First-year pharmacy students make an impact at the state capital

On March 8, six first-year students in the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s PharmD program journeyed to Sacramento to meet with state representatives as well as pharmacists, fellow pharmacy students, and leaders in the field.

The occasion was Advocacy Day 2023, hosted by the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) and the United Nurses Associations of California​/​Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC​/​UHCP). The day featured talks from pharmacy leaders and government officials, as well as ample opportunity to mingle and exchange ideas.

“Advocacy Day is a great opportunity for our students to learn about current bills that could advance pharmacy practice across the state, such as payment for pharmacist clinical services, and to use their voices to advocate for the profession,” said Lisa Kroon, PharmD, chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and assistant chief pharmacy officer of clinical innovation, education and research at UCSF Health.

In recent years, advocacy has expanded the ability of pharmacists to best meet the needs of patients in both community and clinical settings. The local pharmacist is often a person’s most frequent point of contact with the health care system, and pharmacists provide crucial oversight of patients’ long-term care, including drug-drug interactions, dosage modifications, and more.

“Pharmacists are uniquely poised to address many of the gaps and inequities in our health care system,” said Igor Mitrovic, MD, co-vice dean of pharmacy education in the School. “We’re delighted to see our students take such advocacy seriously at the outset of their pharmacy education.”

Jakob Decano, Class of 2025, was struck by the perspectives of pharmacists who work at community pharmacies, which contrasted with some of the experiences he and his classmates had gained working at the two national retail chains.

“It was great to pick the brains of some of these independent community pharmacists and learn about the benefits of having ultimate control over one’s practice,” said Decano. “These pharmacists are able to implement more of the duties legally afforded to pharmacists that the big chains are slow to adopt by virtue of their scale, high costs, or unclear profits.”

group selfie.

Left to right: Tran, Xiao, Decano, Bian, LeMoine, and Iftikhar.

Over the course of the day, the students heard about several issues under active consideration by the state, including one bill that would increase pharmacist oversight of pharmacy benefit managers—organizations that determine insurance coverage for specific medications. Another bill would expand pharmacists’ ability to provide preventative HIV medication (PrEP) and reimburse those pharmacists for their work, just as nurses and physicians are reimbursed by insurers for the care they provide.

“Currently, pharmacists are not recognized by Medicare as providers, so they cannot bill for services they provide to Medicare recipients,” said Emil Tran, Class of 2025. “I would love to see pharmacists finally granted provider status by Medicare so we can continue to provide essential services to keep our communities healthy.”

The students are back to their coursework here in San Francisco, but this year’s advocacy day won’t be their last.

“Consistency and volume are usually the answer to keeping something at the front of someone’s mind,” said Decano. “It is not enough for one, two, three, four, or even five of us to care about these issues. In many ways, the future of this profession is all of us or none of us.”


School of Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.