Pharmacist Awareness Week about dispelling myths

(Edmonton) Pharmacist Awareness Week takes place March 6–12 at the University of Alberta and the Alberta Pharmacy Students’ Association has a number of community and faculty specific events planned.

For third-year pharmacy student and association vice-president external, Brett Edwards, Pharmacist Awareness Week is not just about promoting his chosen profession, it’s about getting out into the community and using his skills and education to counsel patients and provide advice.

"As pharmacy students, we value this opportunity to work in the community. For the future of our profession, it's important to dispel the myth that pharmacists are just the people that count pills behind that counter in the pharmacy”, says Edwards. “Getting out and working in the community helps us to achieve that, while helping us develop professional relationships with citizens.”

On Wednesday, March 9, from 9 a.m.–3 p.m., students will be working alongside practising pharmacists to offer a free osteoporosis screening clinic in the foyer of the Dentistry/Pharmacy building on the North Campus. Students will measure bone density and, based on the results, offer recommendations on the patient’s osteoporosis risk and ways to improve that risk through healthy living. The clinic is open to the students, staff and the public.

For Edwards, it’s a valuable opportunity to “develop the skills learned in the classroom while working with people on a one-on-one basis to assist them in reaching their health goals.”

Students will also be working with practising pharmacists, faculty members and a physician to offer a blood pressure screening clinic at Southgate Centre on March 10 from 1–5 p.m. The students will measure blood pressure and discuss ways for improvement, as well as how to decrease cardiovascular risk through healthy eating and living. Students will also offer current recommendations on salt intake, physical activity and smoking cessation, as well as answer questions people have about their medications.

Clinics like these are important to Edwards. “For us, as a profession, to have the chance to get out into the community to raise awareness about pharmacy is vital because many citizens are not aware of the services their pharmacist can offer; osteoporosis and blood pressure screening are just a sample of those services,” said Edwards. “We want to play a key role in helping people manage their health, as an integral member of their health-care team."

The student’s initiatives have the full support of the faculty. Several staff members, as well as alumni, participate in the events.

“Pharmacy Awareness Week is an opportunity for our students to raise awareness both on and off campus of the pharmacist's role in medication management, chronic disease management and self care,” says Christine Hughes, associate professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “This year our students have a number of exciting events planned that highlight the role of the pharmacist in screening patients at risk for disease but also provide an opportunity to educate the public about disease prevention and promoting healthy lifestyle behaviours.”

The week wraps up as the students go head-to-head with their professors in a fierce battle of pharmacy knowledge during PharmFacts, a Jeopardy style game with bragging rights on the line.

For more information on Pharmacist Awareness Week events, go to www.pharmacy.ualberta.ca/apsa/

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