The Socks n' Sandwiches team has raised funds for more than 1,146 pairs of socks, and more than 720 sandwiches have been passed out this past year.
By Vu Ha, PharmD
In the practice of pharmacy, you truly never know what to expect on a daily basis. There are always obstacles that challenge your mental and emotional capabilities. Pharmacists and student pharmacists continually face adversity in their practice setting, whether it be inpatient or outpatient, and yet always manage to find their way through for the sake of the patient. At times, the focus may be spent so much on drug therapy problems and insurance issues that the patients’ personal adversity is not recognized. Some patients have gone through numerous hardships in their lives while others may come from difficult backgrounds that have affected their views on medication experience.
In January 2017, the National Alliance to End Homelessness published a census regarding the current landscape of the homeless population throughout the United States in terms of demographics and factors affecting the population. The research group interviewed members of the homeless population in order to gauge numerous variables, such as family status and nights spent without a place to stay. The most recent census revealed that 30 states reported decreases in their homeless population, yet the other 20 had increases in their homeless population. California had the largest increase with 13,252 individuals, whereas Georgia saw a drop of 2,735 individuals.
The unfortunate truth is that many members of the homeless population are afflicted with mental health conditions and lack the basic needs to access health care services. There is an alarming need to bring more awareness and resolve to a patient subset that tend to be overlooked by even the most astute health professionals. This is what we have done at the University of Minnesota (UM) College of Pharmacy.
Knowing the value of hard work
I am a first generation Asian American and the first to receive a college education in my family. I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand as my parents sought out a clear passage to the United States. When we finally came to America, our family had no money to our name. With no house, no job, and no sense of belonging anywhere just yet, it would be an understatement to say that my family struggled initially. I can recall sleeping as a cozy family of 5 on the floor of our family friend’s apartment and using coupons to get free lunches at my elementary school. My grandpa, at the age of 56, was laying tiles and bricks, my mom worked at a nail salon, and my uncle cut hair. My unique background taught me this: hardships of any sort ultimately teach you the value of hard work. I am forever thankful for those that have changed my life for the best and influenced me to strive for more. It is due to those around me that have inspired me to do more for those that cannot help themselves.
I had developed a strong passion for community work after volunteering in underserved communities for many years at UM. During this past year, I began a volunteer initiative known as Socks n’ Sandwiches. For this campaign, I aim to create 60 sandwiches monthly and deliver them on the fourth Thursday of every month to local homeless shelters around the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area. Each sandwich is affixed with a positive saying or quote on a notecard for the individual to read once they open their sandwich bags.
Socks are fundraised monthly as well, and there has been an outpouring amount of support from the world of pharmacy. The UM College of Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems Department, Park Nicollet Medication Therapy Management Team, Mayo Clinic Austin Pharmacy, Walgreens Specialty St. Cloud, Fairview Health Systems, Shepard of the Grove Lutheran Church, and many more have helped me each month create these sandwiches and donate socks on their own behalf. Although the process is meant to help those that cannot help themselves, I have come to find that coming together for this activity promotes team building and brings awareness for the cause.
Making a difference
Pharmacists and student pharmacists alike have offered countless hours and their services to Socks n’ Sandwiches to demonstrate the profession’s ability to understand the culture of underserved patients and continue our philanthropic ways. As a whole, we have raised funds for more than 1,146 pairs of socks, and more than 720 sandwiches have been passed out this past year.
Pharmacy is an ever-changing profession filled with obstacles, but it demonstrates resilience and aptitude to adapt to any given situation. My challenge to you is this: join me in making a sandwich one day in the near future, or donate a pair of socks, and help bring awareness to the campaign against hunger in the homeless patient population.
Also, when you have a minute, please check out my Socks n’ Sandwiches promotional video.