By: Jena Marion, PharmD Candidate c/o 2013
It was a few weeks into the spring semester of my freshman year at St. John’s University when I earned my wings. I was on a plane trip, flying cross-country to San Diego with friends that I had only known for a few months, on my way to my first (of many!) pharmacy conference. It had been over a decade since I was on an airplane, and the flight attendant presented me with a small pair of plastic wings as I disembarked. But, despite packing a very full suitcase, my wings weren’t the only thing I brought back to NYC.
As the only freshman in attendance that year, I learned a lot from the older student pharmacists that came along with us. I spoke to sixth-year students as they took their NAPLEX review course and got ready to transition into becoming New Practitioners; to fifth-year students who were on rotations and considering the many options that lay ahead of them following graduation; to third- and fourth-year students who were balancing leadership positions and professional involvement along with challenging coursework; and even professors and administrators, who shared their experiences both as students and pharmacists.
Professional meetings have different types of sessions running all day long, and I was amazed at the opportunities for networking and exchanging ideas at the student programming sessions. I couldn’t believe the different ways that student pharmacists were reaching out to their patients, educating them and helping to manage various disease states. But even more awe-inspiring was the APhA-ASP Open Hearing on Proposed Resolutions and New Business. I sat among 3,000 student pharmacists from across the country as we debated policies that would shape the future of our own profession. That year, the collective voice of student pharmacists in the US passed policies on topics ranging from patient health literacy to pharmacy education and post-graduate training to international medical aid.
But, as anyone who has attended a pharmacy conference before can attest to, the long weekend wasn’t all work and no play. During our free time from sessions, we squeezed in sightseeing and eating out at the restaurants in the city. I learned more about the people that attended the conference with me as we talked about their motivation for attending pharmacy school and their career aspirations following graduation. And I began to realize just how much I had ahead of me – academically, professionally, and personally.
Since APhA2008 in San Diego, I have had the incredible opportunity to attend 13 professional meetings and conferences as a student pharmacist, and am already excited about spending the first weekend of March 2013 in Los Angeles, CA! Those students that have attended conferences through the years became both my friends and mentors, and have helped and supported me as I became more involved across several organizations on campus. I talk with many students as we reflect on conventions, and the phrase I hear most often is, “I had so much fun, I only wish I had gotten involved sooner.”
It is never too early to get involved in pharmacy and to embrace our profession. If the West Coast is a little out of your reach, consider one of the many ways to get involved on our own campus this semester. Teach patients about diabetes or share tips for living heart-healthy at an APhA-ASP Patient Care Project, advocate for the rights of pharmacists at Pharmacy Legislative Day in Albany, or run for a leadership position in a professional organization next year. Each of these opportunities to get involved will teach and inspire you, so you can go out and do the same to your fellow students, family, friends, and patients.
Best of luck in the Spring 2013 semester!