UW News

April 15, 2010

Pharmacy students make mark on Capitol Hill

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Several UW pharmacy students traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to attend two national pharmacy-association events. They came home with multiple national awards and some newfound government connections.

Three awards were especially noteworthy. At the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) convention, the UW’s APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists chapter received the Chapter Achievement Award in their division. Pharmacy student Jonathan Chenoweth received an APhA Student Leadership Award. And student Brent Leithauser picked up a Pharmacy Student Advocacy Award at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Rx Impact event.

The APhA chapter award recognized the UW students for outstanding accomplishments during the 2008-2009 school year. It honors groups that set new standards of leadership, professionalism and patient care.

The UW chapter was praised specifically for superior outreach activities and advocacy efforts. Just a few of the many activities the chapter organized that year were hypertension screenings at Seattle Seahawks games and various health fairs for underserved populations.

For their advocacy efforts, members organized a voter-registration drive during the 2008 elections and held an information session on health care-related issues. The chapter also collaborated with the Washington State Pharmacy Association on a letter-writing campaign that ultimately helped protect Medicaid patients’ access to pharmacy services.

More than 20 student members represented the UW’s APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists chapter at the convention in Washington, D.C. Second-year student (and chapter president-elect) Sara McElroy accepted the award.

“I am so proud of our students and of their continued involvement in programs aimed at improving the health of their communities,” said Associate Dean of Academic and Student Programs and chapter co-adviser Nanci Murphy, who was also at the convention. “As a pharmacist myself, it means so much to me to see how devoted they are to helping others and to see the impact of their activities on a local, national, and international level.”

For individual leadership and academic achievement, third-year pharmacy student Jonathan Chenoweth accepted a prestigious Student Leadership Award from APhA. One of only four awards given nationally, it came with a $500 scholarship prize.

Chenoweth is the president of the School of Pharmacy’s Bridges to Health Patient Advocacy Center, which seeks to reduce health disparities and increase student pharmacist involvement in the community. Under his guidance, the organization has supported events such as a Nisqually Tribe flu clinic, a children’s health fair in Snohomish, and a continuing-education session at the Northwest Pharmacy Convention on community outreach and patient care projects.

He is also on the School of Pharmacy’s Student Advisory Committee on Professionalism. Previously, he served as the director of the student political advocacy network for the UW APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists. In that role, he educated students about legislation and its impact on the pharmacy school and profession.

In the nomination letters for his award, fellow UW pharmacy students praised Chenoweth for his ability to inspire others to take action through legislative outreach.

Brent Leithauser’s award also honored legislative-outreach efforts. He and pharmacy student Andrew Helm from Washington State University received an NACDS Student Advocacy Award for organizing Pharmacy Legislative Day in Olympia, Wash., this past February.

The two third-year pharmacy students worked several months to help organize the event, which brought 141 student pharmacists, 20 pharmacists and multiple UW and Washington State University (WSU)  faculty members to the state capitol. They coordinated meetings with Washington state legislators and government officials and organized health screenings and other activities. They were advocating for pro-pharmacy, pro-patient legislative actions.

When receiving their award from NACDS in Washington, D.C, Leithauser and Helm were invited to take their legislative outreach to the next level. Through the association’s Rx Impact event, they met with Congressional representatives to talk about topics ranging from medication-therapy-management services to vaccination coverage.

All told, the two met with officials in the offices of more than nine legislators from Washington and Oregon, including U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray and Ron Wyden.

UW pharmacy students also organized some of their own meetings with legislative representatives while they were in Washington, D.C. They wanted to build on their momentum from the Olympia event and advocate for their future profession.

As it turned out, they were in the nation’s capitol just weeks before the historic health care reform legislation passed.

“To be there while all of this was going on was a rare opportunity,” said Leithauser, “and I was proud that we could help make our collective voice as pharmacists heard.”