As a third-year student pharmacist, I am proud I am able to provide health care services to my community. October is especially important to me because it is American Pharmacists Month.
Many may think the role of a pharmacist is as the “pill counter.” It is true that most pharmacists count pills; however, their job does not end there. They provide education on various disease states and prescription and over-the-counter medications. They also identify drug interactions and provide health-screening services.
Pharmacists have become essential to the health care team. More importantly, in rural Idaho towns, pharmacists are often the closest in-person, health care professional around for miles.
How are pharmacists educated?
Pharmacists often go to school for six to eight years before obtaining their doctor of pharmacy degree, otherwise known as a PharmD. Before pharmacy school, student pharmacists must complete at least two years of rigorous undergraduate coursework, such as organic chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, and calculus. Many students go on and graduate with a bachelor’s degree before applying to a college of pharmacy.
If accepted into a college of pharmacy professional program, the academic portion lasts three years, with a fourth year of clinical internships within a variety of pharmacy disciplines. Following graduation and before pharmacists can begin to practice, they must take a national licensure exam, called the NAPLEX.
Idaho State University hosts the only college of pharmacy in Idaho. There are two campus locations, with the main campus in Pocatello and a distance learning location in Meridian, where students can complete all four years of the PharmD degree. As student pharmacists, we are able to provide a variety of health care services throughout the community.
The impact ISU student pharmacists have made on our community is demonstrated through our efforts in cardiovascular and diabetic health, as well as providing immunization services. We provide valuable education to patients about the effects high blood pressure and cholesterol have on the body. We also provide counseling on the various forms of diabetic medications and making healthy lifestyle changes. In 2014 and 2015 alone, we screened more than 3,500 Idahoans and provided education on disease and lifestyle management to more than 123,700 Idahoans.
Last summer, we gave back to the community by volunteering during Idaho’s Camp Hodia — a summer camp that provides the opportunity for children and teens with Type 1 diabetes to make friends and learn how to make healthy lifestyle choices. Through our partnership with the West Ada and Pocatello/Chubbuck School districts, we were able to provide more than 3,900 immunizations to teachers and staff.
On Oct. 27 we’re hosting our annual pharmacy open house at ISU-Meridian, 1311 E. Central Drive, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Come and meet the student pharmacists who provide these great services in our community. Flu shots will be available and a limited number will be offered for free to those without insurance.
Remember, October is American Pharmacists Month. Help support pharmacy by educating friends and family about the role pharmacists play or thank a local pharmacist for all he or she does.
Chelsea Capley is a third-year doctor of pharmacy student and president of the ISU-Meridian chapter of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists.