Surrounded by colleagues and family at APhA2019 in Seattle, Kelli Jo Welter (center) kicked-off her 'Fearlessly Authentic' presidential theme.
By Kelli Jo Welter
When I was a kid, I struggled a lot with feeling comfortable in my own skin. I ambitiously tried sports in middle school because all my friends played, and after a couple years and a valiant effort, I decided that they were not for me. I figured there had to be something that would challenge and excite me in the same way that my friends were challenged and excited by sports. During my first year of high school, I hesitantly decided to try pottery. A few weeks into the class, I realized I absolutely loved it. It brought such joy that I took an art class almost every semester during high school. Because I tried something outside of my comfort zone, I discovered a passion that I would not have otherwise.
When I decided to pursue what brought me happiness, I became more “Kelli Jo.” I became aware that sports were not going to be a strong suit of mine, but art was. I thrived in art, dance, cheerleading, and speech. I was obsessed with watching a project or a sequence of choreography or even a new cheer develop from an idea into a reality. One of my mentors, Tom Temple, says that leadership is “Bridging the gap between what is and what could be.” Although I didn’t realize it then, these experiences were my first taste of leadership.
APhA–ASP became part of my life within my first few weeks of college. I did not understand the breadth of the organization until I attended my first meeting: the APhA–ASP Summer Leadership Institute. There, surrounded by more than 200 student pharmacists, I realized that APhA–ASP offers a home for all student pharmacists. This organization provides a place to cultivate ideas into actionable projects, events, and policies. Student ideas for serving the community and advancing the profession are what drives this organization. As future pharmacists, it is up to us to shape the profession in which we want to work, live, and grow. Through APhA–ASP, you can share what is important to you.
Along with that comes sharing your story. It may be nerve-wracking to open up, but wouldn’t it be quite a boring world if we all stayed silent?
Drive your professional journey
I have the privilege of introducing a national theme to student pharmacists across the country to use for programming and inspiration throughout the year. “Fearlessly Authentic” came to me last October when traveling for APhA–ASP Midyear Regional Meetings and Student Outreach visits. Throughout my APhA–ASP experiences, I have constantly been inspired by the students I meet and read about in Student Pharmacist and on social media. Your courage to share your story is what makes APhA–ASP a home for all.
APhA–ASP Immediate Past President Nimit Jindal encouraged us to embrace our calling by letting go of some of the control we have on our futures and trust that life has a plan for us. He reminded us to search for what makes us feel alive to fuel our continuous journey in pharmacy. “Fearlessly Authentic” builds upon Nimit’s theme of “Embrace Your Calling.” Being fearlessly authentic means realizing that you can’t be everything to everyone, but instead looking inward to find the feelings that set your soul on fire and using that passion to drive your professional journey.
Take a risk
As we celebrate 50 years of APhA–ASP in 2019, we honor leaders who forged beyond the status quo. They saw a need in their community and in the profession, and they pushed pharmacy forward. We are sometimes told to fit in, to conform, and to live by the status quo. Student pharmacists for the past 50 years have challenged the process. As we envision the future of pharmacy, step outside of your comfort zone. Take a risk. You do not need an official title to be a leader. By being vulnerable and encouraging others to be vulnerable, you are laying the building blocks for yourself and other student pharmacists to be leaders in this profession.
I am often inspired by stars in a night sky. Stars don’t try to outshine each other. They shine brightly on their own, regardless of the glow of other stars. Billions of stars glittering in the Milky Way form a brilliant constellation in the night sky. Each one of you is a star, and each one of you has a story that deserves to be told. APhA–ASP would not be what it is without you. Keep showing up, keep sharing your story, and live your life, “Fearlessly Authentic.”