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Week 1: A Whole New World
A Whole New World
April 7th - April 11th
 

Hello, world!  My name is Hillary Aphaisuwan and I am currently a third-year pharmacy student (in a three-year accelerated program) at Midwestern University’s College of Pharmacy – Glendale near Phoenix, Arizona.  When I found out that I was awarded the opportunity to complete an APPE rotation with American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), I was ecstatic.  I often say that education is my first love while pharmacy is my true love in life.  I loved the idea of being able to combine the best of both worlds by becoming a pharmacy educator in the future.  I started to explore this idea as a student and was introduced to both this organization and this unique opportunity by one of my faculty mentors, Dr. Bill J. Bowman.  It seems like so long ago when I first visited the AACP website to see what it was all about.  Now, I’m here and I still can’t explain the disbelief and appreciation I have to have been given this opportunity.

My first day at as an AACP APPE student started when I stepped out of the cozy bed and breakfast that I would be staying in for the next 6 weeks onto the streets of Alexandria, Virginia.  The skies were a dark, gloomy gray that let down a light sprinkling of rain on my uncovered head.  Although most people might not have thought so, it was cold.  A very uncomfortable cold.  Here I was, with a coat not warm enough and no umbrella in hand, completely unprepared.  As someone who has been living in Arizona all her life, this weather was not my cup of tea.  As strange as it sounds, I love the 115+ degree weather and the way the heat of the sun feels on my skin and to be honest, at that moment in time, I was definitely missing my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.  Thinking back on this day, the weather was a relatively good reflection of what I was feeling at the time before setting foot into the AACP offices.  I was nervous to be in a new environment which always led to feelings of shyness and anxiety overwhelming me and I felt unprepared because I didn’t know what to expect as far as who I was working with and the environment I would working in.
All these doubts and fears quickly disappeared when I walked into the beautiful, bright offices of AACP where I was warmly greeted by all the staff with a breakfast just for me and Katherine, a new Governance Programs Administrative Assistant who was also starting her first day here.  Although AACP typically holds breakfast to greet new APPE students, I was more than happy to be able to share this day with someone who was also coming into a new environment like I was!

When I finally was able to sit with Jen Adams, the Senior Director of Strategic Academic Partnerships and my preceptor, I learned more about the projects and activities I would be involved in and became very enthusiastic with what the next 6 weeks held for me.  In the next four days, I met with a few Senior staff members who gave me a better idea of their roles and responsibilities within the organization.  I took more time to learn about different services and programs AACP offers as well.  In addition, I was able to begin research on my final project on a PharmCAS-facilitated, centralized criminal background check service for student pharmacists.
 
Although I loved being able to spend time with Senior staff members to learn more about their role with AACP and the journey that led them to a career in a pharmacy association, the activity that had the biggest impact on me this week was Strengths Finder.  Jen recommended completing the Clifton StrengthsFinder online assessment tool to find my top 5 strengths as a part of my first week here.  I had completed many free online tests out of pleasure before and I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what my strengths would be.  However, this test was not like any other.  Before completing the test, I read StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath and was fascinated by the ideas presented in this book.  Rath explained that all too often, we focus on our weaknesses in life and attempt to improve on that to become a better person, employee, student, etc.  However, what we should rather be focusing on is our strengths. Although it would not hurt to try to improve on your weaknesses, your strengths stem from your natural talents.; focusing your energy on improving your strengths will exponentially improve you to where you would be an even more effective person.
 
The best example that Rath provided was the infamous Rudy story.  Now, I haven’t seen the movie nor am I a football expert by any means so please excuse any incorrect terminology.  Rudy was smaller than the typical football player and he didn’t have that much natural talent but this kid worked extremely hard to gain admission into Notre Dame and even harder to just obtain a spot on the football team’s practice squad.  He ended up finally being put into the game after countless of days on the sidelines, did something awesome and got carried off the field.  However, if someone has a great amount of natural talent in football AND puts in as much hard work as Rudy did, he would have been extremely more successful than Rudy.  I mean, what if Rudy had a natural talent in chemistry?  Let’s say he put just as much hard work into this strength instead; he could have ended up creating a new compound that was an effective treatment for cancer or something!  Okay, probably a bit extreme here. As Roth states in his book, I think the best way to sum up this idea is not “You can be anything you want to be” but rather “You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”

