By: Praneeta Nagraj, PharmD Candidate c/o 2015
Summer is a great time to recover from the school year through reflection and relaxation, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to develop your career and discover where you belong within the pharmacy profession, which can be realized through work or an internship. What if I told you that attending some of the many conferences for student pharmacists would allow you to do all of the above?
What are my top 5 reasons for being a member of pharmacy organizations and attending the conferences?
1. Builds your network
Contrary to what many students believe, Pharmacy is a small world. Thus it is crucial to build your network, and it’s never too soon to start doing so. You never know; you could run into a prospective employer, a possible internship, or even a mentor.
This past APhA Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, as I was grabbing a cup of coffee, I ran into a sweet Pharmacist named Mary from Texas who later went out of her way to introduce me to the Dallas area president so that I would have a connection in my home state of Texas. While conversing with this pharmacist, I found out she worked at Pfizer and that she actually created her own position. Since our first meeting, she has become somewhat of a mentor to me.
During the Pharmacist Society of the State of NY Annual Conference (A.k.a PSSNY) in Queens, I met students at the University of Buffalo and gained an understanding of where the other NY students would like to see Pharmacy go in NY state in the coming years, especially when we are all out in the work force. Hopefully, next year, there will be plenty more St. John’s students at the PSSNY conference and every St. John’s Pharmacy student will at least be a member of the society.
As evidenced by my experience, pharmacy events and organizations allow you to network professionally with not only pharmacists and companies, but also with fellow students from across the country. Working with students from other schools in the area or even competing over a project can be a fun way of getting everyone involved while making a huge difference in the respective communities.
2. Expands and challenges your mind.
One of the greatest things traveling within the professional world is what you end up learning through it. I was unsure about whether it would be worth it to go to the DIA Annual Convention in Boston last June. Looking back, I found the risk worth the reward.
The first general opening session of the conference featured a well-known physician, scientist, and inventor: Dr. Daniel Kraft. His session highlighted the progress of healthcare and its future evolution because of technological changes. I was captivated by his lecture, as he spoke about all the latest advances in healthcare, the future of telemedicine, robotics in surgery, using virtual imaging, etc. He emphasized the proactive approaches to improving patient health early in the course of a disease, for example, our focus on fighting cancer lies at stage one of the disease, if not stage zero.
Another take home point from his lecture was the increasing demand for Pharmacists in the community to educate patients in self-care. Patients can be taught to play a greater role in managing their own disease states, especially with tools such as cell phone apps.
3. Reignites and/or ignites a passion for your profession.
We are the future of Pharmacy, and we should actively decide what this future will entail. We have to leave the confines of our classrooms and get out into the community, get involved in organizations, and attend a conference to really get excited.
As students, we can influence what it means to be a pharmacist amidst the changing healthcare landscape. It can be as simple as a petition or it can be a creative patient care project that goes viral and eventually spreads to get political attention. The possibilities are endless, and it’s up to us to start thinking outside the box and asking how we will make a difference.
As today’s youth, empowered with social media, we can bridge the gap between innovations and the older population. Healthcare and technology are merging. Because of this we are beginning to see more personalization with social media driven apps.. The theme at both the APhA and the PSSNY conferences was patient education, which just might be the golden ticket and the most prominent aspect of our future with MTMs and CDTM.
4. Keeps you focused on pharmacy school.
How can being involved in all of this possibly keep you focused on school? You get to see the big picture! Thinking of creative project ideas or a career path gives you the discipline to work hard on academics. You may even start to find school and studying more enjoyable, and you might decide to pursue research with a Professor as a result. Always keep an open mind!
We are the new generation of Pharmacists and by getting out into the community you are already beginning to make your mark.
5. They are fun!
Patient care projects, events, and especially conferences are a lot of fun! What makes them worth it is what you get out of these events and how much you enjoy yourself at them.
From the student socials at the Mid-year and annual APhA conferences with plenty of dance offs and great music to a Boat Party at the PSSNY conference, there are plenty of ways to meet fellow student Pharmacists in a relaxed environment. Experience a camaraderie while mingling with student pharmacists, doctors, and other future healthcare professionals, such as the Gatsby themed party in a castle or a party in an aquarium at the DIA annual conference. After all, we are a family.
Bottom line, take a chance and get involved!
It is never too late or too early to join and start building your network. Whether you are in your first or last year of school, I challenge you to ask yourself the question: How will I make my mark?