There are many ways in which pharmacists can utilize their acquired craft and engage in service activities. Here, an experienced pharmacy faculty member identifies several areas of service for pharmacists, using his experiences to discuss the topic.
Authored By: Elias B. Chahine, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS-AQ ID
[Last updated: 16 August 2016]
Winston Churchill highlighted the reason why people volunteer to serve by saying: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”. In this article, I argue that pharmacists “make a life” by giving back to their college, practice site, profession, scholarly activities, and community.
By giving back, pharmacists become professionally engaged. Margaret Miklich and her colleagues define the professionally engaged pharmacist as the one who “thinks and behaves in ways that positively affect patients’ health and advance the profession’s values and societal mission.”
Here, I provide a summary of 5 types of service that pharmacists can engage in, using my experiences as to describe the various opportunities. I hope others may benefit from hearing my story.
1. Service to the college of pharmacy and the university
Not only full time faculty members but also part-time faculty members and preceptors can serve on college and university committees. You may not be aware, but there are many committees, task forces and workgroups that assist in managing the operations of a college of pharmacy.
As a faculty member, I have had the opportunity to participate in the three main college of pharmacy committees:
- The admissions committee – Focuses on screening and selecting qualified applicants to become student pharmacists.
- The curriculum committee – Focuses on designing the didactic and experiential curricula and approving course syllabi submitted by instructors.
- The assessment committee – Focuses on assessing and evaluating the curriculum, the co-curriculum, the extra-curricular activities, and the overall quality indicators of a pharmacy school such as North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) scores, Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE) scores, and various American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) surveys.
I also had the opportunity to participate in a variety of other committees, such as…
- The experiential committee – Focuses on issues related to experiential education, preceptors, and practice sites
- The faculty recruitment task force – Focuses on screening and recruiting qualified faculty members
- The promotion committee – Focuses on evaluating faculty portfolios for the purpose of promotion to higher academic ranks;
- The objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) workgroup – Focuses on developing, implementing, and assessing performance-based examinations.
In addition to these groups, I had the opportunity to serve on the university faculty senate which focuses on issues related to students, faculty members, and the academic life on campus.
If serving on a college or university committee is something that interests you, my advice is to serve on the committees that you will be most passionate about. After gaining sufficient experience you can seek to become the leader or “chair” of a committee.
Whatever you do at the school, remember to always make the decisions that best serve the interests of the students.
2. Service to the profession
Pharmacists can contribute to the advancement of their profession by volunteering to serve within local, state, national, and international pharmacy organizations.
I had the opportunity to serve as President of the Palm Beach Society of Health System Pharmacists and connect with local pharmacists in my area. I am currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Florida Society of Health-System Pharmacists where I have the privilege of interacting with pharmacists in my state. I also had the opportunity to serve on a variety of committees with the American College of Clinical Pharmacy where I interacted with like-minded pharmacists not only from across the country but from all over the world.
Many pharmacy organizations advocate on behalf of the pharmacists. They reward pharmacists who are actively engaged with various awards. Some organizations award fellowship status to members after sustained contribution to practice, service, education and/or research.
If you are interested in joining a new organization, my advice is to join at least one state and one national pharmacy organization and not just become a member, but also volunteer to serve on their committees. Once you get comfortable, people will notice your leadership skills and you may be asked to serve as chair of a committee or you may be nominated to run for an office. You will be surprised to know that many presidents of professional organizations started on a much smaller scale and worked their way up.
Whatever you do at your pharmacy organization, remember to keep the best interest of the organization, the profession, and the members in mind.
3. Service to publications and presentations
Pharmacists should consider contributing to publications by serving as reviewers for journals, books, abstracts, and continuing education programs in their areas of expertise.
I had the opportunity to serve as a reviewer for American Journal of Health System Pharmacy, Annals of Pharmacotherapy, Pharmacotherapy, and Pharmacotherapy Self-Assessment Program. After serving as a reviewer, I gained great insights which helped me to author my own articles and book chapters, and present my own posters and continuing education programs.
If you are interested in becoming a peer-reviewer, my advice is to sign up with publications in your areas of expertise, and after gaining some experience to author your own publications. Eventually you may be invited to serve on the editorial board for your favorite pharmacy journal!
Whatever publications you choose to review, focus on providing constructive criticism and specific feedback to the authors and editors.
4. Service to the community
Pharmacists are called to give back to the community and make a difference in people’s lives.
I had the opportunity to co-lead three international medical mission trips to provide care to underserved patients in Zambia, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. I also had the opportunity to participate in domestic medical mission trips to provide health screening to underserved patients in Alaska and Florida.
If you are looking to engage in community service, my advice is to dedicate at least a couple of days per year to reach out to people with limited access to health care. I bet you will find the experience very rewarding. Remember that everyone is capable of serving the community, all that you need is a heart for service.
5. Service to the practice site or clinical service
Pharmacists work in a variety of practice settings including but not limited to community pharmacies, ambulatory care clinics, hospitals, and long-term care settings. As a clinical faculty member, I have had the opportunity to round with multidisciplinary medical teams and provide recommendations to optimize patient care in an acute care setting.
I contributed to the hospital pharmacy and therapeutics committee, the infection control committee, and the antimicrobial stewardship program. I also had the opportunity to work at a comprehensive infectious diseases clinic with infectious diseases physicians and nurses.
My advice for those looking to engage in service within a practice site is to focus on the activities that you are most passionate about and try to become an expert in a specific area while maintaining sufficient level of knowledge and skills in general pharmacy practice.
Whatever you do at your practice site, remember to always keep the patient at the center of your services.
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