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.

Finding connection in a virtual world: Student pharmacist perspectives from APhA2021 Virtual

Finding connection in a virtual world: Student pharmacist perspectives from APhA2021 Virtual


Allison Olmsted is a final-year PharmD candidate at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.

At APhA's Annual Meeting & Exposition in March, student pharmacists across the nation gathered virtually to engage in a weekend of sessions focused on leadership, advocacy, unconscious bias, networking, and more. Throughout the meeting, many student pharmacists shared inspiring stories of how their chapters have adapted to overcome the unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. By coming together virtually for networking and educational sessions, student pharmacists were able to encourage and support one another during this difficult time. 

During the APhA–ASP Kick-Off Party, student pharmacists shared interests ranging from calligraphy to coffee and had opportunities to build new friendships and professional connections as they exchanged their “virtual business cards.” Taylor Williams, a second-year PharmD candidate from the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, shared her insights on participating in the APhA–ASP networking sessions: “I loved getting to interact personally with student pharmacists from across the country! Chatting about our common interests from the comforts of our own homes was such a unique opportunity that allowed APhA–ASP members to walk away with a network that some would never have expected to build at this year’s annual meeting, given its virtual format,” she said. "I am excited to build on these new relationships with today’s student leaders and the future’s brightest representatives of our profession.” 

Strengthen your 'curiosity muscle' to overcome self-doubt 

“Curiosity is not only one of the greatest tools we have in building lives of purpose and passion, it’s a mindset that each and every one of us can choose, each and every day.” 
—Liz Forkin Bohannon, APhA2021 keynote speaker, founder of Sseko Designs, and author of Beginner’s Pluck: Build Your Life of Purpose and Impact Now 

As student pharmacists, it is often easy to fall into the trap of being overly self-critical when situations do not go as planned. We begin to doubt our abilities and compare ourselves to others. When the seed of doubt is planted, it begins to grow and negatively affects our confidence in our abilities. “What if I’m not good enough? Why didn’t I do as well on the assignment as I wanted to? What if I fail? Am I qualified?” These thoughts have likely crossed the minds of all student pharmacists, ranging from the first-year student pharmacist who is new to pharmacy school all the way to the fourth-year student pharmacist who is ready to embark on their career.

Enter curiosity. During APhA2021 Virtual, keynote speaker Liz Forkin Bohannon challenged students to choose curiosity over criticism. Liz shared her personal story of overcoming self-doubt and shared ways in which curiosity enabled her to build success. Instead of asking questions or making declarative statements framed around our feelings of self-doubt, student pharmacists should strive to increase their “curiosity quotients” (CQ), she said. Student pharmacists can grow their CQ by changing their perspectives on how they view setbacks and react to situations that do not go as expected. 

The next time you find yourself falling into the spiral of self-doubt, ask yourself these questions instead: “How can I improve next time? What did I learn from this experience? What relationships have I built along the way?” Rather than focusing on unproductive and negative lines of thought, use your introspection and curiosity as tools to grow as individuals and learn from your experiences so you can have a positive impact on the communities and organizations you serve. 

Learn to listen so you can lead from the 'passenger seat' 

In addition to strengthening their curiosity, attendees also had the opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills. During her workshop session, student success strategist Linnita Hosten challenged student pharmacists to reframe their views on traditional leadership and to embrace the concept of horizontal leadership, also known as “leading from the passenger seat.”

Oftentimes, student pharmacists believe that being a leader means being in front of a crowd at all times or making difficult decisions alone. Linnita challenged this notion and encouraged student pharmacists to “switch seats” from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat to effect positive change within their organizations. 

Second-year PharmD candidate Kristin Meyers shared her thoughts on Linnita’s session: “I loved the session because I think it is easy to forget that you do not always have to be visible or in charge to be an effective leader.” 

What does it really mean to lead from the passenger seat? 

There are many actions you can take to exemplify horizontal leadership, even if you do not hold what might be considered a “big” leadership title. One piece of advice that Linnita shared is to develop your listening skills. Ask for input from other members of your organization and really take the time to listen and understand their perspectives and needs. Also take the time to construct thoughtful answers to thoughtful questions and use empathy when listening to others' opinions.

Asking questions can prompt leaders to develop better solutions for their organizations as a whole. When leaders ask good questions, they ultimately build curiosity and help create a more inclusive community for all members of the organization, regardless of their leadership title, or lack thereof. Whether you are the president of your organization or a supporting member, remember to use your leadership abilities to empower others. Empowering others will ultimately lead to more success not only for your organization, but also for you as an individual. 

Recognize your unconscious biases to become better health care providers

 “Joy is one of the most tangible deliverables from the work that we do as health care providers. One of the biggest barriers to providing joy for our patients is bias.” 
—Leslie Nwoke, MD, MPH

During the second day of programming, Leslie Nwoke, MD, MPH, physician and executive coach, led an important discussion about how our unconscious bias can inadvertently hurt those who are different from us. It is important to understand that everyone holds some degree of unconscious bias—our environment and unique experiences all compound to shape our individual worldviews. What matters is how we choose to act on our unconscious bias and how we can strive to be more empathetic toward others who have different worldviews and experiences.

As student pharmacists, we should continually challenge ourselves to face our biases and become more self-aware. Ask yourself these questions: “How do my biases affect the words I say? The way I treat my patients? The daily decisions I make? 

Dr. Nwoke, founder and CEO of HeartWork Now, encouraged student pharmacists to take time to perform a “Heart Check”—a moment of self-reflection to better understand your motivations and intentions in how you treat others. 

Understanding our biases requires introspection and a willingness to listen to the stories and experiences of other people. If you have a quiet moment, take time out of your busy day to perform your own “Heart Check.” We must learn to appreciate our differences and understand that our differences make us wholly valuable and unique. Empathy is an incredibly powerful tool that can help us build connections and trust with the patients we serve as student pharmacists. 

A heartfelt thank-you! 

On behalf of APhA–ASP, I'd like to thank all the pharmacy leaders and speakers who challenged and inspired us during APhA2021 Virtual. The invaluable lessons we learned will help shape us to become better pharmacists for the diverse patient populations we serve. Even throughout the challenges of the pandemic, student pharmacists have continually risen to the occasion by adapting and finding ways to create meaningful connections with one another in a virtual world. 

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