Student Pharmacist

Written by student pharmacists for student pharmacists, Student Pharmacist magazine provides the latest on career preparation, leadership, legislative activities and advocacy efforts, patient care projects, APhA–ASP Chapter innovations, life on rotation, tips from new practitioners, and more.

Dreaming BIG at APhA
Michelle Cathers

Dreaming BIG at APhA


Parisa “Risa” Vatanka, PharmD, CTTS, is the APhA senior director of corporate alliances based in Oakland, CA.

I was recently asked on a podcast to share my prescription for life, which is to embrace the limitless potential that lies in dreaming big, and importantly, to act on that dream—the vision to move beyond the status quo and contribute to society. As senior director of corporate alliances at APhA, this notion has become my mantra. I collaborate with a range of companies and organizations, including representatives from pharmaceutical industry, digital health companies, professional associations, and patient advocacy groups across the United States and around the globe. In discussions with clients, we explore gaps and opportunities, and I offer solutions to achieve our mutual goals of supporting and advancing the pharmacy profession and improving community health and wellness. I love that no 2 days are alike and that I can explore boundless opportunities to innovate across the health care ecosystem. I have been known to say that if I can dream it, and fund it, I can make it happen!

Champion for digital health

One exciting area that I am actively championing is digital health integration in pharmacy. Digital health is an umbrella term that represents a range of products to support digitally-enabled care, such as wellness apps, telehealth, sensor-enabled medications, digital biomarkers, and digital therapeutics (software-based medicine). There is tremendous potential for pharmacists to take a leading role in the application of these technologies in medication optimization to support patients in self-management of their health. If you haven’t already, I invite you to explore new roles for pharmacists in this digital transformation that is reinventing how health care is delivered and consumed.

The spark

When did my passion for innovating in pharmacy begin? During pharmacy school, I was working in the outpatient pharmacy of a university teaching hospital when a fellow intern asked: “Are you going to New Orleans?” At the time, I didn’t know anything about APhA–ASP or the APhA–ASP Midyear Regional Meetings (MRM). But I loved to travel, so I said, “Sure, sounds amazing, tell me more!”

That brief exchange led to me attending my first MRM, and, a few months later, attending my first APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition. These were defining experiences in which I was exposed to what became the most formative, career-shaping experiences in my life: pursuing a PharmD rather than a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy; participating in 2 summer internships with the Indian Health Service; completing 2 postgraduate residency programs at the University of California, San Francisco and Stanford; and meeting leading pharmacists and student pharmacists from across the country who became—and remain—friends, colleagues, and mentors to whom I am forever grateful.

If you would like to learn more about my career journey and digital health integration in pharmacy, check-out the MelisRxScripts podcast, where I was interviewed by one of the pharmacy luminaries that I met through APhA–ASP all those years ago. Access the podcast at


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