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University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy
The Case of Virtual Pharmacy Student Organizations

by Rachel Goldberg, P3, ICHP Fundraising Chair; University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy

As an undergraduate student at a very large university, I regretfully did not get involved in student organizations. I felt swallowed up by the massive student body population and extremely unsure of my career interests. However, as I transitioned from my undergraduate life to a first-year professional pharmacy student at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy in September 2018, I intended to get involved to advance my career and network with other pharmacy professionals. UIC pharmacy student organizations have organized flu shot health clinics, hosted networking events, invited pharmacists to speak at general body meetings, and have ultimately fostered a strong network for students to collaborate with one another and others within the profession. Furthermore, organizations have helped many students, such as myself, develop a strong passion for pharmacy, make important connections, and establish ourselves as a future healthcare provider. However, as the pandemic has shifted our definition of normal, it has especially impacted student life on campuses across the nation, including pharmacy schools. While transitioning to a virtual semester, the case for pharmacy student organizations has an especially important implication for this academic year.

A 2019 study examined skill development at a number of university student pharmacy organizations using student surveys and interviews. The authors concluded that organizational involvement provided opportunities for students to develop core competency skills in the discipline of pharmacy. Among others, core skills developed were communication and collaboration.1 Emerging young professionals, such as pharmacy students, running an organization for the student body can build a strong professional network and foster essential skills.  Student pharmacy organizations, such as the ICHP student chapter, will need to be run virtually with a strong platform that allows for interaction.

I am a third-year pharmacy student and this will be my third year as an active member of the Illinois Council of Health-Systems Pharmacists (ICHP) UIC Chapter. This year, I am faced with the challenge of navigating my involvement virtually and maintaining excitement for an organization that has helped my growth as a professional from behind a computer screen. However, this challenge must be accomplished if we want to provide students with opportunities to develop skills that cannot be taught in a lecture hall. The experience of hosting and listening to speakers in our field is important for us as we decide our own futures. Furthermore, networking events can be conducted virtually and will encourage students to follow-up with pharmacists through e-mail and LinkedIn. Online platforms allow students to create important business relationships and navigate a social media-driven age. Fundraising efforts may shift from fundraising for our chapter’s budget to online fundraisers for charities of our choice. The 2020 ICHP Annual Meeting was also conducted virtually; it was more important than previous years for students to attend because professional networking events will be limited this year.

Our student executive board members will undoubtedly face challenges as we move forward. Nonetheless, we will persevere in the best interest of our student body and especially for our new students. A pharmacist may know every single adverse reaction, PK/PD parameter, or dosing of a given drug, but the pharmacist must also have the communication and teamwork skills to be a successful practitioner. It is our student chapter’s goal to provide students with opportunities to develop core competencies.1 While opportunities this year may be offered via a Google Hangout or Zoom, it is a high priority this year for pharmacy student organizations to unite our student pharmacy body and establish our skills as future healthcare providers. ■

  1. Zeeman JM, Bush AA, Cox WC, Buhlinger K, McLaughlin JE. Identifying and mapping skill development opportunities through pharmacy student organization involvement. Am J Pharm Educ. 2019;83(4):6950. doi:10.5688/ajpe6950



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