Student Perspective: Professional organizations and conferences for success

Zoe Shelton, a fourth-year student pharmacist, shares her insights on professional organizations and how staying active has helped contribute to a more enriching PharmD experience. She is currently the Northwest Region Province Secretary for Kappa Psi, the oldest and largest national pharmaceutical fraternity.

For students who are considering pharmacy school, can you tell them why it’s important to get involved with professional pharmacy conferences and organizations?

It is extremely important to get involved with pharmacy organizations on campus and to attend professional pharmacy conferences. Without getting involved in pharmacy organizations, I would not have had most of the opportunities I have been given during my journey as a student pharmacist. I also would not have had the pleasure of meeting so many other pharmacy students who support me and who constantly encourage me to continue to be involved in new ways. Joining pharmacy organizations has opened so many doors for me, and I am so thankful for the experiences I have had and for the people I have met through this. I have also been able to attend several professional pharmacy conferences (both virtual and in-person) through joining organizations. These experiences have allowed me to network with many health care professionals and have influenced my personal growth as a health care professional.­ 

Which conferences did you attend during the school year and can you share your experiences? 

One of the professional pharmacy conferences I was able to attend this school year was the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting. APhA is the nation’s oldest and largest pharmacy organization, and the annual meeting usually brings in upwards of 10,000 health care professionals. This year’s APhA Annual Meeting was held in-person in San Antonio, Texas, and it was so great to be able to travel to and attend such a large and engaging conference. Attending this meeting not only allowed me to connect with student pharmacists and other health care professionals from across the nation, but also gave me the opportunity to attend many educational sessions and witness the House of Delegates discuss policy changes that pertain to pharmacy. This experience has encouraged me to continue attending professional pharmacy conferences so that I can meet and work with other health care professionals who are passionate about advocating for the progression of pharmacy.

Zoe Shelton (fourth from the left) at the 2022 American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas in March. The APhA Annual Meeting is a comprehensive meeting for pharmacy professionals and future leaders in pharmacy to learn about leadership, career opportunities, and patient safety from nationally recognized experts.

The other professional pharmacy conference I was able to attend this semester was Kappa Psi’s Northwest Province Winter Province Assembly. Attending this conference in person was the first time I had been able to attend an in-person conference throughout my educational career, and I am so thankful that I was able to attend. Through this experience, I was able to connect with other members of Kappa Psi not only from across our region, but from across the country. I was also able to attend educational sessions pertaining to patient care and took part in voting on legislative proposals. Our college’s chapter, Beta Pi, also won a couple of awards at this conference, including the Most Creative Chapter Award and the Furthest Traveled Chapter Award! As the Regent (President) of our chapter, I was given the pleasure of accepting these awards, and am very proud of our chapter for winning these. Lastly, I am honored to mention I was also nominated for and voted into a regional position at this conference!

Can you tell us more about Kappa Psi?

Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity, Inc., is the oldest and largest pharmaceutical fraternity. This fraternity is a professional fraternity, and we really focus on professional growth, leadership, community education and involvement, and the promotion of the profession of pharmacy. The fraternity is also co-ed, and refers to all members as “Brothers.” One aspect of being a Brother in Kappa Psi that is unique to other pharmaceutical organizations is that once you become a Brother, you are a Brother for life. This is a special and important aspect because our Brothers make up a very tight-knit community, and being a part of this community has provided such an immense amount of support. It truly feels like being a part of a big family. Being involved in this organization throughout my journey as a student pharmacist has also allowed me to grow so much as a professional, and I am thankful for the opportunities offered by this organization.

What does the regional officer do and when do you take office?

My position on Kappa Psi’s Northwest Province Executive Board is the Secretary, and I took office the same day I was elected. In this role, my main responsibility is to communicate with chapters across the region about any chapter related matters. I am also responsible for assisting in the organization of our next Winter Province Assembly. My other responsibilities include typical secretary duties, such as organizing meetings, maintaining records, and working with the other executive board members to assist them with any of their tasks.

What are the most pressing issues you hope to tackle in your new role? 

The most pressing issues I hope to tackle in my new role are resolving the communication barriers that have risen over the past couple of years, as well as figuring out how to increase involvement in chapters across our region. Over the past couple of years, colleges of pharmacy nationwide have had a sizeable decline in the amount of involvement from students, and it will likely take some time for student pharmacists to get back to how things used to be. I would like to start working on ways to support each other with this challenge. I want to connect with Brothers across our region so that we are more involved in helping one another and our communities. It is also a goal of mine to work on supporting one another in order to make sure everyone knows they aren’t alone and that our team is here to help them.