My five strengths of the StrengthsFinder assessment tool were relator, harmony, consistency, responsibility and arranger.  The tool ended up not only giving me a general description of these strengths, but additional individualized assessments of these strengths as well as ideas on how I can enhance these strengths by incorporating certain activities in my daily work life.  When I started reading these descriptions, I felt like I knew that these were characteristics I had…I just had never looked at them as strengths.  The more I thought about each one of these strengths, the better I was able to relate them to my daily tasks.  I printed out a small paper listing my five strengths and pinned it near my computer; I’ve been using it as a constant reminder of my strengths so that I can continually reflect on how I can not only improve on these, but how I can use them to become more effective in my day-to-day work life at AACP. 

While at AACP, I wanted to focus on my strengths of relator and responsibility.  I know I excel when I build deeper relationships with the people I work with; although it will be a challenge in the short time that I am here, I can be more proactive in establishing strong bonds with the AACP staff.  For my strength of responsibility, StrengthsFinder suggests that I push myself to limit the amount of projects and activities I volunteer for.  If I focus on only reaching out for projects that I’m highly interested in, I can prevent spreading myself too thin and be able to produce higher quality work for projects I am responsible for.  This is a struggle I am all too familiar with so improvement in this area will definitely help me in my future endeavors.  In the next year as a PGY1 resident, I hope to focus on improving all five by setting goals for each strength at the beginning of my residency based off of the type of work I will be involved in.

In addition, all of the AACP staff have a small printed list of their top five strengths outside their office. Jen says she uses this to not only give her a better idea on how she and other staff members could work best together on a project, but how she can approach each person based off of both of their differing strengths.  As I entered different offices of the Senior staff members this week for our meeting to learn more about their role, it was definitely neat to see their strengths (and if we had any in common!) and how that plays into their responsibilities at this organization.

Looking back at my first day in Alexandria, VA, I can see why I was much more apprehensive and nervous than usual for this rotation based on my strengths.  I thrive on harmony, consistency and deep relationships –none of which I was able to establish at that point in time.  As I got into the groove of things at the office and started building relationships with the staff by connecting with them outside of the office, I became more relaxed and comfortable as the week went on.  Coincidentally, the skies have cleared up since the beginning of the week and now I can’t wait to take walks outside to enjoy the beautiful weather this area has to offer.  I even spend extra time outside by walking back home for lunch a couple days of the week.  Now that I am more comfortable in my skin and have a better outlook on how to use my strengths to my advantage at this rotation, I cannot wait to see what the next five weeks at AACP has to offer.
Week #3: Shift Happens!
Shift Happens! You are the key to change!
February 10 to February 14
 

My third week at AACP was spent at the 2014 Interim Meeting (IM14) in Crystal City. The best way for me to summarize IM14 is to use a Wordle, a word cloud that highlights words that appear frequently in text provided by the Wordle user, which I was introduced to at AACP. The IM14 Wordle highlights the themes of IM14 – how to develop academic leaders to lead and manage the new challenges colleges of pharmacy are facing. These challenges include new pedagogies, interprofessional education expectations and new accreditation standards.
 
Key highlights and quotes from IM14:
• “If you react to change when it is on your doorstep, it is difficult; be prepared for change.” – Linda Cabe Halpern, Ph.D., Vice Provost for University Programs at James Madison University
 
• Rear Admiral Scott F. Giberson discussing the future of pharmacy practice and the potential pharmacists and physicians have on transforming health care
 
• Panel of community and retail pharmacy leaders discussing partnership opportunities between community pharmacies and academic institutions to develop residency programs that create pharmacists prepared to handle the changing healthcare environment and expand research opportunities
 
• Gary R. Matzke, Pharm.D., School of Pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University, sharing VCU’s approach to preparing current pharmacists and student pharmacists for Interprofessional Team Practice
 
