Second-year pharmacy student Sonja Christensen was recently appointed as the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Region 7 Delegate, a national position. Christensen shares what she hopes to accomplish in the position and the importance of advocating for the pharmacy profession.
Why did you choose to pursue your doctor of pharmacy degree and why did you choose the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences?
My grandpa and dad are both pharmacists, and they are a major reason for why I chose to go into the field of pharmacy. I have helped work as a pharmacist technician and intern for the past 6 years at the independent pharmacy run by my family in Ketchikan, Alaska. During my time as a pharmacist technician, I witnessed first-hand how pharmacists are the most accessible and closest access to health care, and pharmacists serve as a major bridge between providers and patients. I was inspired by the quality of care my dad and grandpa gave to each one of their patients and the amount of trust the patients had for them. I chose the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in particular because they offer great opportunities to get involved in policy and service at the community and state level. I also had the privilege of knowing amazing pharmacists who went to the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and they all recommended this school to me.
What do you want to accomplish during your term as the Region 7 Delegate?
During this term, I hope to engage more students to get involved in learning about the policy processes of pharmacy and get them excited about having a voice in their profession. I also hope to advocate for the wellbeing and care of pharmacists, student pharmacists, pharmacist technicians, and patients.
What motivated you to pursue the position?
I pursued this position because I am passionate about advancing the profession of pharmacy and being an advocate for patient care. I specifically pursued this position because I have seen the new and old problems in the world of pharmacy, and I know that the best way to initiate change is to get involved and do your best to advocate with your own voice. One event in particular that made me make the extra step in pursuing this position is the pandemic. I have witnessed the dilemma of burnout and tough working conditions in the world of pharmacy. However, these problems have escalated since the pandemic started, and I knew I needed to do my part and get involved in policy for pharmacists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians. The pharmacy profession has made incredible strides to go beyond their past responsibilities and sacrifice their time and energy to extend their care to patients. I want to continue advocating for the advancement of the pharmacy profession so we can increase the access of care for all patients and decrease the overall cost of health care.
Why do you believe it is important to get involved in student groups?
There are so many important reasons why it is essential to get involved in student groups. First of all, I have been able to make lifelong friends and supportive mentors with WSU student pharmacists from different cohorts. I have also built relationships with professors, community staff members, and preceptors through my role as APhA-ASP regional delegate and operation immunization chair-elect. Pharmacy school is a huge challenge and you have to juggle your mental health, social life, physical health, and so much more with your academics. Being involved in student groups allows you to meet other students going through the same struggles and stressors so you don’t feel alone. I have also found that student groups remind you of why you decided to go into pharmacy and the various passions you have for your life, which helps you from getting burnt out and manage your time better.
What is the most pressing issue you hope to bring to the table as Region 7 Delegate?
The most pressing issue I hope to bring to the table as Region 7 Delegate is the issue of safe staffing and work conditions, particularly in chain pharmacies. I also hope to bring awareness and promote support for pharmacies getting properly reimbursed for the services they provide to their patients by all state, federal, and private insurances.
What is the best advice you ever received and why?
The best advice I have ever received is “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” You will never grow and make changes if you don’t go outside your own box. I try to go outside my comfort zone and meet someone new every single day. Everyone has a unique voice and perspective, and learning from other people is how I grow and make amazing life-long connections. Once you learn that you have power over your own fears, you start to achieve your goals and fear no longer controls you.
Anything else you want to add?
I wouldn’t have had the courage to run for Region 7 Delegate if it wasn’t for my supportive family, mentors, and friends. My mom, dad, and sister have been my number one cheerleaders from the very start of my pharmacy career and I don’t know what I would do without them. I also want to give a big shout out to my mentor and APhA-ASP’s current national president, Kennedy Erickson. She has provided endless support and encouragement to me during my first two years in pharmacy school, which is the major reason why I was able to go outside my comfort zone and obtain various leadership roles.