AACP > Resources > Student Center > Current Student Pharmacists > APPE Blog > Posts > Week 3: Transformation by Hillary Aphaisuwan
Week 3: Transformation by Hillary Aphaisuwan
Week 3: Transformation
April 21 – April 27

The first real expo I attended was during my first year of pharmacy school.  It was the APhA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.  It was the largest collection of booths and exhibits I had ever seen and what was the most astonishing to me was that each one was giving out something for free.  Not just pens and candy, but actual valuable items like umbrellas, books, and even a jar of salsa!  Like a kid in a candy store, I was overwhelmed and began to grab as many things that I could fit in my free bag without making much conversation with the people at the booth.  After the weekend I just had, I can definitely say that I have a greater appreciation for those who showcase at these large exhibitions.

This weekend was the 3rd USA Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington DC.  The purpose of this 3-day festival was to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to people of all ages with more than 3,000 hands-on activities geared towards K-12 students from over 1,000 participating organizations.  It was estimated that over 250,000 people attended the last festival and more than 325,000 attended this year… so as you can imagine, this was a very huge event.  AACP showcased at this event for the very first time to promote to the profession of pharmacy to all attendees.  Our booth featured a compounding activity where attendees can make their very own lip balm to take home.  Our goal was to show people a different area of the pharmacy field by introducing them to pharmacy compounding.  We also promoted our“Pharmacy is Right for Me” campaign which targets young students to explore pharmacy as a career.

There are really no words to explain the amount of planning, preparation and labor that went into our exhibitor booth this weekend.  Although Katie Owings, Manager of Student Affairs, had been preparing for quite some time now, I joined the team three weeks before the big event where most of the preparation stages occurred.  I helped order and gather the supplies needed for the lip balm compounding activity which included lanolin, aloe vera, oils and tubes and obtained supplies like beakers, graduated cylinders, hot plates, etc. borrowed from Howard University College of Pharmacy in Washington, DC.  We also held a small prepping party at the office where staff members could assist in the weighing and packaging of material. After that, we had to pack, load and set up our booth which was definitely no small task by any means.

When the USASEF website noted that exhibitors in the past recorded an average of 6,000 – 10,000 visitors at their booth each day, they weren’t kidding.  Our lip balm compounding activity was wildly popular.  So popular to a point where we couldn’t even control the crowd of eager kids and anxious parents.  Attendees were able to melt and mix in all the ingredients in a beaker on a hot plate and pour it into a lip balm container.  They could walk away with their completed product and watch it solidify throughout the day into a ready-to-use lip balm.  It was great that so many attendees were excited about our activity but it became very challenging as we didn’t quite have the resources or manpower to handle the unexpected popularity.   After rationing but still running out of supplies, our booth had no more activity to attract attendees. 
Although there were still some people who were very interested in just hearing about the activity we had earlier, some attendees just came and grabbed our free items without as much as eye contact with any of us.  I know that’s what it’s there for, but it was a little heartbreaking that the attendees who grabbed them will never understand the amount of effort it took just to get all these items here for them. If I was not on the exhibitor side of this festival, I would have never known.  Next time I attend an exposition, I definitely want to be more engaging with the exhibitors and make a true effort to learn about what they have to offer rather than just submerse myself in free items.   That’s the least I could do for the amount of effort exhibitors make to just actually be there.

It was a very eye-opening experience to be on the exhibitor side.  While I wish I could be here in 2016 to help out with the next festival, the best I can do now is help AACP prepare for it based off of this weekend’s experience.  My next step right now is to help identify issues we ran into and propose solutions that could possibly solve these problems.  The better prepared we are for the next festival, the more smoothly things should run.  Although this experience has been quite exhausting overall, it was worth the smiles and excitement from the hundreds of kids who walked away with the lip balm I helped teach them to make…and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Hillary Aphaisuwan
PharmD Candidate, Class of 2014
Midwestern University, College of Pharmacy – Glendale


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