• L. David Harlow III, B.S., Pharm.D., Chief Pharmacy Officer, Martin Health System, discussing the role of the “Primary Care Pharmacist”
 
• “Innovations in Teaching and Learning,” was presented by Holly Ludgate, Ed.D., who is a Senior Director for Program Development at New Media Consortium. Dr. Ludgate showed a video of a young girl who created a blog and video series on healthy cooking. This young girl, about 7 or 8 years old, was already experienced in using media and technology to teach others about her passion in the kitchen. Dr. Ludgate asked, “What if this was a student in your classroom?” She used the story of this young girl to emphasize that the days of “sage on the stage” teaching are gone and integration of technology and innovative teaching methods are necessary to keep up with the new students of today.
 

What I can take away from these sessions is that, “Shift happens! You are the key to change!” With changes in higher education and the healthcare environment, we need to be prepared. Part of that preparation involves strong leadership and motivating others to work towards a specific goal. A leader is not defined by status, hierarchy or titles. A leader is defined by the change they helped create and the leaders they developed along the way.

So will I become a leader over night? No, but I plan to find out what strengths I have and how I can develop them to lead and motivate others. It is easy to keep up with the same old routine, but sometimes, shift happens. I can complain about it and get nowhere or I can find the positive outcomes in the middle of all the shift. I choose the latter. What about you?

 
Sharone Aragon
Long Island University
Pharm.D. Candidate Class of 2014
Week #2: Interim Meeting Kickoff
The "I" in Leadership
February 3 – February 7
 
February is here and at AACP that means it is Interim Meeting time! The Interim Meeting (IM) is focused on the deans and assistant deans of pharmacy schools around the country. IM14 was focused on “The I in Leadership,” which included the themes of the individual, innovation, inspiration, imagination and influence. I prepared for a long weekend of meetings and sessions, but was excited for the new people I would be meeting and the new information I would be learning.
 
Before the kick off of IM14, there was an AACP Board of Directors (BOD) meeting that I was invited to attend. I was surrounded by deans and faculty from pharmacy schools around the country. My first thought was, “What am I going to talk to all these people about?” Well, continuing with the trend of fellowship and welcoming of my AACP experience, I did not have to worry much about that. Deans and faculty members were coming up to me and welcoming me to their meeting! They were interested in what I was learning at AACP, why I chose a rotation in association management/academia and what my future career plans were. I was flattered by the attention I was receiving from the board members and it reinforced the fostering, supportive environment AACP creates for their students, staff and members. 
 
Another topic on the BOD agenda involved the Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process, which was developed by the AACP along with 11 other pharmacy organizations that includes the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). The document was created in response to inconsistencies found in how the pharmacy care process is taught and practiced in schools of pharmacy and pharmacy practice settings. The process would standardize the process of care in the delivery of patient services by a pharmacist. It is a patient-centered, team-based model that promotes interprofessional collaboration and defines the role of the pharmacist as part of a health care team. The population has a general idea of what a pharmacist does, but it is very limited to the standard retail pharmacist definition. It sets the foundation for services that pharmacists have the training and knowledge to provide and get compensated for. This document highlights the evolution of the pharmacist from behind the counter to a more clinical role in providing direct patient care. It can be applied across all pharmacy settings as well. I like that this document highlights how the pharmacist is an essential member of the health care team and expands the narrow definition the population perceives about the role of a pharmacist. This consistent framework for pharmacist care is not a step-by-step checklist to complete with every patient, but provides guidance on what we can do to improve outcomes in our patients. I currently work in a retail pharmacy and I plan on critiquing how I currently practice my role as a pharmacy intern and see how I can make changes to fit the Pharmacist Patient Care Process that is currently in development. I am hoping that I provide well-rounded care similar to what is in the draft, but I’m sure there will be some tweaking needed.
 
