opportunities to Tackle Health Disparities, Social Issues

Pharmacy Careers, Fall 2021, Volume 15, Issue 02

The past 2 years have been filled with social upheaval, and as trusted community members, pharmacists have stepped up to meet these challenges.

The past 2 years have been filled with social upheaval, and as trusted community members, pharmacists have stepped up to meet these challenges. While handling the ongoing stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacy school faculty members, administrators, and students have found unique ways to also address social determinants of health and disparities both in curricula and in the daily hands-on work of pharmacy.

Social determinants of health propose that the conditions in which people live, work, learn, and play can directly affect their health risks and outcomes. As community members living in the same neighborhoods as their patients, pharmacists are well positioned to address these issues. By asking patients about housing stability, food access, or mental health concerns, pharmacists can learn more about their patients and provide more holistic, patient-centered care.

In this issue of Pharmacy Careers, we feature pharmacy students and faculty members who are tackling social disparities in health care and their impact on patient health.

At the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, students and faculty members have created affinity groups to provide space for people with shared identities and backgrounds to connect. In a Student Voices article, Leyla Rashid, a PharmD candidate, said these groups provided essential spaces to gather during the social upheaval of the summer of 2020.

Disparities in health care have also been frequent topics at various conferences, and a feature article reviews one such session at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy 2021 Virtual Meeting, titled "Teaching On Half the Story: The Case of Systemic Racism." In the session, experts reviewed survey results that found teaching on systemic racism is a low priority in pharmacy curricula, although that may be changing.

Pharmacists and pharmacy students are also turning to social media to connect with others in the field while raising awareness about issues they are passionate about. A feature article by Nyrah Saleem, PharmD, discusses how pharmacy students can use various platforms to advocate for provider status and increased public awareness about the profession.

Similarly, a new series on social media pharmacy "influencers" features several pharmacists popular on TikTok, several of whom said they use the app to tackle COVID-19 misinformation. Social media literacy will certainly be an essential skill for pharmacists in the future, both to connect with other health care professionals and to educate patients.

Students are also active on the issue of environmental sustainability. In a feature article, Ashley Lam, a PharmD candidate at the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy, reviews how closely related health care and the environment can be, as well as ways that students can tackle environmental issues while pursuing their studies.

We hope you enjoy reading these and other stories in this issue of Pharmacy Careers and gain insight into how the next generation of pharmacists are poised to handle the challenges of a changing health care and societal landscape.

Thank you for reading!