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UMSOP Invited to Nation’s Capital for American Pharmacists Month

Faculty and students visited APhA headquarters and met with legislators in Washington, DC.

UMSOP faculty and students in front of the US Capitol.

By Andrew Tie
October 19, 2023

Faculty and students from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy began American Pharmacists Month with a trip to Washington, DC, on Oct. 2 to celebrate and advocate for the pharmacy profession.

Faculty, student pharmacists, and Sarah L.J. Michel, PhD, dean and professor of pharmaceutical sciences, began the day at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), which annually designates October as American Pharmacists Month to recognize pharmacists’ contributions to health care. They heard remarks from US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, toured APhA headquarters, and networked with pharmacy leaders.

“Pharmacists are essential to safeguarding and improving the health of our communities, and they are worthy of celebration this October and every month,” said Michel. “Thank you to APhA for inviting the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy to participate and for its ongoing support of our School and the pharmacy profession.”

Advocating for the Pharmacy Profession

In the afternoon, APhA helped coordinate legislative visits between student pharmacists and legislators, including five members of the House of Representatives and Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

The purpose of these visits was to advocate for pharmacy-related bills, including HR1770/S2477 Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act (ECAPS), which would allow Medicare recipients to continue to access services provided by pharmacists such as testing, treatment, and vaccinations including COVID-19, flu, and RSV.

“Our School is fortunate to be so closely situated near the seat of the US government, and we greatly appreciated meeting with our representatives and their staffers about how this important legislation supports our patients and keeping our communities healthy,” said Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, professor in the Department of Practice, Sciences, and Health Outcomes Research (P-SHOR), who attended the events. “I hope this experience empowers our student pharmacists to use their voice to advocate for our profession and our patients.”

Many students have experience advocating to political figures through their participation in Legislative Day at the Maryland General Assembly, an annual event with the Maryland Pharmacy Coalition and state politicians.

Andrew Gureje, a third-year student pharmacist, has participated in Legislative Day in the past and attended meetings on Capitol Hill during the APhA event. He said his previous experience at the Maryland General Assembly provided an understanding of bills and how to refine talking points with legislators.

“The pharmacy profession has so much potential and to reach that potential, we have to work as a collective with a clearly defined goal,” Gureje said. “Sharing our experiences is a great way to help legislators understand the impact pharmacists have in the communities we serve.”

According to APhA, the ECAPS legislation, if passed, would allow pharmacists to help fill crucial gaps in primary care providers, particularly in underserved communities.

“American Pharmacists Month is not only a time to thank our pharmacy team members for their work and contributions, but also a time to recognize the advocacy work that needs to be continued for our profession, communities, and patients,” said Deanna Tran, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, associate professor of P-SHOR. “We are thankful for the opportunity to be invited to the American Pharmacists Association and to talk to our representatives about why this work is so important. I hope our students were as inspired as I was by the power of using our voice to hopefully make a change.”

Alumnus Sean Kim, PharmD ’23, who is completing an executive residency with APhA, also helped coordinate the visit.

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