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Doctor of Pharmacy Students Participate in Advocacy Program

LECOM School of Pharmacy represented at PPA event

Three students from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine’s (LECOM) School of Pharmacy recently received a first-hand look at how state government works. The students participated in a leadership and advocacy program offered by the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association (PPA) at the State Capitol.

GRASP students
Alex Gragg, P1, Mohamed Amer, P1, and Paulina Trczinka, P2, were part of a select group of students to participate in the GRASP program.

Paulina Trczinka, P2, Mohamed Amer, P1, and Alex Gragg, P1, were chosen by the PPA to visit Harrisburg for the seventh annual Government Relations Advocacy for Student Pharmacists (GRASP) program. The three-day program focused on building awareness of the legislative issues that will impact pharmacists in Pennsylvania.

Trczinka, Amer and Gragg were part of a select group of students from pharmacy schools in Pennsylvania. They were grateful for the experience.

“The program emphasizes leadership for student pharmacists who are willing to educate and motivate other students so that we make our feelings known on important issues,” Trczinkasaid. “If we speak in a unified voice, legislators are much more likely to take notice. Students and pharmacists have an obligation and a duty to be advocates for the profession they put so much effort into joining.”

Presentations to the participating students focused on a number of bills in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, including:

  • Senate Bill 831 and House Bill 1516 – would place what the PPA calls “reasonable” standards on the auditing procedures used with pharmacies. While the PPA acknowledges the importance of audits to help prevent fraud and abuse, the organization said the bills would bring a greater degree of fairness and common sense to the process. “If an audit discovers a very minor typo or inadvertent clerical error, the pharmacy can be denied payment by the insurance company,” Amer said. “As pharmacists, we believe strongly in ensuring the safety of patients and in fair audits, but the current process needs to be addressed.”
  • Senate Bill 819 and House Bill 776 – would expand pharmacists’ ability to provide immunizations to anyone seven years of age or older. Currently, immunizations can be given by pharmacists only to individuals older than 18. “Pharmacists are trained to administer immunizations, and receiving them at a community pharmacy is safe, easy and effective,” Gragg said. In advocating for the bills, the PPA notes that pharmacists are extremely accessible; approximately 250 million people visit pharmacies each week.

The student participants also heard presentations on the State Board of Pharmacy and on the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Pharmacist Professional Advisory Committee (PharmPAC). Above all, though, Amer took away a sense of the importance of advocacy. Because of his new position as policy vice president-elect for LECOM’s chapter of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP), he plans to meet with other students to encourage them to become more involved. The fair audit bills are a perfect example of why pharmacists need to be aware of what happens in the legislature, he said.

“There are no limits to how far back an audit can go,” he added. “The proposed legislation would limit them to six months from when a claim was first submitted and would prevent pharmacies from being denied payment for minor discrepancies that obviously don’t constitute fraud.”

Gragg also hopes students take the opportunity to join the statewide pharmacy associations, such as the PPA, which frequently sends “call to action” alerts to its members, encouraging them to contact their legislators when bills are coming up for votes. “The associations play a critical role in helping ensure that students and pharmacists are aware of and understand the issues – we generally don’t have the time to read through the details of every bill,” Gragg said. “We rely on the PPA and the other organizations to keep us informed.”

More about the LECOM School of Pharmacy

The LECOM School of Pharmacy is a nationally recognized leader in the evolution of pharmacy practice. The School emphasizes collaborative practices, community service, dedication to the profession of pharmacy, diversity, excellence in scholarship and teaching, integrity, leadership, life-long learning, professionalism and continuous quality improvement.

LECOM’s campus in Erie offers one of the few accelerated, three-year Doctor of Pharmacy programs in the country. Students interested in a more traditional, four-year program leading to the Pharm.D. degree may attend LECOM’s campus in Bradenton, Fla.

More about the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association

Founded in 1878, the PPA is a professional membership organization of more than 2,000 pharmacists and pharmacy students across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, representing almost every facet of pharmacy practice. As the leading voice for pharmacy in Pennsylvania, the organization promotes the profession through advocacy, education and communication so as to enhance patient care and public health.