Student pharmacists reach out in big way

Go to class. Go study. Go to work. Go eat. Go to sleep. Tomorrow, repeat the cycle.

This is more often than not the schedule of busy college students.  But on top of this routine, the UA College of Pharmacy students find time for a very important aspect of learning to be a pharmacist: community service.

Every semester students volunteer their time for various health fairs. During 2011, UA pharmacy students and preceptors participated in 22 health events serving 3,272 people. Many of these people were uninsured and had limited access to primary care physicians. 

The free services provided by the students included diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and cholesterol screenings. Based on estimated costs of supplies and services, pharmacy students' health screening efforts may exceed $35,000 in value. In addition, student pharmacists provided educational resources that addressed immunizations, heart health, smoking cessation, drug abuse prevention, heartburn, children’s medications, and over-the-counter drug safety.

Students reach out in many other ways to serve others. There are student chapters of more than 10 professional and honorary organizations at the college and many of these include philanthropy and outreach activities in their missions. Here’s a sample:

  • The members of PediaCATS, a new College of Pharmacy organization, are involved in community service at the University of Arizona Medical Center—Diamond Children’s.  This includes arts and crafts projects such as decorating door hangers for patients’ rooms, reading to the children and interacting with the young patients using various games and artistic media. Despite their hectic schedule, PediaCATS cherish the opportunity to help make each child’s day a little better.
  • The International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation holds an annual educational week that is filled with lunch meetings all about HIV/AIDS.  This is generally done in conjunction with World's AIDS Day. They arrange for speakers from the UA Medical Center South Campus HIV/AIDS clinic who are involved in counseling, motivational interviewing and education.
  • Over the past four years, the COP Gamma Upsilon chapter of Kappa Psi has donated thousands of dollars to the Be The Match Foundation.  Be The Match is a national bone marrow registry that helps to match patients with leukemia or other diseases to viable donors. It is Kappa Psi’s tradition to donate 50 percent the club’s fund-raising proceeds to philanthropy.
  • Some busy students are a part of the Global Medical Brigades and volunteer to provide health care and community development solutions in developing countries. During the 2010 spring break, they participated in a medical/dental brigade to Honduras. The UA chapter recently completed recruiting for the next brigade to Honduras in March 2012 and for its first brigade to Ghana in May 2012.

With such a busy schedule, why do these students take the time out for community service? Jessica DiLeo, Student Council president explains “Involvement in community internships and health and safety fairs allows student pharmacists an opportunity to practice what is being taught in class, receive feedback from preceptors and explore different options within the profession. It also connects us to the community where we study and learn.”

By Larry Hogan Jr.

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