Conferences for pharmacy organizations are one of the very exciting opportunities in pharmacy school. During my time at Ohio State, I’ve been to multiple conferences at the state, regional, and national levels. This post will hopefully give you an idea of what it’s like to attend a national conference for a pharmacy organization.
This month I had the opportunity to go to Baltimore for APhA2016—which is the annual conference for APhA (American Pharmacists Association). This conference is very different from other conferences because of its scale. APhA is the largest pharmacy organization in the country, and the annual conference draws both pharmacists and student pharmacists across the nation. It’s hard to imagine the size of it until you’re there, and it spans several days. This conference typically alternates between locations in the eastern and western United States—so last year I was in San Diego, and the year before that I was in Orlando.
There are so many different events at the conference, so I’ll try to give you an idea of the many opportunities you’ll find.
One big part of APhA conferences is leadership—and it’s present in many different ways. There are chapter leader workshops, where newly elected executive board members from our Ohio State chapter can learn more about their positions for the coming year and find out about any updates from the previous year.
At both the regional and national conferences, student members can attend a session that is part of the Leadership Training Series, with each featuring a different speaker and a different aspect of leadership. Unique to this series is the ability to receive a certificate upon completion after attending this session at four different conferences. I love attending these sessions because each speaker brings something different to the table.
Another aspect of leadership that is spread throughout the weekend is the election for the national executive committee. APhA consists of three academies—one of which is the Academy of Student Pharmacists (ASP). Every year APhA-ASP elects four student pharmacists to serve on the committee. This year in Baltimore was especially exciting since we had someone from Ohio State running. It was so exciting to follow—from informal meetings with the candidates at their posters to the open candidate review where the candidates answered questions on the spot to the candidates’ final speeches before votes were cast. As exciting as following the campaign was, it was no match for the excitement we had when our very own Michael Murphy was announced as President-Elect of APhA-ASP.
Robin and Michael Murphy during Meet the Candidates
There are so many different leadership opportunities within APhA, and the annual conference is a great way to develop your skills.
Student Specific Programming
At APhA2016, there was a lot of student specific programming—especially for our patient care projects. There were workshops for a number of our different projects like Operation Heart and Operation Diabetes. This year, I attended a GenerationRx workshop, and I was absolutely thrilled to see how other chapters have really taken on this project. GenerationRx is an initiative that was created at Ohio State a few years ago to help combat prescription drug abuse, but other student chapters throughout the country have really made this initiative their own—from billboards and drug take-back days to film viewings and presentations in middle schools. This workshop at APhA2016 was a way for chapters throughout the country to share their ideas and exchange advice with other chapters. Workshops are a great way to bring fresh ideas back to your school’s chapter.
There is also student programming on the more casual side, like the social on Friday night. This is usually a themed event with music, refreshments, and games. This year’s theme was a superhero one, so capes and masks abounded.
Me and some of my classmates at the social
Beyond student programming, student pharmacists can take advantage of any of the pharmacist programming as well—like the talk about the Zika virus that my friend went to when we each wanted to attend a different session.
Student pharmacists have their own House of Delegates distinct from the House of Delegates for pharmacists. During House of Delegates sessions, the Policy Vice President from each pharmacy school’s chapter represents that school. The sessions are led by the Speaker of the House and follow Robert’s Rules of Order, that fun and official-sounding way of conducting business—all those in favor, please signify so by saying yea—and all that.
Chapters vote on policies that were supported at the regional conferences earlier in the school year. A committee basically cleaned up all the policies from this year’s regional meetings, and then there was final vote on the national level in Baltimore. These policies then become something like the official stance of the organization on certain matters. For example, one proposal that was passed this year was about improving security technology in pharmacies. It’s an interesting process to see the beginnings of this brainstorming at your chapter and then how it fits into this bigger picture at the House of Delegates sessions at the annual conference.
The awards ceremony takes place on Sunday night, the last night of the conference. Chapters write a report about everything—absolutely everything—that they did during the past year, and submit this report during the summer. The APhA-ASP Awards Standing Committee reviews these reports, and then awards are announced at the annual conference in March.
This year, we were so pleased that Ohio State was recognized with a Chapter Achievement Award as Division AA First Runner-Up. I am so very proud of my fellow student pharmacists and the work that everyone put in for us to have this recognition at the national level.
Our chapter president, Bethany Hipp, (second from right) accepting our award
The awards ceremony recognizes not only chapters, but also individuals. Many student pharmacists received awards and scholarships, an outstanding chapter advisor was awarded, and the recipient of the Linwood F. Tice Friend of APhA-ASP Award was recognized.
The Ohio State University
Being able to connect with pharmacists and student pharmacists nationwide is such a great draw for APhA2016, but it also affords members the chance to connect with other student pharmacists from our chapter. One of my favorite experiences at the conference was Saturday morning brunch with my fellow student pharmacists from Ohio State.
Also, the dean of our college of pharmacy hosts a dinner every year for all of the student pharmacists, residents, faculty, and staff of the college. We had dinner at the Rusty Scupper, looking over the harbor as the sun set on Baltimore. It was truly a lovely way to bring together everyone from our college during the conference.
APhA2016 attendees from The Ohio State University
I hope that I was able to give you a taste of the many experiences that are available at a national pharmacy conference—if you have any questions or would like to hear more, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you in San Francisco next year!