The main highlight of the BOD meeting was the discussion on the development of a serious gaming initiative for the health professions, similar to other role-playing games currently available. The intention of a serious game is to educate and train, using gaming as an educational tool. The idea is to simulate and promote interprofessional education and collaboration. A student pharmacist would create an avatar and complete missions (case based challenges) with other students in up to 16 health care professions. Along the way, team members would need to communicate with each other to complete their missions. Right now it is in the developmental stages, but this game has the promise of expanding globally for use by practitioners for professional development. I am interested to see what a mission will look like and how students will interact within the mission. The development team has created an expert panel, consisting of professionals from the other health professions, which is key to the success of this gaming initiative. There was a general feeling of excitement for this new venture by AACP coupled with feelings of trepidation and caution due to the investment and the risk associated with the venture. This initiative is innovative and captures the essence of the changing learning style of students; however, it has not been attempted before. Peggy Piascik, the current AACP President, calmed the fears from academic leaders by saying that “success does not come without risk and that the risk of failure should not stop AACP from continuing on with the project.”
 
This statement struck me, not in relation to the game, but in terms of my own fear and anxiety I have about my career path. I am reminded of what J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all, in which case you failed by default.” I have been waiting to graduate for 4 years and now that it is finally here, I cannot lie and say I am not a little nervous. I have a wonderful opportunity with the Rutgers Fellowship Program lined up for next year and I can’t help but think, “What if I am not good enough and I fail? Am I really ready for post-graduation life?” Although I already have 4 years of teaching under my belt, I need to make the transition from student to professional again. It will take me some time to get acquainted to my new role as a fellow, but like Peggy said, I cannot be afraid to fail. It is time for me to have a new outlook on taking risks and the possibility of failure. Failure is not as bad as we perceive it to be. Failure presents us with an opportunity to reflect on why we failed and how we can move forward from there. Does this mean I should take the ideas I have and just run with them? No. I need to step out of my comfort zone and stop making excuses for why I cannot do something. If I continue to let fear hold me back, I will never fully realize who I can become and what I differences I can make.
 
Note: This does not mean I will be jumping out of a plane or going bungee jumping any time soon. That is too much risk for me!
 
Sharone Aragon
Long Island University
Pharm. D. Candidate Class of 2014
Week #1: My Top 10 Lessons
Top 10 Things I Learned During My First Week at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)
January 22, 2014 - January 31, 2014
 
Hello out there! My name is Sharone and I am the current APPE student at AACP. Here’s a little about myself. I’m a P-6 (P-4 to all you 0 – 4 students) student from Long Island University in Brooklyn. Go Blackbirds! Before I started pharmacy school, I was an algebra-loving middle school math teacher in New York City. I would rap, wear costumes, or throw a math-themed party to engage my students in the day’s lesson. It may seem silly, but those strategies worked. Students are different these days, and the old way of lecturing and pencil and paper note-taking just doesn’t cut it anymore. I have sat through my fair share of those lectures, and let me tell you, it is not pretty or educational. This is why I am at AACP – to hear about the best teaching practices in pharmacy schools and to learn more about innovative teaching strategies in development.
 
Oh, another thing. I love lists. So, here is my “Top 10 Things I Learned During My First Week at the AACP” list:
10.   Turkey on banana nut bread is more delicious than you think. Try it. You won’t be disappointed. 
9.   Birthday parties are not just for little kids.  Adults love them too!
8.   You don’t actually know your ABC’s until you enter the world of pharmacy associations. 
7.   Progress and change do not happen overnight. Be patient.  
6.  Take surveys seriously. They could affect your future.  
5.   A pre-meeting makes the actual meeting more meaningful and focused.
4.  Working directly with drugs is not a requirement for being a pharmacist.
3.   There’s a committee for that. 
2.  Stop! Collaborate and listen.  
1.  Watch the gap.
 
