In just three years as students in the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Jerold Chu and Jerry Mejia have made an indelible impact on the lives of their peers as well as their future careers, as active volunteers and vocal advocates on behalf of the pharmacy profession.
Initially drawn to the field of microbiology, Chu’s mother convinced him pharmacy was a more practical path for pursuing science education. With little knowledge of the profession, Chu volunteered at a local pharmacy in his hometown of Ladner before entering the degree program. With a fresh outlook on the industry, Chu was committed to not just the idea of pharmacy as a career, but to actively advocate for a better understanding of the profession overall.
“One thing that really interests me is advocacy,” says Chu, in thinking of his future career goals. “To communicate well with other stakeholders the impact we can make on the health-care system.”
Chu decided early on that in the limited time he had as a pharmacy student, he wanted to enrich his experience on campus and participate in positive change. In his second year, he ran for the role of junior representative with the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns (CAPSI) and has spent his past year as senior representative, playing an integral role in organizing such on-campus events as Pharmacist Awareness Month, first year orientation, a career fair titled “Career Avenues in Pharmacy,” and a dog de-stressing session for students and faculty, among many others.
Also in this past year, Chu became co-founder of a new club called Pharmacy Student Advocates, in response to feedback received from several stakeholder groups on the College of Pharmacists of BC’s Certified Pharmacist Prescriber Draft Framework.
“We were really shocked by this and wondered why are people against pharmacists prescribing?” asks Chu. “As students we feel we have a role to play in showing other groups how pharmacy can benefit overall health care.”
As he enters his fourth, and final, year this fall, Chu hopes to expand his new advocacy network, adding supporters and extending its reach to a greater number of students as they head into community settings on practicum rotations.
“We want to engage students to build better relationships and show off more of their clinical skills.”
For Jerry Mejia, also a third year pharmacy student, pharmacy represents his second round of post-secondary education. With a degree in biological psychology already under his belt, he desired to find a career path that was a better fit for his outgoing, social personality.
“I honed in on the fact that I liked interacting with people,” he says. “Pharmacy kind of presented itself as the right choice. I’ve been enjoying it from day one.”
With little student life to speak of in his first degree, Mejia was determined to have a different experience within the pharmacy program. Fellow students encouraged him to pursue extracurricular activities to better enjoy the program and its community of committed and supportive faculty and students.
“Everyone is there for you, encouraging each other,” says Mejia. “That’s my favourite part of our program; not only does that allow you to be comfortable with what you bring into the program but it encourages you to explore new things.”
As a first year, Mejia dove into student elections, campaigning for and winning a spot as co-vice president social affairs for the Pharmacy Undergraduate Society (PhUS), followed by the role of VP external affairs in his second year, in which he capitalized on his skills in event planning. He also served as director of marketing and webmaster for pharmacy fraternity, Kappa Psi, a student ambassador with the BC Pharmacy Association and as community outreach coordinator for the 2017 Pharmacy Awareness Month, where he planned outreach talks to senior homes, community centres and the UBC community.
In the coming year, he will focus on interprofessional advocacy and awareness as the elected VP of professional affairs with CAPSI, before making the highly anticipated move to professional pharmacist in 2018, with an abundance of related experience.
“A lot of these positions require a lot of organization, being able to think of logistics and applying that to pharmacy is going to be very helpful,” says Mejia. “Skill development is a progression. One opportunity can lead to the next, having that realization will help me thrive as a person and professionally.”
Regardless of his outcome, Mejia is thrilled to have given back to the profession and program that has shaped his future career path.
“What I do is a reflection of what others have done for me and for that I’m very, very grateful.”