A year of virtual meetings has in no way slowed down WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences students. This year at the virtual American Pharmacists Associations (APhA) annual meeting WSU pharmacy students made waves: Carissa Teeters, class of 2023, presented and passed a resolution during the house of delegates; Zachary Coleman, class of 2022, was selected to serve as the chair of the national Policy Standing Committee; the WSU chapter of APhA-ASP (APhA-Academy of Student Pharmacists) received the Operation Immunization 2019-2020 First Runner-Up Award; and second-year Kennedy Erickson was elected APhA-ASP President by her peers across the nation. This is the first time that the college has had a student elected to the national role.

“As a former APhA trustee, I know how valuable this opportunity will prove to be as just a first step in a very promising future for Kennedy,” said Vice Dean of External Relations Linda Garrelts McLean.

Erickson, class of 2023, is from Olympia, Washington and completed her Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Neuroscience at Western Washington University before coming to the Washington State University. Here’s what she had to say about her new role.

Kennedy Erickson, APhA-ASP National President-elect

What you will be doing as the APhA-ASP National President-elect?
My goal is to collaborate with national, regional, and chapter officers to establish a National Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for student pharmacists. Pharmacists and student pharmacists are uniquely positioned within their communities to advocate for equal and equitable health care and to make a difference in their patients’ lives. My hope is to:

  • Create an inclusive environment that gives a stronger voice to marginalized communities
  • Give members a safe and collegial place to listen, be heard, and learn from diverse perspectives
  • Identify and work to resolve inequalities within our organization and profession

In addition to working to accomplish goals outlined in my platform, I will be learning about and serving the Academy in any way that I can. I will help coordinate leadership conferences, outreach visits, and will be reading about accomplishments of student pharmacists nationwide when I read the Chapter Achievement Reports for the annual Chapter Achievement awards. Ultimately, my role is to support student pharmacists nationwide and I am excited to see how that looks this year as we begin to transition back into normalcy!

What made you pursue the position?
Ultimately, I pursued this position out of a desire to serve student pharmacists nationwide and to give back and improve upon an organization that has already given me so much as a future provider. APhA-ASP provides incredible opportunities for students to develop professionally, network, apply their clinical knowledge and skills through outreach, and utilize their voices to make the world around us a better place. I ran for this position with a goal of establishing a National Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee because APhA-ASP has incredible resources and platforms for student pharmacists to use their voices to make a difference. I believe with the right tools, we all can work to be better listeners, friends, and advocates for change. I believe a DEI committee can identify how to unite our profession so we can work to dismantle social inequalities within our organization, profession, the health care system, and the communities we serve.

What about this experience are you most looking forward to?
I am very excited to support, serve, and network with student pharmacists – no matter what that looks like this upcoming year! I love hearing creative and innovative ideas from students nationwide because they always inspire me to get creative. I am looking forward to supporting members in their professional growth and helping their chapters in any way I can in hosting advocacy, patient care, leadership, and networking events.

Why do you believe it is important for pharmacy students to be represented in national organizations?
It is so important for student pharmacists to be represented on a national level because we are the future of the profession! Through advocacy, patient care outreach, and leadership development, our voices and actions influence the scope of practice and level of care pharmacists can provide to their communities. As pharmacy continues to progress and evolve to meet the everchanging needs of our communities, it is important that our voices are represented in organizations such as APhA-ASP.

What specific issues will student pharmacists be advocating for across the nation?
Although a lot of issues pertaining to pharmacy right now are state-specific, a topic that student pharmacists will be advocating for nationwide is federal provider status for pharmacists. By removing regulatory, reimbursement, and payment barriers, pharmacists will be enabled to work at the top of their license and provide the highest quality of care to their patients.

Why did you choose the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences?
I was born and raised in Washington and I wanted to stay in-state as I plan to live here for the rest of my life. WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences was lucrative to me as it is the most affordable program in our state. I was also drawn to WSU CPPS because of the active learning model. I am a kinesthetic and team-based learner, so I was really excited when I learned WSU CPPS offers this model of education. After going through the admission interview, I immediately accepted my acceptance offer because of how supportive the faculty, staff, and students were throughout the process. I knew without a doubt that this was a community that I wanted to be a part of.

Do you have any advice for future pharmacy students?

  • Find activities – both personal and professional – that bring you fulfillment. When you are happy and fulfilled, you will inspire both your peers and patients to be the best they can be.
  • Get to know your peers, faculty, and alumni! You will hear it over and over… pharmacy is a small world. Having a supportive network can help you leverage your goals as a future pharmacist!
  • Try to do things that push you outside of your comfort zone! We all have room to grow. Trying something new is a great way learn about your strengths, interests, and yourself in general!

Is there a specific field of pharmacy you are interested in? Why?
Since I am a “neuro-nerd,” I am currently very interested in learning about novel methods to treat mental health conditions. I have been reading literature regarding the use of psychedelics, transcranial magnetic stimulation, ketamine, and pharmacogenomics to help treat these conditions. As a future pharmacist, it is important to stay up-to-date and knowledgeable about up-and-coming therapies in order to provide the highest quality of care to our patients.

Where do you want to work as a pharmacist? What is your dream job?
My dream is to work as a psychiatric pharmacist in either a community or hospital setting in a rural town. By 2025, the demand for psychiatrists will be 25% higher than the supply. Pharmacists are the perfect solution to fill this gap in care. I believe this shortage will disproportionately impact rural communities, so I would like to be there to provide these services to patients who may not otherwise have access to them.

I would also love to work in academia to teach and mentor future leaders in our profession and collaborate with WSPA and APhA to continue advocating for patients and our profession.