Joining a professional pharmacy fraternity offers unparalleled opportunities for personal and professional growth, however some people will avoid them due to various negative stigma. Here a pharmacy student provides the truth about what joining a pharmacy fraternity offers.
Authored By: Ralph Reyes, Pharm.D. Candidate 2018
For future pharmacists there are critical interpersonal skills necessary to acquire, which will allow for effective communication with patients and other healthcare professionals. These are the skills that allow us to empathize with others and work together in an effective manner. Involvement in
organizations during pharmacy school is one way to help obtain such skills.
As a pharmacy student at Northeastern University’s School Of Pharmacy (Boston, MA), I have been lucky to have the opportunity to be involved in several organizations on campus over the past 5 years. The first organization I became a member of (and the one that has made the greatest impact on my life) has been the professional pharmacy fraternity Phi Delta Chi (PDC). PDC is one of many nationally established professional pharmacy fraternities with chapters across the country. Among the core goals of PDC is to advance the profession of pharmacy while developing the leadership and professional skills of its members.
Speaking from my own experience and that which I have learned from my peers, it is clear – joining a professional pharmacy fraternity can be key to gaining or developing the inter-professional skills that enable pharmacists to successfully navigate their career. It offers experiences and the opportunities for relationship development that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
As many people do not know of the amazing opportunities which can be obtained through joining a professional pharmacy fraternity, I have composed the following. Here are my top 5 reasons to join a professional pharmacy fraternity during your time as a student in pharmacy school.
Reason #1: The extensive opportunities to serve the community and practice patient counseling skills
As future health care professionals, it is one of our responsibilities to serve the community around us and make impactful changes. This change can come in small or large acts of service, all of which are valuable to the lives we touch when participating in community service. It is a pillar of most (if not all) pharmacy fraternities to offer community service opportunities for its members.
Being a part of a fraternity gives students the opportunity to represent the fraternity letters and school while connecting with the outside community. As growing professionals, pharmacy students can practice their patient counseling skills with members of the community. This may occur for example in a health fair setting or in a retirement home conducting health screenings. Participating in activities such as this allows students to role play as a pharmacist and apply the clinical knowledge learned in the classroom while working under their pharmacist mentor. Joining a pharmacy fraternity both opens the doors to these opportunities and enables students to take leadership positions within such activities.
Serving the community is personally gratifying, but when an entire organization collectively participates in community service, the outcome is remarkable. Joining a pharmacy fraternity gives members the power to make a bigger change than the one individual could make on his or her own.
Reason #2: Access to mentors who can give scholastic advice and become pharmacy school guides
Pharmacy school is not a walk in the park for most students. Joining a professional pharmacy fraternity provides access to a network of mentors who have been through the pharmacy curriculum and can offer retrospective advice.
Whether it is pointing out which textbooks are truly mandatory or calming nerves about an upcoming exam, being a part of a pharmacy fraternity allows students to ask questions and seek guidance in people who can give helpful but honest advice.
Naturally, in the fraternity young mentees all eventually have the opportunity to serve as a mentor, which allows them to use all the knowledge learned in pharmacy school and become a resource for younger members in the fraternity. Sharing knowledge and applying what is learned in the classroom to educate the younger members of the fraternity is a huge benefit of joining a pharmacy fraternity and can help students become better pharmacists.
Gaining practice as a mentee and mentor also serves to foster professional development skills. Mentorship does not end after school, as pharmacists in the field serve as mentors to students. By joining a professional pharmacy fraternity, the ability to see different mentoring styles and then serving as a mentor builds foundational skills that will help students who will probably serve in these roles in the future.
Reason #3: Opportunities for professional development & networking
Joining a pharmacy fraternity offers multiple ways to gain interpersonal skills. For example, this may be through networking or professional event planning.
Pharmacy organizations are also a huge part of the voice of the future pharmacists of the world. We plan events that bring to light the role a pharmacist can play on the healthcare team. In doing so future leaders are developed.
Pharmacy students play a tremendous role in advocating the profession of pharmacy to the public. This includes awareness about the knowledge a pharmacist posseses and how the profession can serve to improve public health. Activities that involve advancing the profession of pharmacy (e.g., advocating for provider status) enable students to practice communicating as a healthcare professional. These professional experiences additionally may serve as discussion points in future job interviews to demonstrate a desire to advance not only individually, but for the profession as a whole.
