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As a Pharmacist, how will I make a difference in the profession?

By Renee Riddix-Hilliard, Pharm.D. Candidate University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

As a pharmacy student, I have begun to pave my path of how I will make a difference in the profession of pharmacy as a pharmacist. First, I am and will continue to play as active role in increasing the number of students who pursue the profession in a capacity that has never been explored. To begin to fulfill this goal, I have founded a high school tutorial program, A Bridge to Academic Excellence, to which students from the University of Maryland schools of pharmacy, medicine, law, dentistry, and physical therapy participate. On many saturdays during the school year, we tutor approximately eighty high school students in mathematics. in order to inform and encourage students to become pharmacists, I have arranged for mentoring and internship committees to be created through our program. The pharmacy-mentoring program is comprised of a group of pharmacy students that invite the high school students to participate in some of their professional and social activities. The pharmacy internships we are developing involve volunteer or stipend paid work sites where the high school students can learn about pharmacy during the summer months.

When I become a pharmacist, I have been asked and intend to remain on the board of the tutorial program as the project coordinator. my faculty advisor for the tutorial program is applying and seeking numerous grants and other funding to support and expand the program. With additional monies, the program can be enlarged to become a model for all pharmacy schools around the country. When the public observes the impact of A Bridge to Academic Excellence Tutorial Program on society, the image of pharmacists as educators who have a fountain of knowledge that they are willing to share will be enhanced.

Secondly, as a pharmacy student, I have begun to be an information resource for the minority community and other pharmacists. At present, I give free, mini-lectures on disease state prevention, management, and medication counseling for my faculty preceptors at workshops for health professionals and my local church. As a pharmacist, I intend to expand these lectures to include all churches in Baltimore City and surrounding counties at no cost to the patient. These lectures will continue to make a difference in the knowledge base with which consumers are equipped. Furthermore, they will empower the patient to play an active role in his/her health care.

Since I have a particular interest in the disadvantaged and minority communities who tend to avoid seeing a health care provider until a major illness/event occurs, I believe that I will be a valuable asset to these populations. In addition, I believe the response rate of patient's attending their local church as opposed to going to a facility, such as a doctor's office or clinic, is and will continue to be very high because the environment of the church communicates trust and integrity. I am convinced that my operating as a pharmacist in this capacity will improve the image of the pharmacist as an information resource that can be trusted.

Moreover, there is sufficient evidence in the literature to support that a pharmacist's interventions have a positive impact on the health of the patient. If I could attract other colleagues within the profession, to help by volunteering one day a year, we could offer multiple disease state management seminars and counseling to patients on an individual basis in different communities. The more pharmacists I can recruit to join in this cause, the greater number of events we can have a various sites within a year.

Also, as a pharmacist, I can be an information resource for the physician of the patients to which I give medication counseling. I can serve as the gap between the patient and the physician. For example, I was reviewing a patient's medications when she told me that she was cutting her extended release blood pressure tablet in half because she was experiencing side effects and the strength was twice the amount she normally gets so she thought the doctor made a mistake. When I informed her that she should not be cutting the tablets in half because of how they were made to work and that she should contact her doctor, she requested that I contact him for her because she felt he was too busy for her. After the session, I contacted the patient's physician to make him aware of what she said and had been doing. This small, but significant interaction may have saved the patient from having uncontrolled hypertension, increased her compliance, and facilitated future communications between the patient and the physician. When I become a pharmacist, I think that being a liaison for the patient and doctor in the community will make a difference in the profession of pharmacy.

Thirdly, I am convinced that as a pharmacist, I can make a difference in the profession of pharmacy by implementing practical, non-invasive patient monitoring programs in retail pharmacy. Currently, I have begun an osteoarthritis research project that simply requires a questionnaire and a simple monitoring to gain evidence on the value of a little data collection, which doesn't require a large amount of the pharmacist's time. Should the outcome of this project become evidence for the proposed idea, it may be published in a journal. Furthermore, I plan to design, implement and teach other practical disease state management projects to retail and/or consulting pharmacists.

Lastly, I will make a difference in the profession of pharmacy by supporting and developing programs that supply medications and medical services to the elderly and financially impoverished. Despite the fact that I have not been able to actively begin working on this goal to date, I have found a resource from which to begin. There is a clinic located in Columbia, Maryland for which I have visited while I was completing a rotation with a pharmaceutical company. The site was in need of a pharmacist who would volunteer one-half day per week to dispense donated samples of medication to patients. Initially, as a pharmacist, I plan on becoming involved with this organization as a dispensing pharmacist. I believe I have to first meet the present need prior to doing anything else. From there, I intend to learn the business, enlarge the scope of its vision, and extend it to other clinic sites.

In summary, when I become a pharmacist, I intend to make difference by creating and implementing ideas for disease state management, mentoring high school and pharmacy students, teaching pharmacists and other health care professionals about disease state management, uniting pharmacists to volunteer time to provide services to the disadvantaged, providing medication counseling, and facilitating communication between patients and their physicians. Although I am contemplating of where I will be employed as a pharmacists, whatever I choose must allow me to demonstrate that I am providing a necessary service that is beneficial to the patient as well as give me the opportunity to present ideas to expand and/or enhance what I do.

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