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PAM powerhouse

Pharmacist Awareness Month boosts school spirit – and reputation

By Marcia Porter

Rita Huang is excited about her upcoming visit to Kenmount Bingo in St. John’s later this month.

The third-year School of Pharmacy student at Memorial is not bringing a bingo dauber, though.

What she’s really looking forward to is chatting with the roomful of seniors who will be there two hours prior to the bingo action for the blood pressure clinic.

It’s just one of the many events pharmacy students organized as part of Pharmacist Awareness Month (PAM).

‘The profession is changing’

“It’s one of my personal favourite (activities) during PAM,” said Ms. Huang, who is from St. John’s and is this year’s PAM community outreach representative. “They’re really eager to come and chat with us.”

The clinic is one event in a chock-a-block, month-long schedule that includes a series of timely and topical lunch and learn sessions, school presentations and information sessions, a public pill drop where you can safely dispose of old medications and a social media takeover by faculty and students.

“We do a lot at high schools, helping people learn what pharmacists can do,” said Melissa Kieley, the school’s outreach director who is also a third-year student from St. John’s. “Students might be more inclined to apply to pharmacy school if we explain the scope of pharmacy and how the profession is changing.”

All 30 days of events are planned by the PAM committee, a group of seven pharmacy students on a mission to maintain and build on Memorial’s School of Pharmacy’s reputation as small but mighty, a school that punches well above its population count.

From left, front row, are Rita Huang, Maria Josey and Melissa Kieley. From left, back row, are Sandi Schuhmacher, Lexi Symonds and Meaghan Wilson. Missing from photo: Caitlyn Coles
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Memorial’s School of Pharmacy is the smallest of Canada’s 10 pharmacy schools with a total undergraduate student body of 160, compared to some of the larger schools where there can be as many as 200 in a first-year class.

And in spite of its small size, the school has picked up a number of awards at the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns (CAPSI) conference every year, including the coveted Award of Professionalism.

“We’re winning consistently.” — Lexi Symonds

The award recognizes the school that produced the best PAM from among the 10 schools; Memorial’s School of Pharmacy has earned first place in four of the past five years.

“We’re winning consistently,” said Lexi Symonds, the school’s senior CAPSI representative and a third-year student from St. John’s who helped put together last year’s award-winning submission. “I don’t know if it’s because we all know each other well, but we all end up doing well. We make our mark! People like us because we are small. ”

Travelling to the national CAPSI conference every year, where the school’s 20 or so delegates are vastly outnumbered by the 600 from other Canadian schools, is in no way an intimidating experience, says Ms. Symonds.

She says it’s an opportunity: “We are energetic, and we make ourselves heard.”

N.L. pharmacy ambassadors

“We want everyone else to know how great our school is and we want to share that,” said Sandi Schuhmacher, chair of this year’s PAM committee and a second-year student from British Columbia who opted for the smaller school over larger programs because of its size and its friendly community feel.

“We don’t want them to overlook us. And we want them to see the kindness that Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer.”

Because, after all, the students see themselves as ambassadors for the province.

They don’t coast on their reputation, though.

The students are always on the lookout for new PAM activities to help celebrate the profession of pharmacy and to educate the public about pharmacists’ expanded scope of practice.

“We have a session about the LGBTQI2+ community. That’s a huge population we don’t often talk about in school,” said Maria Josey, a second-year student from Halifax, N.S., who knew she’d landed in a special place when she visited for admission interviews. “We want to make sure we are treating LGBTQI2+ patients properly and that they are respected.”

First-year student Caitlyn Coles, who’s handling all things social media during PAM, is looking forward to telling students at her alma mater, Holy Spirit High School in CBS, about the Pharm.D. program she’s enrolled in.

“I want students and the community to have a better understanding of the role of pharmacists in the health-care system, and I want them to understand the range of care that pharmacists provide every day.”

To learn more about what’s happening during #20MUNPAM20, check out the schedule.  

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