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AACP APPE Student Blog:  A Great New Way to Stay Connected to Academic Pharmacy

Have you ever been curious as to what a day in the life of an AACP APPE student is like? So have we!

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy is proud to announce that they are now accepting applications for APPE students who wish to complete a rotation and find out more about association work. Dr. Jennifer Adams, Senior Director of Strategic Academic Partnerships at AACP, is the primary preceptor for student pharmacists for the duration of their APPE rotation. Please email with any questions you may have about the AACP APPE or related topics.

*For rotations occurring in the fall 2013 and spring 2014 time frame, AACP will accept applications until Nov. 1, 2012. All applicants will be notified by Jan. 30, 2013 of their acceptance status.

This blog will serve as an innovative forum for students to post their weekly reflections about their experiences at AACP and provide unique insight into the great work that the association does for academic pharmacy. Feel free to post your comments/feedback/suggestions and we look forward to sharing our journey with you!

Week 3: Dream Big, Act Small
Week 3: Dream Big, Act Small
October 20 – October 24

 For the majority of my APPE rotations thus far, each day has consisted of waking up before the sun rises, working most of the day inside a building and then leaving after the sun sets.  I was hardly ever able to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings mainly because I never had a chance to see it. In my time here at AACP, not a day goes by where I have not recognized the character that this town has. I often walk outside for lunch to clear my mind and enjoy the fresh air. If you take one look down King Street you see cobblestone paths leading to quaint, antique-looking shops. Although the town lends itself a sense of peace, it is not rare to see people rushing around in business suits traveling to and from work. This sight always motivates me with the thought that one day I will be in their shoes, enjoying the peaceful surroundings as I start my day in my dream career, wherever that may be.

I knew this was the motivation that I needed when I started my search for a final project idea. I was told to create a final project that would be beneficial for AACP or the profession of pharmacy in general. How could one person create something that would shape pharmacy education on a national level? To reflect on this thought, I decided to sit at an outside dining table to finish my lunch. I simply observed the people around me in search of some great idea that would change the world. In the thirty minutes that I was sitting there, at least a dozen people walked by briskly to return to their daily routine after lunch. I tried to imagine where they were going and what they were going to do. Could it have been a pharmacist working for the National Community Pharmacists Association headed back to the office to develop a plan for achieving pharmacy provider status? Getting lost in the idea of possibly having an encounter with the one pharmacist who was going to change the future of healthcare, I realized how unrealistic the thought was.

With all great changes and movements in history, nothing was achieved by one person alone. With this being said, I experienced confusion at how I could make any impact on the specific topics for my final project. I will be participating in the development of the Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process and the implementation of Knowledge Management in pharmacy education. The Pharmacists’ Patient Care Process is a collaborative agreement on a standard model for patient care provided by pharmacists. This process was created by the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners in collaboration with several different pharmacy representatives in a variety of areas within the field of pharmacy. It is possible that implementation of this process may be the next step to achieving provider status for pharmacists. With this constantly changing health profession, AACP will continue to grow and develop. To assist in this process, AACP will begin integration of a process called “knowledge management”. Knowledge management is the complex process of maintaining and distributing information and knowledge within an organization to create a more productive and effective environment for staff and members. Each of these concepts has the potential to shape the future of pharmacy and I have been given the opportunity to be involved in the process.

From my childhood, I was always taught to dream big. Big dreams are the basis of a strong work ethic. As I grow older, I am beginning to understand that aspirations are important, however, proper planning is essential to achieve success. All too often, we try to change the world by skipping to the end of the process before we complete the first step. This is an example of a desire for instant gratification without putting in the necessary effort.

Although one person cannot achieve great things alone, it only takes one person to initiate the process. Just one thought, one idea, can open opportunities that never existed. This was an important lesson for me to learn. I constantly have limitless aspirations but no idea what to do with them. For things as simple as creating a final project idea for my APPE rotation or as extensive as changing the profession of pharmacy, I know that I can only achieve these things by starting small. With the hopes of one day increasing the utilization of clinical pharmacists in the health systems setting, I know that I will first have to establish relationships with other members of the healthcare team. Despite the simplicity of this task, the end product cannot be achieved without it. People cannot be expected to understand that pharmacists are significant assets to the healthcare team before we prove it to them. From this day forward, I will continue to seek the first step to achieving success. I will not be discouraged by simple tasks as they are the stepping stones to a greater good. 

