Photo of Andrew HelmWSU pharmacy student Andrew Helm is the new president-elect of the National Community Pharmacists Association’s students’ council and will serve as president in 2010-11.

It will be the second time in three years a WSU student has served as president of the 16-member national student leadership council. WSU pharmacy student Jason Doss, who graduated in May, just finished his term as president for 2008-09.

Involvement by WSU students has been supported and encouraged by College alumni who also have been active at the national level of NCPA, including 1978 graduates Holly Whitcomb Henry of Seattle, who will conclude a term as the NCPA president in October, and Linda Garrelts MacLean of Spokane, a former pharmacy owner who is now chair of the WSU College of Pharmacy’s pharmacotherapy department.

In addition to new student council president-elect Andrew Helm and past president Doss, student Manpreet Chahal of the class of 2010 is serving his second year on the NCPA student council. Chahal, like Doss, also served a term as president of WSU’s Graduate & Professional Student Association.

Helm’s visibility in pharmacy school at WSU rose considerably in his second year when he and two pharmacy professors organized a successful pharmacy student trip to the Washington Legislature in February for the annual Pharmacy Day sponsored by the Washington State Pharmacy Association. Helm has since been appointed by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire to be the student trustee this next year on the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board, and he will be speaking at the NCPA annual convention in New Orleans in October about leadership in pharmacy and getting involved in the legislative process.

To prepare for Pharmacy Day at the Legislature, Helm went through a week-long “legislative advocacy boot camp” in the state’s capital offered by the Washington Student Lobby organization, and then he in turn trained other WSU pharmacy students.

Helm said he believes more pharmacists need to become legislators to bring about necessary changes in pharmacy’s role in healthcare. He might someday run for political office himself.

“When you think of the logistics of having an army of future pharmacists assembled all at once in school,” Helm said, “there is no better time than now to get my cohorts trained to think politically and get some good civically engaged habits formed.”

Helm gives credit to “lots” of other people for his recent successes in pharmacy school.

“These are people who took an interest in me and who have taught me to aim higher, to go after the gusto and see what I could really do,” Helm said. “They kept an eye out for doorways of opportunity and pushed me through. I’m not sure I have lived up to the potential they saw in me, but if not for their guidance, I would never have taken the first steps down the path that I’m on.”

Helm started working in the pharmacy field more than 10 years ago as a technician at an independent pharmacy and he has since been employed in a variety of pharmacy settings. After he graduates from pharmacy school in 2011, he plans to pursue degrees in law and business and someday own a pharmacy. Helm grew up in Bellevue and went to high school in Deer Park near Spokane. He married a high school classmate, Shannon, and they have four children, ages 6, 4, 3 and 1.