UW News

December 8, 2010

Pharmacy students leave a lasting impression on public officials

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

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Part of the UW School of Pharmacys mission is to enable pharmacy students to engage with other health care providers and community leaders to improve patient care and enhance the practice of pharmacy. Its a mission that each new generation of students seems eager to accomplish.

In 2010, pharmacy students efforts to engage with public officials were especially noteworthy.

In February, they helped organize a successful Pharmacy Legislative Day, which brought more than 150 student pharmacists, practicing pharmacists and faculty members from UW and Washington State University to the state capitol to meet with state legislators and government officials. The event had such an important impact that UW students Karen Craddick and Brent Leithauser and WSU student Andrew Helm received student advocacy awards from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores for their role in helping organize the event.

In the spring, while in Washington, D.C., for the American Pharmacists Association convention, several students arranged meetings with government officials. In total, they met with representatives from the offices of more than ten legislators from Washington and Oregon to advocate for patients and for their future profession.

State senator Ed Murray holds up a UW School of Pharmacy T-shirt students gave to him during a tour of their school.

State senator Ed Murray holds up a UW School of Pharmacy T-shirt students gave to him during a tour of their school.

During the senators visit, pharmacy student Huey Yu gave a presentation about the pharmacy student curriculum and the role of pharmacists in health care. The UW Pharm.D. curriculum includes extensive training in drug safety and therapeutics. When students enter pharmacy practice, they have the skills to offer a wide range of health care services, from providing vaccinations and teaching health education workshops to managing medication use and implementing disease-prevention programs.

After Yu spoke, the students, decked out in purple and gold, had a question-and-answer session with the senator. A discussion followed with Sen. Murray about state revenue and the difficult decisions elected officials face in balancing the budget. There was a shared concern over how budget cuts could hurt higher education and, by extension, the business and research landscape in the state.

Further, three current legislative issues were hot topics of discussion: a proposed increase in penalties for pharmacy robberies (which are on the rise in the state); the projected changes in Medicare Part D co-pay coverage; and the push for pharmacists to be reimbursed for providing clinical services to better serve patients and ease the burden on the health care system.

“We were glad to have this chance to voice our concerns and explore pharmacy issues with Senator Murray in person,” said Leithauser. “The senator and his aide brought great questions, and we had a rich discussion.”

For the senators part, he said the students made an impression on him for their commitment to their profession and their sense of service. In addition, according to Murray, the students helped teach him what an integral role pharmacy plays in the health care delivery system.

“[They] made the subject of pharmacy real and concrete to me,” said Murray.  “And I was impressed by how interested and committed the students were to public policy.”