When you enter the world of pharmacy associations, you better be prepared to speak in acronyms. Prior to arriving at AACP, I received my schedule for the 5 weeks of my APPE. I thought, “Awesome. I love knowing what to expect before I set foot in the door.” Then I opened up the document. It was almost written in another language – AC, NAAHP, BOD, IPC, IM, AM, OGS. That was just Week #1. I had all these places to be, but I had no idea who I was going to be meeting with or what they will be talking about. When I arrived, Jen made sure to let me know that she prepared a list of common acronyms for me to refer to. Now, I can SIAADL (speak in acronyms all day long).  
In a conversation I had with Jen, I asked her if she missed being a “pharmacist”? I did not mean that she was not a pharmacist, but her role at the AACP does not fulfill what most people think a pharmacist is. She told me that although she is not working with medications or patients directly, she still is a pharmacist. She does the behind the scenes work that no one thinks about like working on the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) blueprint or PharmCAS (Pharmacy College Centralized Application Service) and improving interprofessional education which improves interprofessional collaboration. The work that is done by the pharmacists and other staff at the AACP strengthens the pharmacy profession and improves the quality of future pharmacists. Being here makes me regret not being more active in pharmacy organizations on my own campus. However, I know that there are still plenty of opportunities for me to get involved as a Pharm. D. graduate – as a preceptor, association member or faculty. This time around, I will not let the chance slip away.
 
In my first week here, I was able to learn not just what everyone’s role is, but how and why they plan to change the future of pharmacy education. “Watch the gap,” is a phrase used on the Long Island Rail Road to warn riders of the space between the train and the platform. It is announced several times before the train arrives to make sure riders don’t fall into that gap and hurt themselves. As I met with senior staff and learned more about each of their roles at the AACP, this phrase popped into my head. No, not because we talked about trains, but because it seemed to be a recurring theme in each of my conversations -- to find the gaps in pharmacy education and then figure out a way to fill those gaps to assure continued advancement of the pharmacy profession and societal health. My short experience here has showed me that following a treatment algorithm or medication regimen is not the only route to achieving that goal. As pharmacists, we must continue to fill the gaps in knowledge, no matter what setting we choose to work in. For example, there is a big push for interprofessional collaboration in health care. Through my interviews, I found out that the majority, if not all, senior staff members are involved in interprofessional education initiatives with members from various health care professions. I’ll go into more detail about this in my future posts!
 
There is strength in numbers, and that should be my mantra to be successful as a leader. The team work and collaboration I have seen at AACP shows me that my “it’s my way” attitude and approach to projects is not always the best way. I need to be more open to the ideas and opinions of those around me because I do not always have all the answers. I cannot just say I am on a team and call it collaboration, but I actually need to listen to what is being said by other team members and learn from them. So I am going to work on shifting from an independent worker to more of a team player. It is the direction healthcare is taking and a characteristic in all the leaders I have met here.
 
What else can I take away from these lessons? For starters, I’ll probably have more turkey and banana bread sandwiches.
 
Sharone Aragon
Long Island University
Pharm. D. Candidate Class of 2014
Week 1: The Power of Reflection by Jackie Zeeman
Week 1: The Power of Reflection
August 5, 2013 – August 9, 2013
 
As I prepared for my fourth year APPE experiential education experiences, the rotation I was most excited about was at AACP. I would start my summer off with an international rotation in Leeds, United Kingdom studying psychiatric pharmacy followed by traveling Europe throughout the month of June. I would complete my advanced community rotation in Asheville, North Carolina and then finally head to our nation’s capital for the month of August. My excitement for the AACP rotation centered around two main attractions: 1) the opportunity to be immersed with professionals who share the same passion as me for pharmacy education and training the next generation of pharmacy professionals, and 2) the opportunity to move out of North Carolina and into a big city. Growing up in a small town in North Carolina and receiving all my advanced education within the state, I have been longing for a new experience and the fast pace and progressive nature of a city aligns with the culture I have been waiting for.
 
In preparation for the AACP rotation, I naturally perused the website inside and out, from top to bottom. I read every student’s blog and thus was well aware of the central tasks I would be assigned throughout the month. I knew I would be responsible for writing a reflection each week, assist on various projects, and attend a variety of meetings and conferences. Sitting down with Dr. Adams during the first couple of days to orient myself with the association, my expectations were met: my main tasks included writing a weekly reflection and completing a larger project to be presented at the end of my rotation. My preparation had served me well and I was excited to begin my rotation at AACP. However, my excitement surrounding my weekly writing assignment changed when Dr. Adams and I met to discuss reflective writing.
 
