APhA Student Leadership Award recipient: Sidrah Alam
Interview with: Sidrah Alam, Shenandoah University Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy
1. As you reflect on your student pharmacist experience thus far, what are some of your favorite memories?
My favorite memories from pharmacy school are related to the people I have met and connected with thanks to APhA−ASP: my pharmily. My family and friends all know me as "the APhA girl."
I’d like to give a shout-out to Jennifer Bingham, who was president-elect of my chapter when I was a first-year student pharmacist. She sat down next to me at the interest meeting and just introduced herself and started talking to me. I had no idea who she was or that she was president-elect. That first conversation is what introduced me to the organization, and her advice ever since has been invaluable.
My first conference as a student pharmacist was the Midyear Regional Meeting during my first year. I was scared and nervous because school had started not even 2 months earlier, and I was already at a conference. But I remember being so comfortable and having so much fun—it felt as though I’d known the people there for years.
Another important memory for me is the January Business Meeting at APhA Headquarters, my last in-person meeting before the pandemic hit. I was able to connect with the rest of the newly elected regional officers and learn about the academy and how to best serve in our roles. APhA Headquarters was filled with students who were passionate and ready to serve their regions. I will never forget the instantaneous bonding I had with my other regional officers—they’re some of my closest friends now!
2. Pharmacy school is demanding, especially when you add other activities. How do you manage all your responsibilities?
Planners (physical and Google calendar). Sticky notes (physical and on my computer). To-do lists. I am a HUGE list person. There is such satisfaction in checking off things on a list.
Since the pandemic, I have been using Google calendar to block out my meetings and rotation/class times and to mark my exam dates/times. I also use a physical agenda to keep track of more daily things such as assignments or to remind myself to review that day’s lecture. I cross out items when completed.
Writing down my responsibilities in different formats on different platforms allows me to break down the task as needed. My Google calendar enables me to see what times I am busy, whereas my sticky notes may be quick reminders. I also use a huge whiteboard to break down tasks even further. For example, if I have an exam on Friday, I will write on that whiteboard all the lectures I want to review and the days I want to review them. This allows me to break down tasks without being too overwhelmed because I can check off small parts of the project even if the whole project isn’t done. This also helps me not procrastinate too much.
It’s easy to procrastinate and be overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done. While holding several leadership positions within different organizations, conducting research with a professor, studying for exams, pursuing a masters alongside my PharmD, and working as an intern, pharmacy school has kept me busy. I make sure to schedule some time for friends and family as well.
3. What are some of your favorite leadership tools and/or resources?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is a much-loved book that has laid the foundation for my leadership. I also enjoy listening to random podcasts about tips and tricks. Podcasts are a great way to tune in while multitasking (e.g., working out or doing laundry). Other books I have enjoyed are Good to Great by Jim Collins, Start with Why by Simon Sinek, and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I also think it’s important to reach out to people you see as leaders. Ask questions and you’ll get great insight.
4. What does being a leader, and being selected for this award, mean to you?
When I lost the election to be president of my school’s APhA–ASP Chapter, my chapter president told me that leaders are chosen according to constituents’ needs at the time. Everyone is qualified but may not be what the team needs right then. That doesn’t mean you should stop making an impact. Though I was devastated when I lost the election, her words helped me realize that I can make an impact in other ways.
A title does not define leadership. For me, being a leader means making those hard decisions sometimes and being able to have those difficult conversations while still displaying empathy. Being a leader means empowering others to grow. A leader looks at all perspectives and tries to mesh the whole team together. A leader is dynamic and fluid in what the team needs at that moment.
Being nominated and selected for an APhA Student Leadership Award was unexpected but very exciting. Recognition from the academy at a national level is such an honor. It is very humbling to be selected alongside some great leaders and have my passion for APhA–ASP recognized. I hope that in turn, I can somehow inspire even just one student pharmacist to realize their potential. I am super-thankful to my chapter advisors, Renee Thomas, PharmD, and Sarah Parnapy Jawaid, PharmD, for always encouraging me and supporting me. Without them, I would not have evolved into the student pharmacist I am today.
5. What’s next for you?
Next stop on the pharmacy school train: APPEs! I started my rotations in May. I am already loving the clinical exposure and hope to pursue a residency in the future.
I am still shocked that I am saying this, but also next is serving as one of the APhA–ASP 2021–22 National Members-at-large. That means I have been blessed with the opportunity to be the voice of student pharmacists and get to connect with student pharmacists nationwide—hopefully in person as well as virtually!