By: Helen Dong, PharmD Candidate c/o 2014
Pharmacy Day, or Legislative Day, is a whole day affair for pharmacy students to meet and speak to members of the federal and state legislature in order to discuss issues that affect pharmacists and to lobby for our profession. This year’s talking points were expanding immunization rights and collaborative drug therapy management (CDTM). CDTM allows pharmacists and doctors to work together to create a therapy protocol that allows pharmacists to evaluate, initiate, modify, or continue pharmacologic therapy for patients. CDTM may give doctors’ more time to focus on the cases that are acute and complicated—and thus warrants more attention—instead of managing routine chronic illnesses. Currently, only a few teaching hospitals in New York are authorized for CDTM.
Last month, over 40 PharmD students of all years and faculty members traveled to Albany for Pharmacy Day. The day started with a few students from each of the seven NYS pharmacy schools gathering in one room. Everyone was wearing his or her white coat and from the number of attendees, I could see that the field of pharmacy can both be vast and very intimate.
I would never have gone to Albany for Pharmacy Day if it wasn’t for the strong recommendation from Dr. Vibhuti Arya. I was not really interested in politics or lobbying, so when I heard about the opportunity, I easily dismissed it. To be honest, I did not even know what to expect from the trip, because the event was not advertised too well. But now that I have been there, my opinions have changed and I hope that my reflection will interest and influence more students to participate in next year’s event.
Several speakers, most of them presidents of various NYS pharmacy organizations, gave us inspiring opening statements—something that I did not anticipate so early in the day. The speakers mentioned how it is up to us, the students, to promote our profession and to lobby for a much-needed progress in pharmacy in New York.
Many pharmacists become complacent after getting a job. This attitude is fine for some people, but it will never move our profession forward. The majority of pharmacists I have worked with are not involved in any pharmacy organizations, but I do not want to become one of them. I have already dedicated a large portion of my life to becoming a pharmacist, and I want to make a difference to get what is best for pharmacists as well as the patient population.
It was inspiring to hear some of the sixth year students passionately lobbying for this year’s two main talking points: expanding immunization rights for pharmacists and pharmacy interns, and CDTM. After the opening statements, students and faculty separated into small groups to talk to different assemblymen. Although not everyone was receptive, the majority of them were open to hearing us out. The high point of the event was when we spoke to a state senator who was very enthusiastic about expanding our immunization abilities.
On the other hand, CDTM was not accepted as easily, probably due to the misconception that CDTM gives pharmacists the ability to change doctors’ orders on a whim without a proper understanding of disease states. The senator was more receptive to the idea after we clarified that the pharmacists will be consulting pre-established guidelines based on clinical research, just as physicians do. Based on what I saw, CDTM will probably require more lobbying and support before New York adopts it.
I was unaware and indifferent to issues pertaining to policy-making in pharmacy before going to Albany for this event. I was embarrassed to learn that New York is one of the last states to disallow pharmacists to carry out expanded immunization and CDTM. Even though New York is seen as progressive, the state’s pharmacists are extremely restricted in their capacity to improve patient health.
Still, it was amazing to see that we could make a difference. These assemblymen and senators, who are all extremely busy, took the time to hear us out. This may be a stepping stone for our ideas come to fruition. Now I see the bigger healthcare picture that includes policy-making and implementation. Lobbying and talking to legislators determines the future of pharmacy. Despite my initial hesitation in attending this event, the experience was eye-opening and enjoyable. I plan on attending the next Pharmacy Day in a year, and I hope you will join me too.