Engaging in that discussion was one of the more challenging conversations I have participated in. Throughout pharmacy school, it is engrained in us that there must be supporting evidence for every decision and recommendation we make. We are taught a sequential order to evaluate each patient case: past medical history, current and past medications, allergies, labs, etc. And it is this systematic approach that attracts many of us to pharmacy. Pharmacy is logical: A + B will more than likely always lead to C. So how do we remove the logical and systematic approach that has been engrained in us for the past several years and tap into the emotional and reflective side of our brain? Throughout my two decades of schooling, I have had more than one assignment asking me to “reflect” on a given assignment or experience. I often viewed this task as cumbersome; all I was being asked to do was recall an experience and write about it while fulfilling the given page length requirements. Who was actually going to read all these “reflections”? I rarely received feedback on these assignments; often times it was simply a completion grade. Thus I assumed the teacher more than likely only skimmed each reflection to ensure that every student had completed the assignment. So when I learned I would be tasked with writing a weekly reflection, I had no concerns about keeping a weekly journal (so to speak) of the various tasks I had completed. That is, until I learned the true meaning of reflection.
 
Engaging in that discussion with Dr. Adams regarding reflective writing was abstract and difficult to grasp. What I learned was reflection is not simply a regurgitation or recall of an event; instead, it is an analysis of each subconscious thought and step used throughout an event and how that experience will shape future encounters with a similar situation. Sure, it is easy to recognize each step or each question used to achieve your endpoint; what is challenging is understanding the “why” behind each step and learning how to use and recognize that subconscious process in the future. For example, my friends sometimes claim I have “random” thoughts; but once I map out my thought process and how my brain rapidly went from A to B to C, I can identify the connection between each step. What I often fail to do is to identify the meaning each thought has on me personally. Why do I remember this experience in more detail than another? It must have had a significant impact on me in some regard but identifying exactly “how” or “why” it impacted me more is where I sometimes fall short.
 
Walking out of Dr. Adams office that Tuesday, I immediately realized my most challenging experience here would be reflection. As I spent the next three days searching for a topic to write on, I kept coming back to this act of reflection. What I learned was throughout the past three years of pharmacy school, I have rarely taken the time to reflect on my experience. I can regurgitate details from each therapy module, co-curricular experience, and job, but what I cannot express is how each of those experiences shaped me and my professional aspirations. I can tell you the exact moment I realized I wanted to pursue higher education and curriculum reform but what I cannot answer is how I came about this realization; it all occurred subconsciously. Whenever someone asks my story, I tell them I woke up one morning and realized I no longer wanted to pursue hospital administration but rather felt my passions lied in academic administration and for the first time, I felt excited about my professional future. I know the why, but not the how.
 
What this reflective writing exercise has taught me is I often do not take the time to reflect on my experiences. Between studying and community outreach, I am too “busy”. But what I have learned throughout this week alone is the power of reflection. Granted, I have dreaded writing this reflection since I was given the assignment and I knew I would stare at my computer screen blankly, but what I have learned is that reflection is essential to growth as both individuals and professionals. It certainly is not an easy task; in fact it has taken me over three hours to write this reflection and three days of brainstorming. But through this time, I have learned more about who I am, why I am who I am, and who I want to become. I have come to find many of the answers I have been looking for regarding personal and professional development. But the most significant thing about this discovery is that I have realized I have always known these answers, I just did not take the time to reflect and find them.
 
Moving forward, I am challenging myself to practice the act of reflection weekly, especially during my APPE months. Not only will this allow me to reflect on the challenges and learning outcomes from the week, but it will also serve as a mechanism for me to observe my personal and professional growth throughout my fourth year. It will help me to identify how I have identified what my passions are, which assignments and experiences I have enjoyed and which ones I have not. Most importantly, it will help me to identify how these discoveries will impact my future decisions and aspirations. What I look forward to most is reading these reflections upon graduation and recognizing how each experience has played an integral part in my development and in my story.

Jackie Zeeman
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
PharmD Candidate | Class of 2014

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