University of Utah students recently participated in a month-long Global Public Health Learning Abroad experience in the rural communities surrounding the city of Kumasi.
By Kelsey Merlo
The theme of the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) is to “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Acting locally is simple; most student pharmacists volunteer at flu clinics or offer their time at a non-profit clinic. The opportunities are right in front of you. Thinking globally is a unique aspect of service and stems from the awareness that pharmacists provide a service that can have a greater impact globally than what is seen first-hand.
Planning events as an IPSF Chapter Vice President (VP) can sometimes be challenging because you might not know where to start. Perhaps your organization is like mine, where IPSF was underrepresented for years. As the new VP, I felt like I had to build from the ground up, so to change that and help my fellow students learn more about what IPSF has to offer, I began my pursuit of having a global impact right here in Salt Lake City.
Tip 1: Research the needs in your area
I started simply by researching the needs in my area! One of our biggest needs is our refugee community. So, this fall, we hosted an event for local refugees to come and get free blood pressure screenings, immunizations, and more. While communicating with our local organization, we learned that hygiene kits are in high demand. In response, we hosted a night to assemble these kits to provide for those in need.
Tip 2: Ask around
You hear the saying all the time in pharmacy school, that “Pharmacy is a small world,” and networking is a major part of the APhA–ASP Midyear Regional Meeting and APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition. Before I was even in pharmacy school, I knew that no matter what, I wanted to make a global impact as a student pharmacist and use that to inspire others and make a difference. I asked my classmates what they would like to see in the future and gathered a list of names for those I could turn to. Having people to bounce ideas off will make a huge difference. Plus, they keep you grounded in what activities are feasible, and which ones seem a bit unrealistic.
Tip 3: Reach out
See if there are local organizations you can partner with. For example, partnering with the American Red Cross for the Vampire Cup helps build new connections you can use to generate future events. For our refugee outreach event, our chapter partnered with a local organization that has a direct impact on this population.
The population you wish to work with is clearly informed about your event, and can easily access necessary information when you partner with another organization. Remember to work smarter, not harder! If you don’t need to build something from scratch during your busy pharmacy schedule, partnering is not only a great resource, it’s even a better way to understand your community and what is currently being done to implement change.
Tip 4: Use what you’ve got
At our chapter, IPSF has hosted a public 5K race for a few years. The focus is to raise scholarship money for those who are interested in doing international pharmacy research in Ghana. This year, I am refining our 5K to better focus on generating scholarships for students who are interested in the IPSF Student Exchange Program.
Tip 5: Be present and do the little things
Spend some quality time talking to someone and hear their concerns. This could be a patient attending your event or with one of your committee members. True leadership means being well rounded, open to criticism, and taking initiative. It also means doing some hard things. Make those hard things worth your while.
Get together with some passionate people and never pre-emptively assume who you think will be interested. Ask everyone and anyone! You will be surprised at who is willing to jump on board, make connections, and help your team create focused, organized, and fun events for your school.
And here is my bonus tip for you: Have fun! The purpose of these events is to help develop student pharmacists, and the more practice received via leadership, service, and awareness of local needs, the more ready tomorrow’s practitioners will be for the big pharmacy world ahead.