A scoop of ice cream and a scoop of advocacy
Scotty Reams: 'Take risks and think outside the box.'
When I was a kid, the same ice cream truck would visit my house each summer. It wasn’t an ordinary ice cream truck, though. What made this ice cream truck so special? Well, the ice cream was always free and the operator of the truck just happened to be my state representative. Over the years, that ice cream truck-driving state representative taught me that government and advocacy could be fun. He sparked a fire within me that led me to become the 2020 APhA Good Government Student Pharmacist-of-the-Year.
During high school and throughout my undergraduate experience, I volunteered on a number of political campaigns. That involvement led to an internship in Rep. Hal Rogers’s (R–KY) Washington, DC, office. From there, the congressman and Kentucky’s governor appointed me to a task force challenged with revitalizing eastern Kentucky’s economy. These experiences only fueled the flame that the state representative once ignited.
Before starting pharmacy school, a veteran pharmacist told me the best thing I could do to launch a successful career was to get involved with pharmacy organizations and associations. I quickly joined the University of Kentucky APhA–ASP Chapter and was later elected Chapter President. Around that time, our chapter received national recognition for an advocacy campaign we spearheaded, sending hundreds of pro-provider status letters to members of Congress. Most recently, our chapter organized a student-run health fair for lawmakers in our state Capitol. Lawmakers had their blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels checked by student pharmacists, all while students advocated for a bill that would allow Kentucky pharmacists to receive payment for services covered under protocols and collaborative care agreements.
My chapter involvement led to an appointment to the Kentucky Pharmacists Association’s (KPhA) Government Affairs Committee. Soon after, I became the youngest member of KPhA’s Board of Directors. In this role, I was tasked with student recruitment for KPhA’s annual legislative conference—an event where state lawmakers have roundtable discussions with pharmacists and students about various topics affecting the profession. I was so proud to have more than 200 student pharmacists in attendance.
This past year, I launched a campaign to fill the seat of my retiring, ice cream truck-driving state representative. If elected, I will be the youngest lawmaker in Kentucky and one of the youngest nationwide.
For some, the words “advocacy,” “government,” or “politics” can spark fear or ignite an instant sense of boredom. Chances are, not everyone had a state representative bring an ice cream truck to their house and discuss all the ways those words can be exciting. That’s understandable. If you are reading this, maybe you are excited by the thoughts of a cool residency program or unique practice site. Maybe you have thought of an innovative practice model and can’t wait to graduate and get it off the ground. No matter what excites you or what you have planned post-graduation, advocacy affects all areas of pharmacy. It is the foundation in which we are able to practice at the top of our licenses and impact the greatest number of patients. Without advocacy, our patients suffer. No matter what area or type of pharmacy you want to practice, there’s a place in advocacy for you. You are needed–and there’s no better time than today to get started.
As you embark on your career, I challenge you to take risks and think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to be the first or youngest person to do something worthwhile. You may fail, you may have others make fun, and things may not go the way you hope or plan. Those aren’t reasons to stop reaching for greater heights. At the end of the day, your patients will benefit from those risks and that thinking outside the box.
And one last thing: you don’t need an ice cream truck to make a difference.
Scotty Reams is a final-year PharmD candidate at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.