With the California budget crisis and Stockton on the brink of bankruptcy, it is important that we fight to be the change for our future. Earlier this year when Governor Brown proposed a bill to cut Cal Grant funding available to students who attend private universities by 44%, Pacific students, staff, and alumni gathered to participate in the “Save Cal Grant” rally at the Capitol. Bhumika Bhakta ’12, Academy of Student Pharmacists (ASP) vice president for industry affairs, coordinated the Pacific Pharmacy Legislative Dinner in hopes of encouraging and motivating student pharmacists to do the same for the pharmacy profession.
On Thursday, April 26, 2012, nearly 100 students, special guest speakers, and honorable guests attended the dinner. Attendees included Dr. Jason Bandy ’00, Assistant Professor and Regional Coordinator for the Sacramento Region, Dr. Eric Gupta ’00, past president of the California Pharmacists Association, Max Vargas from Senator Lois Wolk’s office, Dean Phil Oppenheimer, Dr. Donald Floriddia ’71, Dr. Oby Stan-Ugbene ’05, and more.
When discussing how students can be the change for the pharmacy profession, Dr. Bandy offered one important piece of advice. “The key and most important factor is to meet your legislators and talk to them about your profession,” he said. “If you don’t know them, they won’t know you,” added Dr. Bandy.
Dr. Gupta also gave a presentation and talked about optimizing care by integrating pharmacists’ services and gave brief summaries on current legislative bills affecting pharmacy. He discussed how chronic diseases are the leading cause of death for nearly 133 million Americans and how patients have limited access to care, even with health insurance.
Throughout the year, with support and under the supervision of pharmacists, faculty, and staff, student pharmacists host more than 10 health fairs and outreach events which provide free health information and services to nearly 5,000 community members.
“Pharmacists are well-trained and everywhere yet we are an underutilized resource because of limits set by third parties. One example is pharmacists are not listed as health care professionals under the Social Security Act,” commented Dr. Gupta.
In early 2011, the U.S. Public Health Services submitted a report to U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin on “Improving Patient and Health System Outcomes through Advanced Pharmacy Practice.” In December, she responded with a letter of support for the recognition of pharmacists as health care providers and clinicians, among other recommendations.
The support of Dr. Benjamin brings the pharmacy profession one step closer, but as Dr. Gupta points out there are many more steps to take. At the federal level, pharmacists will continue to work towards changing the Social Security Act to include pharmacists as health care professionals. At the state level, pharmacists are pushing hard to have clearance to administer Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) waved tests (such as blood-glucose testing) without a physician lab director (Senate Bill 1481) and list pharmacists as part of the health care team for medical homes (Senate Bill 393).
Drs. Bandy and Gupta reminded the students that none of these changes can happen without the support from student pharmacists. They urged the students to get involved in Pharmacy Legislative Day at the Capitol, write letters to their respective legislators, attend local and national meetings, and volunteer at events and conferences.
“You can jump in the river and let the current direct you, or jump on a boat and steer your way in the direction you desire. I hope students decide to jump on the boat, understand they can make a difference, and get involved to leave their mark in the progression of the pharmacy profession,” commented Bhakta.
By Dua Her '09