By Mohamed Dungersi
Last month, I had the immense opportunity to travel to New Orleans to be a part of the biggest pharmacy gathering of the year – APhA 2012. The spirit, enthusiasm, and positivity for the profession of pharmacy at the meeting were truly inspiring. Since this was my first ever APhA meeting, I feel that it would be appropriate for me to provide some practical advice and guidance to future APhA meeting attendees.
Firstly, be sure to get as much information about the meeting ahead of time from resources, such as the official website, APhA e-mails, and local APhA-ASP events about the meeting. This year, APhA introduced a smartphone application, which was incredibly easy to use. I found this application to be priceless, as it was the center of my planning. Since the annual meeting was incredibly large, it was natural that there were plenty of events running at the same time at many different locations. It is imperative that you know exactly where you have to be at a specific time. The application allows you to select scheduled events; it places them conveniently in a personal schedule with all the necessary information you will need.
Knowing which events to attend can also be extremely challenging. It is important to consider your goals for attending the meeting whilst initially choosing events to attend. Personally, my priority was to attend the Rho Chi Annual meeting, since I was our chapter’s delegate. I also decided to attend Phi Lambda Sigma’s annual meeting, since I am also an active member of the organization. Apart from that, I had the responsibility of attending some events to represent our APhA-ASP chapter. After I scheduled myself for these events, I was able to get a clearer picture of my free time, which I used to attend other interesting events, the exposition, and certain local sites.
If you will be attending the meeting in the future for the first time, I highly recommend attending the “APhA-ASP Welcome for first Timers” event. Despite being at 8:30 in the morning on Saturday (and bearing in mind that the opening social the night before ended late), the event was a full house with no room to spare. The event was just what every first-timer needed. It provided students the opportunity to network with each other as an icebreaker, as well as provided tips on how to network with fellow professionals. The event also proved to be a vital guide to the types of events that students should attend. The enthusiastic and joyful mood was also very refreshing. Leaving this event, I felt that I had a clearer picture of the kinds of events I wanted to attend during my free time.
The largest of the events, by far, was the APhA exposition. The APhA exposition was a one-of-a-kind marketplace to visit and explore with over 150 exhibiting companies. APhA attendees met face-to-face with industry leaders and organizational representatives, as they demonstrated new products, discussed exciting new services, and answered questions. It was a great opportunity for me to see the nationwide progress of pharmacy, especially in terms of technology, growth, and development. You will also have a wonderful opportunity to network with some of the professions leaders and possibly a future employer.
At the time of the trip, I was on rotations at Town Total Health in Melville, which is a distance pharmacy that offers Medication Therapy Management (MTM) services to its patients nationwide. I was and still am, very keen to study about the increasing role of MTM in healthcare. I attended a session presented by APhA-ASP entitled, “Implementing MTM in your future practice.” This session focused on challenges to overcome and methods to enable local pharmacies to begin providing MTM services. The event truly lived up to its expectations.
I also managed to attend events that had more information regarding residencies nationwide. It was a great opportunity to learn of residency options outside of the tri-state area and to learn about the additional opportunities that come with conducting an out-of-state residency. There was also an opportunity to speak to current residents to gain a sense of the day-to-day duties of each residency. If any student is interested in conducting a residency or fellowship, these wonderful events will cater you well.
As a member of APhA, there are some wonderful events to attend, including the APhA opening general session. This year, it featured a popular speaker, Thomas Goetz. Also, be sure to attend the APhA-ASP (Region 1) caucus to share your opinion, as well to listen to the opinions of others in regards to proposed resolutions. Students voted on each resolution after any comments or concerns were voiced. Similarly, attending the APhA-ASP House of Delegates sessions is vital to get a better understanding of the policy changes that student pharmacists would like to have. If you are on the executive board for the APhA-ASP chapter at our school, it is necessary for you to attend workshops that are specific to your position. These workshops serve as guides for you to maximize your potential as a student leader.
One of the events recommended at the first timer’s event was the Walmart Leadership Training series. Introduced in 2007, the Walmart Leadership Training Series (LTS) is a four part series offered over the four professional four years of a student pharmacist’s education. Upon completion of the series, participants will receive an APhA-ASP LTS Recognition of Participation, signed by the APhA Executive Vice President and the APhA-ASP National President. This is an excellent CV or resume builder. One can obtain the certificate by attending a variety of sessions at either the Annual Meeting, Midyear Regional Meetings (MRMs), and/or the Summer Leadership Institute (APhA SLI). For more information on this, please visit http://www.pharmacist.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Leadership_Training_Series
I attended the APhA-ASP General Student Leadership Development Workshop as part of the LTS. This session comprised of an interactive and full of life presentation by Mr. Ben Thankachan, who currently serves as a senior OTC buyer at Sam’s Club. The presentation focused on his personal leadership journey through graduation to his current position. It also focused on understanding the characteristics of a true leader. Attending this session alone would have been worth the travel. The inspiration and positivity from this session is something I will hold on to for a very long time. I will leave you with a quote by John Buchan shared by Mr. Thankachan during this session, “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”