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More than Just Counting Pills…Pharmacists provide vital link in health care system

Marisa Pasquale Courtesy of UM School of Pharmacy
Marisa Pasquale
Courtesy of UM School of Pharmacy

“Pharmacy school? Why would you want to count pills for the rest of your life?” my mother asked incredulously. This was her initial reaction to me saying I wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy.

You see, I was not the traditional type of student that changed majors multiple times before deciding on a career path. My path was decided for me my junior year of high school, when I visited a pharmacy for my school’s allied health program and shadowed a pharmacist. Some would call it luck, some would call it divine intervention – I would consider it a calling.

I am in my second year of pharmacy school at the University of Mississippi. Although the calling has not changed, I have learned more about the field of pharmacy and perceptions that the general population holds. Most of it is positive (pharmacists are among the most trusted professionals!), yet it is hard to shake negative stereotypes of pharmacy like my mother’s initial reaction to my career choice.

Here’s the thing about pharmacy: pharmacists have and continue to be an essential part of the health care team. We are, after all, the medication experts! Even in my second year, we are learning to assess patients’ symptoms, determine which treatments are appropriate and inappropriate for certain patient types, and monitor the medications that are selected – definitely much more than counting pills. By the end of my first year, I was able to calculate dosing for certain medications for patients with renal and liver problems, numbers that could mean life and death for patients. I have a comprehensive understanding of disease states and their causes, and I still have two more years left of school to learn even more!

As students, we are taught that medications are not to be taken lightly. Each has its own way of working, with intricate mechanisms and balances that coincide beautifully with specific physiological pathways that reflect years of research and testing. With this beauty, however, comes danger. As easily as beneficial pathways are activated, negative and toxic effects are quickly reached. Multiple medications compete for the same pathways in the body and can lead to harmful effects. Who is responsible for keeping this straight? You guessed it – pharmacists!

October is American Pharmacists Month, and I would like to ask you to take a minute the next time you are at the hospital, clinic or community pharmacy and remember that you aren’t just getting pills. You are receiving a medication that was researched, approved for and given specifically for you and your health.

There is a reason why pharmacists are among the most trusted professionals, and I believe that is rooted in the relationship between pharmacists and patients. Please do not hesitate to ask us questions; I can guarantee that your pharmacist would be happy to answer questions about how your medication works and address any concerns that you as a patient might have. Remember that we don’t go to school for seven years to just count pills – we are changing your life and your health!

Marisa Pasquale of Evans, Georgia, is a second-year professional student at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. Courtesy of Ole Miss School of Pharmacy

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