Isabelle Tharp is a final-year PharmD candidate at Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
I remember sitting in the Hart Senate Office Building with two other 2019 Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) attendees, nervously waiting to speak to Karen Summar, MD, the Health Policy Director at the U.S. Senate. I was new to lobbying at the national level and was depending on the mentors I was with to guide me through this experience. Once we started engaging with the legislators and their staff members, I became increasingly comfortable talking about pertinent pharmacy issues. After lobbying on Capitol Hill that weekend at SLI, I developed a strong passion for pharmacy advocacy.
To further explore my passion for advocacy, I applied to serve as a legislative intern at the Iowa State Capitol with pharmacist and Iowa House Rep. John Forbes, BSPharm. I was selected as one of three legislative interns for the 2020 legislative session. In this position, I researched state and national legislation on pharmacy benefit manager regulations, point-of-care testing, insulin price caps, and many other health care–related topics. I also reviewed draft legislation and was able to attend subcommittee meetings, where I shared the results of my research and the impact certain legislative actions would have on the pharmacy profession.
The following summer, I was selected to serve as the 2020 Executive Intern in Association Management at the Iowa Pharmacy Association (IPA). My internship looked drastically different from past internships at IPA because the role went completely remote due to COVID-19. Although a virtual internship changed the course of my summer, it allowed for unique opportunities as well. I was able to co-lead the Policy Review Committee for IPA and drafted a new business item with the IPA Executive Fellow for the IPA House of Delegates on racial injustice and health disparities.
Take action to pursue your passion
Advocacy must be actionable. I was fortunate to serve as president of the Drake APhA–ASP Chapter. In this position, I alerted members when advocacy opportunities arose and promoted more conversations about advocacy in general meetings.
I encourage all student pharmacists to take action by educating those around you about pertinent pharmacy issues, encouraging members of your APhA–ASP Chapter to e-mail their legislators, and backing the APhA–PAC to support elected officials and candidates who advocate for pharmacy issues. Legislation can move slowly, but that does not mean it is not worth fighting for. Seeing the big and small victories the pharmacy profession has achieved through advocacy efforts makes every e-mail and conversation worthwhile.
Although the past few years have provided me with many amazing opportunities, there were barriers along the way. Here's my advice to others who find themselves at a place of failure or doubt: Revisit what you’re most passionate about and see what actions you can take to pursue that passion. I’m thankful for the opportunities I sought out, the leadership positions I did not receive that helped me stumble upon new areas of interest, and the phenomenal people I have met along my pharmacy school journey.
I urge you to continue to pursue your passions, promote pharmacy to those around you, and advocate for the profession.