Student-Organized Conference Raises Awareness About Managed Care

Written By: Bhavna Jois, Third-Year Student Pharmacist and AMCP Student Chapter President

Managed care and industry – these terms are often used interchangeably by students and faculty alike. But, do students actually understand what these terms mean?

As a first-year student pharmacist, I recall having a vague understanding about the non-traditional career paths available in pharmacy, but I lacked the knowledge and vernacular to actively discuss the fundamentals of these distinct fields. In fact, the knowledge that I have gained about these fields since that time has been the result of intrinsic motivation. As a rising third-year student pharmacist, I realized that other pharmacy students would greatly benefit from gaining a closer look at how our country’s health care system works and how emerging managed care and health care trends impact the system early in our didactic education.

To help fill this critical gap, I worked with other student pharmacist leaders at the School of Pharmacy, as well as at other pharmacy schools on the East Coast, to organize the first-ever Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference (MARC) in September at the School. The goal of this event was to create a gateway to introduce students to central, relevant concepts within managed care and industry that could be applied to their education and future careers.

Managed Care 101: What You Need to Know

Managed care pharmacy professionals strive to help patients get the medications they need at a cost they can afford. They work to achieve this in a variety of ways, including through health insurance plans and hospital infrastructure. Pharmaceutical companies also interact with various managed care stakeholders to improve medication access for patients on a global level. Managed care organizations effectively work to design benefit structures that serve the needs of particular patient populations. No matter what pharmacy career a student intends to pursue, a solid grasp of managed care is not only beneficial, it’s essential.

An Opportunity to Learn from Leaders in the Field

The inaugural AMCP MARC was held September 21-22 in Pharmacy Hall. This two-day, student-run conference was organized by the School’s AMCP student chapter, with assistance from the student chapters at the Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and the University of North Carolina (UNC) Eshelman School of Pharmacy. The event brought together aspiring pharmacists from the country’s top Doctor of Pharmacy programs to learn from prominent leaders within managed care and the pharmaceutical industry.

More than 70 students, 13 guest speakers, and five sponsoring organizations from up and down the East Coast came together to learn about relevant concepts from experts in the fields. It was an honor to have our keynote speakers, Susan A. Cantrell, RPh, CAE, chief executive officer for AMCP, and Babette Edgar, BSP, MBA, RPh, former national president of AMCP, kick off the conference with discussions about their career journeys and how managed care has impacted their lives. Another highlight from the weekend was a thorough “Introduction to Managed Care” presentation led by a team of pharmacy residents and fellows, who explained how some managed care concepts can be applied to a variety of careers.

The conference progressed with discussions about current and proposed health care reform and future implications for quality of care. Experts spoke on the role of health care consulting companies in capturing insights between different stakeholders and patients in order to increase medication access. The first day concluded with a discussion about the future impact of patient-centered outcomes research, while the second day included an overview of the medical affairs area in industry, a showcase of fellowship opportunities, and a panel discussion focused on alternative care and delivery models, value-based payment arrangements, and value frameworks. Our panelists were able to provide diverse perspectives on the definition of “value” in health care.

Overall, the conference proved to be an invaluable opportunity for networking and gaining insight into real world issues. The knowledge imparted at MARC was furthered by networking opportunities, as students interacted with other students, professionals, and sponsors, and discovered unique events showcased by other chapters. Embracing MARC’s theme of “Building a Patient-Centered Value Chain,” attendees engaged in insightful conversations about the current status of our health care system.

Looking Toward the Future of the Field

Within managed care and industry, pharmacy professionals have the opportunity to benefit millions of lives through improving insurance benefits, developing innovative new medicines, and ensuring access to these medicines. Being a part of this professional community motivates me every day. I hope that attendees walked away from the conference inspired by leaders who tirelessly work to find solutions to the problems plaguing our health care system, and I encourage students to continue learning about emerging trends in health care and to work towards developing innovative solutions to address the challenges we discussed. When it comes to leadership, innovation, and education, teach each other, learn from each other, and maintain your connections. You may find yourself coordinating or even speaking at an event like MARC one day! Like Dr. Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy once said, “Have some fire. Be unstoppable. Be a force of nature.”

Though the journey to organize this event was not an easy one, I am so proud to have worked with such a talented group of pharmacy students to successfully achieve this incredible goal. Our AMCP chapter is incredibly blessed to have been joined by professionals at the forefront of managed care, the pharmaceutical industry, and academia. Creating a successful event like MARC was an extremely fulfilling project, and it would not have been possible without our collaborators at UNC and Rutgers University, the support of our School and alumni, and the help of my exceedingly capable team at Maryland. I have no doubt that the knowledge and experiences gained will have a profound impact on the trajectory of students’ pharmacy careers, and our chapters will strive to make MARC a successful annual event for years to come.

Student pharmacists attending AMCP MARC pose for photo with keynote speaker.


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