By: Marie Huang
Every month, Rho Chi Post has the wonderful opportunity to sit down and talk to an inspiring leader among the student pharmacists here at St. John‟s – someone who is not afraid to stand apart from the crowd and can be the change he or she wants to see in the world. This October, Sibyl Cherian, a 5th year PharmD candidate, shares with us her stories and the importance of advocacy in our profession.
Q: Tell me a bit about how you started becoming involved on campus. What influenced you to make that choice?
A: I became involved at the start of my third year in the student chapter of the American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP). With a few friends, I attended the annual meeting in Washington, D.C. that year. Spending a few days in our country‟s capital with pharmacists and student pharmacists from all over the nation spurred my interest in becoming involved on campus. I ran for a position as a Student Policy and Advocacy Network (SPAN) Liaison a couple of months afterwards and, upon getting the position, I realized how difficult being a SPAN Liaison would be.
Q: Being a SPAN Liaison for our chapter must have been a great responsibility to hold. Can you please elaborate on why it was difficult for you?
A: Well, not many people were aware or interested in what SPAN entailed. I realized I would have to be innovative in anything I decided to do. When we went to the APhA-ASP Midyear Regional Meeting (MRM) in Rhode Island last November, I sparked interest in students by having them come up with their own proposals to submit on what changes they would like to see in the profession. Although unlikely to pass, I added in a particular proposal from a fellow student to grant pharmacists the right to prescribe. Although highly controversial at the meeting, it nonetheless incited attention among our students!
Q: So, this was during the fall semester. Considering how challenging it was to get students interested, how were you able to keep them engaged during the spring semester?
A: I actually remember a proposal submitted, during the MRM, to legalize medical marijuana. I recall the enormous amount of controversy it caused among student pharmacists, and had thought that a healthy and educational debate regarding this issue would bring students together. So, we coordinated with the Debate Society on campus, in order to reel-in students from other majors. The highly successful event became an active discussion afterwards, especially when students were allowed to voice their opinions about the pros and cons of legalizing medical marijuana. Our university‟s newsletter, The Torch, even wrote an article broadcasting the event.
Q: That was an amazing on-campus event! But, as Liaison, how were you able to advocate off-campus? Did you actually have the chance to speak to any legislative members?
A: Last March, I attended RxIMPACT Day in Washington, D.C. with two fellow colleagues. We met with various congressmen / women and discussed key bills that were being voted on, which would affect our future careers. After doing so, our leaders were much more informed about what our profession entailed. I brought these ideas back to our own state in an effort to push for Collaborative Drug Therapy Management (CDTM). On Pharmacy Day in April, student pharmacists from all across New York State came together in Albany to advocate for pharmacy. A few months later, part of the bill for CDTM was actually passed thanks to the collaborative effort to advance the future of our profession.
Q: If you could offer one piece of advice to other student pharmacists, what would it be?
A: I have gone through my own uncertainties about how to make pharmacy my own. I am waiting for Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotations to give me a sense of direction to guide me to where my niche is. I want to continue to advocate and make our profession known and respected among health professionals, as well as among each and every patient we seek to help.
Additional questions for Ms. Cherian can be directed to [email protected].
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