Graduate students gathered in Aresty Auditorium at the USC Health Sciences Campus on Friday morning for Legislative Day, an opportunity to hear from a panel of legislators and pharmacists on a wide range of topics, including the passage of a bill titled SB 493, which aims to boost pharmacists’ status to care providers and expand their scope of practice.
Members of four professional organizations at USC, including the American Pharmacy Student Alliance (APSA) and California Pharmacists Association, coordinated the event. Ying Long, the CPhA Board of Trustees Representative for the APSA at the School of Pharmacy, emphasized the significance of Legislative Day.
“Our purpose is to educate students on the importance of being legislatively active by inviting local assembly representatives and senators in Los Angeles,” Long said. “We also invited pharmacists who are involved in legislation to demonstrate to students what they have done for the profession and give them exposure to legislation.”
One of the seven speakers, State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), was a co-author of SB 493. The bill, passed on Sept. 11, gives pharmacists the ability to extend their services into primary care through administering drugs and vaccinations. The bill also broadens the settings in which pharmacists can work, rather than being confined to pharmacies and hospitals. The bill is currently awaiting a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown.
“The success of the Affordable Care Act in the country is going to be dependent on what happens here in California,” Hernandez said. “There will be a huge capacity issue, a shortage of primary care providers — that’s where [pharmacists] come in.”
Hernandez also said that the bill will be transformative for the profession by using the intensive training that pharmacists already have to their advantage, granting them more independence.
Many students in attendance were excited for future prospects in their occupation.
“It is great that more positions are becoming available to pharmacists, because after completing a residency and investing so much time in my degree, it would be nice to secure a career,” said Tattika Soreta, a third-year pharmacy student.
Jon Roth, CEO of the CPhA, spoke about the importance of grassroots campaigning within the pharmacy profession and staying involved.
“It is critical to stay engaged throughout the entire process -— you are the experts. There is power in numbers, and when mobilized, these numbers provide a great army of information to legislators,” Roth said. “There needs to be an ongoing dialogue between pharmacy constituents and elected officials, so they get the message about the breadth of a pharmacist’s education and training. Nobody else can talk about what you’ve experienced.”
Victor Law, a member of the California Board of Pharmacy, worked with students to co-sponsor the SB 493 bill.
“I want to encourage students to get in touch with legislators and have an active role by stepping out of their comfort zone,” Law said.
Many pharmacy students who attended were motivated by the event.
“I came to Legislative Day to learn more about SB 493, but I now know that as a student, I need to get involved,” said Timothy Liu, a second-year pharmacy student.
The event culminated with an awards ceremony honoring the Legislative Planning Committee, the group that made the panel possible.
Follow Sareen on Twitter @sareenie