Can you explain pharmacy to an eighth grader?

February 4, 2008

Pharmacists should spread the word that they are the medication experts.

How would you answer those questions? It seems that anyone in the media would be quick to show a picture of the counting tray and a person in a white coat standing there putting a label on an amber vial. While it may trouble some pharmacists that we are portrayed in that way, can you really blame the media for finding the short and simple way to get their point across? With a broad question like 'What does a pharmacist do?' there are really no boundaries to the answer, but it must be put into words that would make sense to someone who may have no clue what goes on in health care. What is the probability that anyone in the eighth grade knows the meaning of medication therapy management, medication reconciliation, or even Medicare Part D? By having the ability to define pharmacy in an easily understandable way, we will be able to reach a larger audience and get our message across more effectively.

Every pharmacist and pharmacy student must be prepared to answer a general question about the pharmacy profession at any moment and in front of any audience. We need to continue to repeat the same medication expert message whenever we are prompted and speak directly to our audience. Do not assume that every person listening has a working knowledge of the profession. If we really want to change the perception and promote the profession, we must be able to communicate our message at any level, whether you are speaking before members of a Congressional Committee or in front of your child's class for career day.

THE AUTHOR is an MBA Candidate (2009) at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy and Vice Chair of the American Pharmacists Association's ASP National Standing Committee on Communications and the APhA-ASP Chapter President.