Pharmacy students travel to Austin for lesson in advocacy
By Jan Jarvis
The students joined nearly 600 pharmacy professionals from throughout the state for Pharmacist Day at the Capitol in Austin. The Texas Pharmacy Association organized the event.
Pharmacist Day offers students the chance to meet with legislators about pressing pharmacy issues, said Jennifer Fix, PharmD, MBA, Associate Professor of Pharmacotherapy, Associate Professor of Family Practice and Past President of the Texas Pharmacy Association.
“Our students were able to experience the legislative process in action, help advance the profession of pharmacy, and provide education to citizens who were also visiting the Capitol,” she said. “It’s important for professionals of all types to understand that they need to take care of and nurture their profession.”
Pharmacy student Luwam Tekle said it was empowering to enter the Capitol and meet people who decide how the profession operates daily.
“Speaking with the legislative aides of two DFW-area representatives about issues impacting pharmacy made me feel like the change I wanted was within reach,” she said. “It’s important for students to advocate for what we want because we’re the future of pharmacy.”
Student Ellias Hishmeh said he did not understand what barriers stood in the way of making health care better until going to the Capitol.
“You would be surprised about how many pharmacy–related issues that affect Texans go unnoticed by most people, especially legislators,” he said.
One of the issues pharmacists are focusing on is a bill that would expand access to vaccinations. Currently, pharmacists can vaccinate patients 14 years of age and older. The proposed bill would allow pharmacists to vaccinate patients 7 and older.
“This would be a considerable help with ‘back to school’ vaccines,” Dr. Fix said. “Pharmacists are not interested in competing with physicians and other providers. They are interested in helping patients in Texas be successful in getting their vaccines up-to-date and get ready for school.”
In addition to discussing bills with legislators, pharmacy students participated in a health fair at the Capitol. They provided a booth for OTC cough and cold medication counseling.
Student Carolina Mason said the event was a unique experience, especially since most of the students had no previous interactions with legislators.
“I am grateful for the University’s support in allowing and facilitating students to attend this event,” she said. “This day emphasized how much of an impact we can truly have when we advocate together.