PharmD candidates talk the talk at the Ohio Statehouse

February 16, 2024
Ohio State students on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse

Twenty-five Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students from The Ohio State University joined 200 students from the other six pharmacy programs in Ohio for the Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA) Student Pharmacist Legislative Day on Feb. 13 at the Ohio Statehouse. 

The annual event provides student pharmacists with first-hand advocacy experience. Students meet with Ohio legislators to discuss pharmacy-related issues and offer valuable insight and education on the value of pharmacists. 

"Advocacy is a necessity to improve and sustain our profession.”

Bella Blankenship, PharmD, RPh
Practice Advancement and Advocacy Fellow

Students were supported throughout their day by pharmacists and faculty, including Drs. Bella Blankenship, Julie Legg and Myriam Shaw-Ojeda. Jen Rodis, PharmD, FAPhA, associate dean of outreach and engagement, and president-elect of OPA helped to orchestrate the event. 

“Adequate preparation before and support during this event makes a big difference in how comfortable students are,” Dr. Rodis noted. “This event engages current members and future pharmacists in real-life advocacy experiences. There is no one else in the state who has the knowledge, experience and connections to bring this day to life and run it as an important advocacy event for the profession and transformative learning experience for student pharmacists.” 

Students gathered for OPA bill briefing
Students gathered for the OPA bill briefing

To start the day, students gathered to hear about the current pharmacy-related bills making their way through the General Assembly from OPA representatives. Then, State Representatives Dontavius L. Jarrells and Scott Lipps and Ohio House Majority Policy Advisor Rachel Ehresman shared their perspectives on legal advocacy in the pharmacy profession.  

After learning about legislation, students strategized how to present their facts and pharmacy perspectives to legislators. They were then able to meet as groups with other Ohio legislators and their staff.  

"It is my right and responsibility as a future pharmacist to speak up in support of my profession and patients.”

Shanee Patel
Third-Year PharmD Candidate

Third-year student Shanee Patel was in a group of students that met with state Sen. Matt Dolan’s team. The students guided the discussion on current bills and what facts legislators should know related to those bills, and whether OPA was supportive of them.  

“It was a great opportunity to see how easy it is to advocate for the profession by having a factual conversation with those who write our laws,” Patel said. “As someone who hopes to work in the community pharmacy setting, advocacy will continue to play a role in my career. It is my right and responsibility as a future pharmacist to speak up in support of my profession and patients.” 

The Advocacy Collaborative students
The Advocacy Collaborative Leadership and Dr. Blankenship

In preparation for the event, the College of Pharmacy’s Advocacy Collaborative student organization hosted 50 Ohio State PharmD students for an advocacy bootcamp on Jan. 23. The collaborative provides key support to students as they explore the role that advocacy will play in their careers. 

Advocacy Collaborative’s leaders, Jill Patel (P2), Melissa Wilmer (P1), Mira Haddad (P3) and Sierra Kirk (P3), led the organizing efforts for the bootcamp, inviting Bella Blankenship, PharmD, RPh, practice advancement and advocacy Fellow at the college, to serve as the keynote speaker.  

“Students often have reservations about talking to legislators, particularly when it’s about complex bills,” Dr. Blankenship said. “But advocacy is an incredibly valuable skill to have. Seeing students’ confidence grow in communication and knowledge of legislation is so rewarding.” 

Dr. Blankenship coached students on how they could maximize their experience at the Statehouse, pulling from her own background in legislation as an executive resident in the Division of Pharmacy Practice & Government Affairs at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).  

While located in Washington D.C., she met regularly with legislators to provide key information on the growing field of pharmacy. 

“If pharmacists aren’t advocating for ourselves and our patients, there is likely another entity speaking for us in decision-making spaces,” Dr. Blankenship emphasized. “Advocacy is a necessity to improve and sustain our profession.”