RxIMPACT: “Upon reflection,” LINDSAY SAMUEL, 3/16/11

RxIMPACT was a great two-day crash course on advocacy for the pharmacy profession and our patients.   Even though I have been to Washington, D.C., before to advocate, this was a wonderful opportunity for me to improve my communication skills, learn about the legislative process, network with other pharmacist and pharmacy students from across the country. 

During the two-day event, I meet a lot of passionate people.  For example, we met Mr. Dillard outside of Rep. Bobby Scott’s office.   He works as a staff member around the House of Representatives building.  He charged us to get involved in the legislative process, vote, know your representatives on the local, state and federal level, and do not be afraid to contact your representatives about issues that are important to you.  I think Mr. Dillard’s message is something we should all take to heart.

 

RxIMPACT student participants from VCU School of Pharmacy met Larry Dillard, communications director for Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3rd).

RxIMPACT: “Upon arrival …,” LINDSAY SAMUEL, 3/9/11

Wow, that was an easier drive to D.C. than I thought! 

 

I take it for granted that I am a student at VCU School of Pharmacy in Richmond, Va., which is across the street from our state legislature and two hours away by car from the federal government.   Traveling to advocate for our patients and pharmacy profession on Capitol Hill is easier for us than it is for many pharmacists in other parts of the country. 

RxIMPACT: “RxIMPACT was a great opportunity …,” CARISSA BIDDLE, 3/10/11

RxIMPACT was a great opportunity that I will never forget.  Everyone there came together to support one thing: the furthering of the pharmacy profession.  I was able to communicate with several other passionate pharmacists and pharmacy students and see what they are trying to do to make the profession better and have a greater impact on our patients’ lives.

Lobbying in a group made me feel extremely comfortable because I knew I would have someone to back me up in every situation.  I feel inspired after this trip to continue to lobby for pharmacy. 

 

We, as future pharmacists, have worked extremely hard during our four years of school and should want to use all of our knowledge to help the maximum amount of patients and get something in return for it.  I am very thankful for this opportunity and would encourage anyone I know to take advantage of it if they ever get the chance.  

 

IMG_2778.JPG Visits on Capitol Hill included time with Williams S. Oden (center), legislative correspondent for health affairs in the office of Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor.

RxIMPACT: “Students advocate for the profession of pharmacy,” CAT FLOROFF, 3/10/11

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The RxIMPACT “U” Academy featured speakers from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the office of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley,  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Sears Holdings Corp., SUPERVALU Inc. and VCU School of Pharmacy. 

 

Pharmacists and politicians should not be the only professionals that promote patient care and the profession of pharmacy on Capitol Hill. Alex Adams, National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) director of pharmacy programs, stated, “Patient care is too big and too important to be left to the politicians.” NACDS hosted RxIMPACT on March 9-10, and student pharmacists were given valuable advice from pioneers who advocate for better health care, year after year.

In particular, one session called “Using Strategic Tactics to Influence Policy Outcomes” impacted me greatly for several reasons.  First, it is important to be able to use strategic communication skills and lobbying tactics to influence policymakers. Up until about 2005, one of the biggest complaints from lawmakers was that pharmacists were not speaking up about our own profession. How could policymakers know the true importance of pharmacy if we do not tell them how valuable we are?

The silence ended when lawmakers began to make cuts to Medicare reimbursement, and that’s when we decided it was time to get our voices heard on the Hill.

Second, I learned that media can be used in creative ways to influence pro-pharmacy policy. Advertising in the “Roll Call,” which is the publication that most legislators on Capitol Hill read every morning, helped to pave the path for legislators to see how pharmacists can be extremely beneficial to improving patient care. Students learned how advertising can start with an everyday ad highlighting how a neighborhood pharmacy can help loved ones receive their medications at inconvenient times, and then ads were eventually introduced that acknowledged pharmacists in a consulting role.

Above all else, I learned how pharmacists and student pharmacists must be able to effectively get our message across in the most efficient manner. Legislators may not know what “medication therapy management” means, so we need to explain it while advocating for a particular bill, HR 891 or S274, that supports these services. In conclusion, this session helped me to better understand how to approach legislators before my scheduled Hill appointments the next day. 

Campaigning on Capitol Hill proved to be a very rewarding experience. My teammates and I learned a lot from each other and from our team leader, Dr. Matzke. I can now say that I am very comfortable talking to legislators on the state and federal level about key issues that influence pharmacy practice.

RxIMPACT: “As a future pharmacist …,” GEETIKA GHANDI, 3/10/11

As a future pharmacist I stepped into the Capitol Hill area, smelling the American aroma IMG_1789.JPGof advocacy, and was prepared to advocate for accessible and equitable pharmacy services for our future patients.

Prepared, we visited five legislators’ offices and spoke to their staff about two topics: expansion of National Health Service Corps, and one that I have witnessed the need for: Medication Therapy Management (MTM) for Medicare patients. I enjoyed the conversations with our legislators, especially with Rep. Bobby Scott’s staff since he shares my hometown of Newport News.

It is experiences such as RxIMPACT that remind me about the importance of advocating for our profession and more importantly for better health care for our patients. During my pharmacy career, I will come across situations that will make me ask questions, where within the question I would have identified a need for pharmacist-led services. Speaking to my legislators about these issues was rewarding, and I look forward to advocating for my future patients’ needs.      

RxIMPACT: “I am in Washington, D.C. …,” GEETIKA GHANDI, 3/9/11

Thumbnail image for IMG_2777.JPGParticipants in RxIMPACT Legislative Leadership Academy visited five legislators’ offices, including that of Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor (R-7th). 

 

I am in Washington, D.C., with around 130 students from across the nation, participating in the RxIMPACT Legislative Leadership Academy (sponsored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores).

I am learning how to identify unresolved issues within my community, to research the health-care policy behind the issue and suggest proposals that will bring change for the benefit of my patients. My interest in advocacy issues within our profession started last summer while caring for my father, who is a homebound patient: “Why are pharmacists not involved in home health services?”

As a student pharmacist, it was evident that pharmacists can make a significant difference in the quality of life of those who are homebound and are unable to receive services at the pharmacy. Little did I know that this question would lead me to do intensive research into the issue and make multiple visits to Capitol Hill.

I knew that I had witnessed the need for medication therapy management (MTM) expansion, but going about advocating for it is a skill that I did not have. Since the terms “leadership” and “advocacy” were of interest to me, I registered for a “Leadership and Advocacy” pharmacy elective (Fall 2010) with Dr. Gary Matzke as my course coordinator. The course introduced me to the different aspects of advocacy and taught me how to research and present my topic of advocacy to our legislators. The Legislative Leadership Academy is giving me the opportunity to build upon my advocacy skills learned through Dr. Matzke’s course.

Today’s focus was to learn about the congressional role in policymaking, using tactics to influence policy outcomes, pharmacy policy issues and incorporating advocacy into regular pharmacy practice. Additionally, Dr. Matzke presented on utilizing student opportunities to engage the community. His presentation made me realize that as VCU SOP students, we are in a perfect location to advocate — across the street from the Virginia State Capitol and a couple hours away from Capitol Hill.