Student pharmacists, academic faculty, and pharmacy practitioners infrequently interact with state legislators. If they do, it’s often unrecognized, such as filling a legislator’s prescription at a community pharmacy, thought of as a confidential, counseling interaction, and not an opportunity for grassroots professional advocacy. Change-driven pharmacy advocates in colleges and schools of pharmacy need to establish, strengthen, and promote their relationships with state pharmacy organizations, linking students, faculty, and associations in a statewide, grassroots, advocacy net ,,.
The University of Rhode Island (URI) participates in an annual Face of Pharmacy Advocacy day along with the Rhode Island Pharmacists Association (RIPA), the Rhode Island Health-System Pharmacists (RISHP), student associations including the Association of Student Pharmacists (ASP) and the Student Societies of Health-system Pharmacy (SSHP) and URI faculty. This annual event, held in the capitol rotunda at the start of the Rhode Island General Assembly’s session, promotes cutting edge pharmacy practice. The event brings students, faculty and the associations’ professional and student membership together to rally behind issues and/or legislation affecting pharmacy practice. The goals of the event are to have legislators: “see” pharmacy practice and interact with students, professionally dressed in their white coats; expand their impression of pharmacy practice; and support legislative changes to permit wider adoption and implementation of clinical pharmacy services. This builds on the success of student engagement in the development of legislation permitting pharmacists to administer vaccines described in a comprehensive history of pharmacist advocacy .
Demonstration tables, staffed by APPE students, preceptors, and faculty provide free services to the legislators such as: hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol screenings; body fat analysis; immunizations; and medication therapy management and counseling. P1 students interact with pharmacists at the tables and learn what changes in pharmacy they should promote in meetings with legislators. A speaking program highlights legislation important to pharmacists and desired changes not yet legislated. Past speakers include the director of the state health department, the governor, a pharmacist-legislator, the chair of the board of pharmacy, the presidents of RIPA and RISHP and a student pharmacist chosen based on his or her advocacy efforts. Often a keynote speaker highlights one particular issue that have included immunizations, reimbursement, medication therapy management and importation of medications from Canada.
I recommend that AACP develop a toolkit for colleges and schools of pharmacy for building advocacy-centered collaborations with their state pharmacist (practitioner) associations. Students, faculty, and association leaders can first align their goals and strategies using content from, “Leadership and Advocacy for Pharmacy,” in which the authors use personal experiences to guide the reader through all of the steps necessary for advocacy success . Nationally, AACP can strengthen and leverage existing partnerships with the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Organizations (NASPA) and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), both members, along with AACP, in the Alliance for Pharmaceutical Care. Each of these organizations has tools useful for AACP members and their students. NASPA offers grants that AACP members can use to develop data; RIPA and URI faculty are completing one such grant, “Increasing Awareness and Access to Pneumococcal Vaccine through Community Pharmacists.” NACDS connects faculty, administration, and students with their national legislators in Washington, DC annually through RxImpact Day. Elements of this program, from meetings with legislators to letter-writing campaigns, can be replicated for connecting state pharmacy organizations, student associations and their state representatives. AACP should encourage scholars to analyze and publish the results and outcomes of these collaborations, such as regulatory and legislative changes that benefit students, practitioners, academia, and primarily patients. AACP could also promote and provide continuing professional development programs and certifications for preceptors and practitioners that include advocacy lessons focused on the particular certification, i.e. expanding immunization to 9-18 year olds.