October is American Pharmacists Month, and the students at UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy want to spread awareness the ways pharmacists' impact their communities and contribute to health care.
"More than 90 percent of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacist", said Megan Byrne, a second-year doctoral student in pharmacy and president-elect of UNC's chapter of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists. "Pharmacists today are arguably the most accessible providers for a lot of patients and are the experts on patients' medication."
When asked about the future of her field, Byrne agreed that the pharmacy profession is changing. "It's a pivotal time for pharmacists across America," Byrne said. "Pharmacists have now taken a more direct role in dealing with patients, rather than just dispensing pills."
According to Byrne, pharmacists in North Carolina especially play a pivotal role in healthcare because of their proximity to patients.
“When you get out to rural North Carolina, that was something that really stood out to me,” she said. “Sometimes a pharmacist is the closest person.”
Byrne also mentioned that, contrary to popular belief, not everyone who students pharmacy ends up practicing patient care. Pharmacists can have innovative roles in related fields, such as working for insurance or pharmaceutical companies.
Matthew Broadwater, a third-year Pharm.D. student and president of the Carolina Association of Pharmacy Students, said the general public is not frequently exposed to all the things pharmacists can do for them.
“At the end of the day, pharmacy is all about patient care and improving our patients’ lives,” Broadwater said, going on to say that the number of services that pharmacists can provide has greatly expanded to include immunizations, blood pressure, glucose readings and more.
Broadwater said that, with all the training pharmacists have, they can utilize their knowledge to interact with patients and help them.
“That’s what they are going to be doing best — it’s not sitting by a computer, it’s going to be interacting with patients," he said.
As new medication and diseases have increased over the years, along with longer needed care, Broadwater said the need for greater clinical knowledge has also increased.
“Health care is dramatically changing, and I do believe there is going to be a lot of pharmacy-based solutions,” Broadwater said.
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