My challenge to you:
Do not be afraid to dream big, for it is with these dreams that change is created. But do not forget that change only comes with perseverance and hard work, starting at the very first step of the process and continuing until the end.
Week 2: Challenge Yourself
Week 2: Challenge Yourself
October 13 – October 17


     Your life is often guided by the people that you surround yourself with. Each person that you speak to, listen to, admire, or aspire to be, will impact your way of living. Whether it be a mentor who you frequently see or just a person passing by with words of encouragement, each moment makes a difference. Throughout the past two weeks, I have been given the opportunity to meet many new people who have already shaped my life. The one encounter that is engraved in my mind is my meeting with Dr. Vincent Lau, the Vice President of Research and Graduate Education at AACP. Prior to this meeting, Dr. Lau sent me information on his previous work experience. After reading his extensive research accomplishments, I immediately experienced a sense of intimidation and fear for what was to come. I frantically researched everything I could find about his area of expertise just so I could have as close to an educated conversation as possible.  I gathered my things and began to walk hesitantly around the hallway to Dr. Lau’s office. 
     As I walked into the office, I could see organized piles of paper sitting on his desk that signified the considerable amount of work that Dr. Lau participated in. As he finished up his last minute sentences on an email, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful view that he has from his office, overlooking the peaceful cobblestone path surrounding the AACP building. There is something about that view, in addition to Dr. Lau’s welcoming nature that immediately calmed me. I realized that this meeting was not going to be a test of my knowledge but more of a personal assessment of my values. We started a discussion on the current roles of AACP in regards to graduate education and I listened intently. Dr. Lau spoke of his work in the Academic Research Fellows Program and in his outreach to a variety of schools. Listening to him speak, I was not only fascinated by the work that he has done, but more by his passion for graduate education and research. Although I am not an expert in his areas of interest, he made it possible for me to experience the same excitement that he had. Our thirty minute meeting lasted over an hour and it came to a close with his words that I have been saying to myself repeatedly, “In everything you do, you have to ask yourself, ‘Have you been challenged today?’.” 
     A challenge can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Some people find it challenging to wake up early in the morning while others find challenges in Rubik’s cubes or video games. Although these things may be challenging, they are not the challenges that Dr. Lau was referencing. He was referring to a personal and professional challenge that encourages growth. These challenges are often uncomfortable situations in which you cannot solely rely on previous experiences to solve a problem. This forces you to constantly draw on your strengths to successfully complete a task. Each day, it is essential to consider if you are being utilized to the best of your abilities. Last week I gained an understanding of the benefit of knowing your strengths, this week I indulge on that topic a little more to realize that you must utilize your strengths to their maximum capacity to see personal growth. It is common for people to search for comfortable, familiar situations where they can finish their daily tasks and end the day. This comfort and familiarity often instills a sense of complacency in us, preventing personal and professional progression. While this may be acceptable to some people, I have learned that this is not an option for me. I will soon be graduating into a profession that demands change. Change will not occur without victory over every challenge that we face. Victory does not necessarily mean that things will always work out as expected. Victory means that we did everything in our power to get the best results. 
    I have three more weeks here at AACP. That is three more weeks to come into the office every morning with a willingness to accept any challenge that comes my way. If there is a day where a challenge is not presented to me, I will go find one. I plan to practice this strategy throughout my last few months in pharmacy school and after I enter the profession. I will search for different ways where I can use my strengths to overcome an obstacle that will advance the profession. This could be something as small as speaking to a group of people about the many skills of a pharmacist or something as large as gathering a group of pharmacists to lobby to legislators. I know that this journey will not be without adversity. When I am faced with a situation that may seem to be impossible, I will remember that day in Dr. Lau’s office, talking to someone who has accomplished a significant amount of work guided by his passion to learn. This will remind me that through every personal test you can find strength in your abilities but reassurance from your heart.

