Elena Buff (far right) recently organized a multi-cultural health fair at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, MD.
By the 2018–19 APhA–ASP Member Engagement Standing Committee
What does being an engaged APhA–ASP member mean to you? If you ask a group of student pharmacists this question, you will inevitably receive a variety of individualized answers. While it is important for chapter leaders to create a culture where members feel a sense of belonging, it is up to each individual member to seize the organization’s opportunities and embrace their own calling.
But where does one start if they want to become more engaged?
Why you stay involved
Remember not only why you joined APhA–ASP, but also why you continue to stay involved. Thoma Qafko, an incoming first-year student pharmacist starting this fall at MCPHS University Boston APhA–ASP Chapter, joined because APhA–ASP was the most prominent organization on campus. However, he stayed involved because of the numerous patient care opportunities available for him to make a difference in his community.
Speaking about the first Operation Diabetes event he attended, Thomas noted “Since that moment, I saw multiple dimensions that a great pharmacist needs to have and it became clear to me that APhA–ASP would give me the opportunity to explore them before I even got to step inside a real pharmacy.”
Like Thoma, you can use your involvement in APhA–ASP to make a meaningful impact while growing as a future pharmacist. Find what you love within the organization and use that as inspiration to stay engaged.
“An engaged member of APhA–ASP is someone who not only gets from the organization, but also gives to it,” Thoma added. It is vital to give back in order to get the most out of your membership. As a general member, this could mean physically attending events, sharing event ideas with chapter leaders, helping plan or coordinate a project, or simply communicating with other students to spread APhA–ASP’s mission and available opportunities. As a third- or final-year student pharmacist, take the opportunity to engage with first- or second-year students. Share your story or personally invite them to become more involved. Making those personal connections will create a culture that everyone will want to be a part of.
Don’t let failure ruin your legacy
When it comes to active membership, keeping an open mind and trying different things are recommended. As Elena Buff, a third-year student pharmacist at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, told us, “You may think you hate the idea of policy and advocacy only to discover that you’re really passionate about it.” You never know what you like (or don’t like) until you try. Once you figure out what your calling is, it is important to focus on that and continue to build on that opportunity within APhA.
Taking risks and continuing to stay involved when things may not go your way is another virtue. Elena ran for President-elect of her chapter, and although she was not elected, the experience was an opportunity for growth that will benefit her far into the future. She recalls her mentor speaking candidly: “(He) told us a story of one of his failures and reminded us that losing an election or not landing a job offer is a normal part of life every now and then. It pushed me to reflect and ask myself if I wanted to let this failure ruin my legacy. I didn’t.”
From there, she thought back to why she ran in the first place and realized it was due to her passion for patient care. Elena didn’t let this setback stop her and she went on to help plan and execute a multi-cultural festival and health fair in her local community.
A final piece of advice
Lastly, use your own skills to contribute to your chapter. This could be video editing, photography, graphic design, teaching, or, like in Thoma’s case, writing. He was able to use this skill set to write a piece for the Fenway News about why the public should get vaccinated for meningitis B. Not only was he able to fulfill a passion of his outside of pharmacy, but he’s also now looking for more opportunities to write for APhA–ASP.
Make the most of your membership
As you start thinking about this next year, remember to reflect on why you joined APhA–ASP in the first place and why you want to stay involved. Think about how you want to contribute to your chapter and make sure to keep an open mind when exploring your passions. Consider running for a position but realize that your impact isn’t limited by a title. And think about how you can use your skills outside of pharmacy in meaningful ways. If you do all these things, not only will be able to make the most out of your APhA–ASP membership, but you will be a more engaged member.