A spark turns into a fire
Rohan Zaveri is a final-year PharmD candidate at MCPHS University Boston School of Pharmacy.
APhA’s 2019 Annual Meeting & Exposition in Seattle ignited a spark of advocacy within me. That spark turned into a fire when I was elected as the policy vice president (VP) of MCPHS University Boston’s APhA–ASP Chapter the following year. Policy VPs are the heart and soul of the advocacy effort at the chapter level. One of my main responsibilities as the policy VP is to serve as a delegate representing the university's APhA–ASP Chapter at regional and national meetings and voting on policy proposals on behalf of my chapter.
Serving as the chapter delegate was very empowering for me. I was excited to be a part of the process, which historically has brought monumental changes to the profession, including the white coat ceremony and pharmacy interns gaining the authority to provide immunizations. In fall of 2019, I represented my chapter at the Region 1 Midyear Regional Meeting in Providence, RI. As I sat on those benches in the front row of the hall, I remembered that only a few months earlier, I was fascinated to see my peers in this position and how they were impacting the profession. I felt a deep satisfaction, as if my advocacy spirit had achieved nirvana in that moment.
Mental health first aid
This past year, we all observed an increase in mental health issues across the nation due to the pandemic and the social unrest ignited by the death of George Floyd. I personally came across many of my pharmacy peers who struggled with these issues. In addition, there has been significant work-related stress and burnout in the pharmacy field.
During such times, it is important to prepare student pharmacists and health care workers to recognize the signs of mental health crisis among their patients or in themselves. Hence, my policy committee and I formulated a proposal to incorporate mental health first aid (MHFA) training into the pharmacy curriculum. The proposal received overwhelming support at the regional level. Building upon the proposal, I am collaborating with the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists chapter at MCPHS to plan a fully virtual MHFA certification for students this summer.
The greatest (virtual) pharmacy show
At first, I was disappointed to learn that APhA’s 2020 Annual Meeting and the APhA–ASP House of Delegates were happening virtually. I was rooting for another "greatest pharmacy show" and not another fatigue-driven virtual conference.
But I was wrong. The cool thing about APhA is the everlasting passion, enthusiasm, and optimism for the profession among the members. Even though I was sitting miles apart from my colleagues, I could feel that passion and enthusiasm through my laptop screen. The debates on policy were as intense and nerve-wracking as ever, the speakers as inspiring, the House of Delegates as satisfying.
I was honored to serve once again as the chapter delegate for MCPHS at the 2021 APhA-ASP HoD. It was a bittersweet experience, as it was my last chance to represent the voice of my chapter as a student pharmacist. However, I was honored that at my last HoD, I was able to push for policies that advocated for environmental sustainability for pharmacies, active involvement of pharmacists in the provision of medication assisted treatment in vulnerable patient population, and expanding the role of technicians to administer vaccines (see resolutions below). I can say without any hesitation that my involvement with the HoD is one of my highlights of being a student pharmacist.
It's your future—so get involved!
I believe that policy and advocacy in their most basic form are grassroots organizing. Grassroots movements help drive the profession forward. APhA–ASP is the only student pharmacist organization with a student-run policy development process. Many students are not aware that the APhA–ASP House of Delegates not only represents the voices of 36,000 student pharmacists but also more than 62,000 pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, and pharmacy technicians. Student pharmacists should use this platform to empower themselves and their peers to envision and advance the future of pharmacy.
During pharmacy school, we all learn about the laws affecting our practice, but we rarely talk about changing the laws because we are busy studying for our beloved pharmacy law exams. However, it is important to understand that the laws passed today will affect our future practice as pharmacists. That’s why it is essential for student pharmacists to get involved in advocacy and reform. Now is the time to make a positive impact on our profession and strive for its collective growth.
HoD gets down to business
The APhA–ASP House of Delegates debated and passed the following resolution statements during APhA2021 in March.
2021.1: Environmental Sustainability in Pharmacy
APhA–ASP encourages pharmacies to establish and incorporate environmentally sustainable practices into pharmacy operations through initiatives including but not limited to:
Transitioning to the use of electronic receipts and health information
Minimizing the use of single-use bags
Utilizing recycling programs for non-patient identifiable containers including but not limited to stock bottles, vials, and paper products
2021.2: Medication-Assisted Treatment in Vulnerable Patient Populations
APhA–ASP encourages local, state, and federal government agencies and other appropriate stakeholders to increase access to, and provide funding for, widespread implementation and utilization of medication-assisted treatment programs for patients suffering from opioid use disorder.
APhA–ASP encourages active involvement of the pharmacist in the provision of medication-assisted treatment in vulnerable patient populations, including, but not limited to, incarcerated persons, people experiencing homelessness, and those living in medically underserved communities.
2021.3: Pharmacy Technicians' Role in Immunization Administration
APhA–ASP encourages state and federal legislators, state boards of pharmacy, and other appropriate stakeholders to expand the role of pharmacy technicians to allow for adequately trained technicians (under the supervision of a pharmacist) to administer vaccines. Pharmacy technician training shall include, but not be limited to, appropriate technician certification, and/or state licensure, immunization training/certification, and basic life support.
APhA–ASP supports the supervising pharmacist’s individual discretion in delegating immunization administration responsibilities to willing and adequately trained pharmacy technicians.
APhA–ASP affirms the role of the supervising pharmacist in providing clinical patient assessment and patient counseling when delegating immunization administration to a willing and adequately trained pharmacy technician.