My challenge to you: Don’t be afraid of adversity, learn to embrace it and allow it to make you a stronger person. Place yourself in situations where you may feel uncomfortable and always remember that if you are passionate about the results, you will determine how to achieve victory.
Week 1: The Formula For Success
Week 1: The Formula For Success
October 6 – October 10

   My name is Alexandra Varga and I am a fourth-year student pharmacist from Notre Dame of Maryland University School of Pharmacy. I began my journey of Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) in May with an open mind knowing that my time was running out to determine what I wanted for my future. After each week in pharmacy school I would experience something new and change my career path. From research, to ambulatory care, to oncology, to academia, to association management, my mind was constantly spinning. As a student pharmacist it often feels like the clock ticks significantly faster and the impending confusion about the future is persistently present. With that being said, one cannot complain about navigating through the seemingly limitless possibilities of career paths. It seems that every day a new opportunity presents itself for pharmacists to make an impact not only on patients but on the healthcare system. In just one week here at AACP I have experienced a multitude of interesting areas of association management ranging from participation in a debriefing regarding trade policy to involvement with the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE). In addition to learning about the variety of areas of pharmacy involvement, I met with the AACP senior staff to discuss their unique career paths. 
    I spoke with my preceptor, Dr. Jennifer Adams, who worked her way up the career ladder by engaging in each of her positions and creating opportunities for her future.  I spoke with Dr. Lynette Bradley-Baker who originally dreamt of working in a community pharmacy until she realized the broader impact she could make through her time serving on the Maryland Board of Pharmacy and as the Vice President of Public Affairs and Engagement at AACP. Dr. Cecilia Plaza is the Senior Director of Academic Affairs and she arrived at her current position through a significant amount of hard work and mentorship.
   Meeting all of these amazing people, I started to think about how they ended up in their current positions. Walking around the well-kept AACP office building, it is not uncommon to see people working diligently in their offices, meetings taking place in the conference room, a friendly conversation between two coworkers, but the one thing that catches my eye is the personalized list of strengths outside of everyone’s office space. Thinking back to all of my meetings, it occurred to me that each of their career paths have been guided by their personal strengths. Jen is an activator who is not afraid to take action when it is needed; Lynette is an achiever who constantly seeks opportunities to accomplish tasks; Cecilia is very positive allowing her to overcome all challenges with optimism. The strengths of each person are clearly seen in the stories of their lives.
   Keep in mind; these strengths were not arbitrarily assigned. Each employee at AACP has taken the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment to determine their individual strengths. I had the privilege of taking this assessment prior to my first day for this rotation. The purpose of StrengthsFinder 2.0 is to allow people to focus on the things that they excel in as opposed perseveration of their weaknesses. According to Tom Rath, after concentrating solely on improving weaknesses, you are only trying to become something that you are not meant to be. My top five strengths recognized by this assessment are learner, individualization, restorative, achiever, and relator in order, with the strongest listed first. So the big question is…what do these strengths mean for my future and how did they get me to where I am today?

  • Learner: My desire for learning allows me to enjoy new experiences. I constantly seek experiences that will provide me with great learning opportunities, such as an APPE at AACP. I try not to dwell on involving myself with things only to have a robust curriculum vitae but I look for something that will help me to grow as a person.
    • I plan to continue with this method as I move through my rotations. Each door that opens presents an opportunity to learn something new. I need to find occasions where I can learn by teaching other people. My future career should involve this teaching and learning aspect.
  • Individualization: I have always been thoroughly interested in the unique qualities of each person that I interact with. Every person is influenced by a variety of factors in their past and these factors give them different strengths when working in a group. In group work, I find it essential to put emphasis on each person’s strengths that can contribute to a greater end product.
    • With this ability, I hope to engage myself in an area of practice that involves group collaboration with others to make a difference. Throughout the rest of my APPE rotations and in my career I hope to fully immerse myself in a team-based environment. This will allow me to collaborate effectively with others to solve problems.
  • Restorative: Problems and bumps in the road typically do not discourage me. I take most set-backs as a challenge to improve my problem-solving skills. This quality has allowed me to overcome every hindrance I’ve encountered up until this point. Instead of dwelling on the inconvenience, I progress through improvement.
    • I need a career that will challenge my analytical thinking skills on a daily basis. A career where the environment is constantly changing and each day is spontaneous. This may involve a career that specializes in a complex patient population or a career that has room for professional growth.
  • Achiever: A successful day is defined by the amount of items that have been crossed off my “to do” list. This personal strength assists in my ability to complete a variety of tasks successfully within a given time frame. This has proven to be a beneficial skill as a student pharmacist.
    • In order to enhance my abilities as an achiever, I will search for a career that offers a dynamic work environment. Throughout my APPE experiences, I will try to constantly identify innovative projects that I can work on to maintain a busy work day. This will allow for a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction at the end of every day.
  • Relator: In conjunction with my ability to recognize the uniqueness in an individual, I also find it essential to develop genuine connections with the people that I meet. It is often that networking interactions and interviews are superficial encounters amongst individuals. I try to make an effort to create a more personable experience during these situations.
    • I hope to find a career that will surround me with people. Although most careers involve human interaction, I am seeking a career where I can build relationships. I also hope to utilize this strength in my final APPE’s to establish mentors who have developed an understanding of me as a person. This mentorship will assist in the progression of my future career path. 