Furthermore, joining a pharmacy fraternity with a national network instantly connects you to a massive group of like-minded individuals. Given that networking plays a key role in opening doors as a healthcare professional, it is something students need to work on when the opportunity presents itself. Networking within PDC has afforded me to make many connections.
Reason #4: The chance to better yourself through professional socialization
In a rigorous academic program (such as the typical pharmacy school curriculum) it is easy to get lost in exams, homework, and projects. However, it is essential that pharmacy students acknowledge getting the best grades does not mean you will be the best pharmacist.
Participating in social events and taking leadership positions helps develop well-rounded and mature students who are able to think on their own.
Starting as a committee head, moving to an executive board position, to a leadership position on the regional or national level is an example of a pathway one can take to maximize their potential. Going to the national level is not the right path for everyone, but the beauty of professional pharmacy fraternities is that they allow you to determine your path while providing the resources to achieve whatever you decide are your individual goals.
To me, being a leader within an organization is a strong reflection of what it is like to be a leader in the professional world. The necessary interpersonal, communication, and managerial skills are fundamentally the same.
Specific to pharmacy fraternities is a strong sense of empowerment that comes along with serving the organization alongside your peers (which are referred to as ‘brothers’). I have found that the culture around professional fraternities is one that pushes its members to be more involved, take on leadership positions, and see each challenge as an opportunity for that individual’s development.
Through observing organizations at my school it is evident each has its own culture. I would imagine the same situation is found at other schools. What the fraternities seem to offer more than the other organizations is the leadership plus the social opportunities, which together foster a deeper level of personal and professional growth. What some may refer to as ‘brotherhood’, which brings me to the next reason…
Reason #5: The special bond known as Brotherhood, which taps into an innate human desire
It is well known that humans have a desire of belonging. To be a part of something. To care and love others while receiving the same in return. Pharmacy fraternities cannot always provide exactly this, but many times the brotherhood aspect of the fraternities feeds this natural desire.
Attending college can be a turning point for young individuals, where they need to be more independent and are often away from their families for the first time. During this time they may seek comfort in their peers, seeking to find a group of friends such that a home away from home could be developed. Pharmacy fraternities do not offer this exactly, but they offer something close. They offer the potential to develop deep friendship that will last a lifetime.
Brotherhood will be defined differently depending on the PDC member that you ask. The culture within a fraternity also differs from chapter to chapter and evolves over time as new members are inducted and older members graduate.
To me brotherhood is the foundation of every fraternity and it helps drive each brother to want to succeed not only for personal accomplishment, but for the achievement of the entire organization. A fraternity’s brotherhood encompasses the way its brothers interact with each other, the spirit the brothers emanate as a whole, and also the feeling of comradery that holds each member of the fraternity tighter than in a traditional professional organization.
Pharmacy School is an exciting time in life, but at times, is also a difficult journey. Having a support system is key to pushing through hard nights and weekends studying. Some pharmacy students are used to being surrounded by family or other loved ones, but it can often be difficult with geographic and time constraints to continue this as a student. By joining a pharmacy fraternity, you have the opportunity to build relationships with other pharmacy students who are also beside you all along the way.
The stressful nights studying together are my fondest memories, which I now look back with nostalgia knowing I was with my brothers and we were struggling together. It was often those times, “the in-between”, where Brotherhood is formed and life-lasting bonds are forged.
I leave all pharmacist students with the advice to at least consider joining a professional pharmacy fraternity if you are interested in getting involved in extracurricular activities. Most schools offer multiple fraternities on their campus, each with their own culture and their own offerings to members.
If you desire the benefits pharmacy fraternities have to offer, seek to find where you fit best. Ask the brothers about the time commitment, the brotherhood that exists, the leadership and professional opportunities. Decide if it aligns with who you are and what you are looking for. There is absolutely nothing to lose and just like any other organization, what you put into the fraternity, correlates to what you get out.
I will implore you to peek into a door before you shut it – as you may be surprised with what you find on the other side.
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