Written By: Elena Buff, Third-Year Student Pharmacist

The School of Pharmacy’s student chapter of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) celebrated the unofficial start of the summer season before Memorial Day Weekend with the 9th Annual “TO LIFE” Health & Wellness Expo on May 24. The event was coordinated by the Bender Jewish Community Center (JCC) Coming of Age (CoA) in Maryland program, and was held at Leisure World, a retirement community located in Silver Spring, Md., that is home to more than 8,500 residents over age 50.

The event attracted more than 1,000 attendees, and featured more than 65 exhibitors, 25 different health screenings, six workshops, and a keynote speaker. APhA-ASP partnered with Giant Pharmacy to provide blood pressure screenings and vaccinations at the event.

Translating Classroom Lessons to Community Practice

The third-year student pharmacists in our group who had completed the APhA immunization certification course – myself included — were able to provide immunizations to patients who visited our booth. Although I had practiced giving immunizations in class, I was still nervous about giving my first immunization to a real patient. However, thanks to the support of a trusting patient and our Giant pharmacist preceptor, I was able to give my first two intramuscular shots at this event. It was exciting to have an opportunity to use the skills that I gained in the classroom to directly impact patient care. And, I can confidently say that, after this event, I am no longer nervous about giving immunizations to patients.

Overall, the event was a great success. We provided 10 immunizations total – seven shingles (Shingrix) vaccines, one pneumococcal (Pneumovax 23) vaccine, and two tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) boosters – and engaged more than 100 attendees in conversation about the importance of staying up-to-date on immunizations. We also conducted approximately 75 blood pressures screenings at the event, counseled patients about their results, and encouraged them to share their results with their health care providers.

Engaging with and Learning from Patients

Participating in outreach events is one of my favorite parts of being a student pharmacist. These events offer amazing opportunities for both students and community members to learn from each other. Students are able to apply knowledge acquired in the classroom to real-world scenarios, while community members have the opportunity to inform themselves about their health status and how it can potentially be improved. Patient care is a huge part of the pharmacy profession, and interacting with patients at outreach events is a great way to practice patient interactions in an environment that is less stressful and more exciting than the typical classroom setting. In addition, most patients are grateful for the personal interactions they have with students.

I’d like to thank our volunteers — third-year student pharmacists Anoopa Poovathodi and Tilahun Abegaz, and second-year student pharmacists Ricardo Gaitan and Chaya Lachman — for using a day of their summer vacation to make a positive impact on the community. I also thank Bender JCC CoA for hosting this wonderful event; Giant Pharmacy for including our students in amazing outreach opportunities; Rimple Gabri, PharmD, pharmacy manager at Giant Pharmacy and our preceptor, for encouraging us to practice giving immunizations; and the many patients that allowed us to serve them.

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