   With all of this information, I made my decision. I will no longer stress about my future. While I still do not know the exact title of my future career, I know which direction I need to go to get there. Years ago I never would have planned to be sitting in the AACP office writing this blog and yet, here I am. Despite my detailed life plan, deviations are inevitable and necessary.

My challenge to you: Allow yourself to be guided by your interests and your strengths. Don’t be hesitant to sit and think about what your strengths may be. No matter where you are in your life, you have everything you need to succeed. If you are diligent and hard-working today, opportunities will be created for you tomorrow.



Week 4: Saying "Yes" To Opportunity
Week 4: Saying "Yes" To Opportunity
September 22- September 26
Throughout my last week I have spent time visiting some of the other national pharmacy associations in the area, including the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). From each of these visits I have been able to continue to learn more how each association represents their specific members as well as work together to create a of pharmacy on a national level. I also was able to meet with their executive residents and fellows to learn about the fellowship and residency opportunities available in Association Management. However, I spent the majority of my time this week focusing on the completion of my final presentation. My final presentation consisted of a Prezi outlining my journey at AACP, including a synopsis of my internal meetings, external meetings, mini projects, and large final project. Within this presentation, I also debuted the product of my final project. My final project was the creation of a resource to be used by pre-pharmacy and pre-health students to learn more about Interprofessional Education (IPE) and Interprofessional Collaboration in Practice. This resource will be displayed on the AACP and PharmCAS webpages and has the potential to be used by other disciplines and at recruiting events. With this project, I hope to introduce students to the concept of IPE during the application process leading up to admittance in professional programs. I took on this particular project because I find it important for students to see the changing climate of the health care team as early as possible, especially since these students will be the future providers who will be essential in shaping interprofessional practice and the interprofessional education of future students.
When I decided to take on this project earlier this month, I knew I wanted to present the information in an interactive and effective manner. I decided to use the Prezi platform for this resource, in which I recorded my voice over each pathway. Students would then have the ability to click forward and backwards between areas of the presentation as opposed to watching a video in one sitting. With these two presentations being my first Prezi presentations and my project being my first presentation ever to include audio track, I knew at the time I began these projects that I had embarked upon a large undertaking. It was the uncertainty of the obstacles ahead that slightly frightened me but also motivated me to excel at this challenge.
As I complete my last day here at AACP, I reflect not only on accepting challenges in this particular project, but also on the challenges I have overcome throughout the entirety of my month here. My one piece of advice to give to future students doing an APPE rotation here (and in any rotation) would be to take advantage of each opportunity that may be offered and to do so with an open mind. I came into this rotation with expectations and personal learning objectives, but by simply saying yes to opportunities I did not yet know existed, I was able to maximize my time here and grow each and every day.
My next rotation in my 4th year experiential education will be in Transitions of Care at Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC. This rotation will be a very different opportunity and will bring me into a more patient centered practice setting of pharmacy. In starting at this new site I may not be able to directly work in many of the capacities that I have at AACP, but I will take the initiatives, attitudes, and passions from my work here to help advance practice and education in pharmacy in a more patient centered manner. As is true at the start of each new rotation, uncertainty of the challenges ahead for my October rotation loom. However, I now have an increased confidence to take a more hands on approach to my own learning and increased desire to create these learning opportunities for myself by simply saying “yes”. I will take the power of this “yes” attitude and the memories acquired as a result of saying “yes” here at AACP to guide my decisions to maximize the opportunities that may be afforded to me in my Transitions of Care rotation. As sad as I am to leave all of the wonderful staff and work being done at AACP, I will always be grateful and appreciative of all of the hard work each individual has invested to insure I felt welcomed, integrated, and challenged by providing opportunity after opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Quote of the Week:
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
Lauren Clouse
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
Pharm.D. Candidate, Class of 2015
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