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Student Pharmacist Spotlight: Kennedy Erickson

Erickson shares her tips on managing burnout as a student pharmacist.

Drug Topics® sat down with Kennedy Erickson, National President of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) for a Student Spotlight in honor of AmericanPharmacists Month.

Erickson is a pharmacy student in her final year at the Washington State University College of Pharmacy in Spokane, Washington.

Drug Topics®: Tell us what you do in your role as National President of APhA-ASP.

Kennedy Erickson: As the national president, I get to wear several different hats, which has been a joy. Right now, I’m currently on student outreach visits which is also part of my APhA[Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience]. What we’re doing for the National Executive Committee is visiting different schools and colleges of pharmacy, and we’re engaging with people who may be members, letting them know how to maximize their membership or engaging with people who aren’t members and encouraging them to register for a membership and join the organization.

Beyond that I also serve on the APhA Board of Trustees representing the voice of student pharmacists. I also serve as a liaison to the international standing committee, and then my president elect year the awards gaming committee. I got to see 2different standing committees, which was really cool. I also help with putting together the conferences that we put on every year; right now we’re working on the major regional meeting for the APhA-ASP. Those are coming back live and in person this year, so there’s definitely a little bit more work to do. I also got to help with the Summer Leadership institute in July, which was a ton of fun. It brought together all the different chapter presidents and president-elects from around the country.There’s a summit on building leadership skills and planning for the year in Washington, D.C., so that was really cool.

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Drug Topics®: How has your role as national president shaped your identity as a pharmacy student and future pharmacist?

Erickson: This position has shown me the power of being an advocate and connecting with others. And I think that, as a pharmacist, those skills are just going to continue to grow with me and I’m going to continue to look for opportunities to build in most areas.

I’m already really looking forward to precepting my students and showing them how valuable it is to advocate for our profession [as well as]how to advocate for themselves as people who need to set balance in their lives and set boundaries. That’s something I’m really looking forward to.I’m also looking forward to connecting with my patients. I’m planning to work in community pharmacy after graduation and I just love getting to talk to people and get to know them. I’m excited to keep building those skills, especially as an educator and community leader.

Drug Topics®: Are there any areas of pharmacy that are particularly interesting to you, or that you hope to focus on in your career?

Erickson: I have a lot of different interests in pharmacy. I love APhA because it encompasses all of pharmacy, but right now I really enjoy mental health…I'm hoping in my role to provide more mental health services to the community in an outpatient setting. I also really love pharmacogenomics. So, hopefully, maybe one day I can do a project [in that area] and help others in the community with that. Reproductive health has been a passion of mine during pharmacy school, and I’m looking for ways to incorporate that in my next position.

Drug Topics®: What made you decide to pursue a career in pharmacy?

Erickson: It's kind of a journey, so bear with me a little bit. When I was an undergrad, I was super interested in becoming a neurosurgeon, so I decided to pursue a degree in behavioral neuroscience.Along the way, after shadowing an array of different providers—including pharmacists—I found myself aligning with some of the other positions that weren't neurosurgery, such as the pharmacists.

I took psychopharmacology, a class that was required for my degree, and I loved it. And then a position opened up at a long-term care pharmacy near where I was living, and I decided to explore my interests there, and I absolutely fell in love with it. With the encouragement of the pharmacist and the pharmacy technicians there, I ended up applying for pharmacy school a year later. It was a long story, but I'm glad it took me where I am today.

Drug Topics®: Something we’re seeing a lot right now is burnout among pharmacists. How do you handle burnout and what is your advice for other pharmacy students dealing with burnout?

Erickson: I don't think there's a recipe for it,but I personally handle [burnout] is by setting boundaries for myself. For example, in pharmacy school it's so easy to say yes to everything,“Yes, I want to do this. Yes, I can do this.” And that's a great way to burn yourself out. SoI made a list during my second year of pharmacy school of 3things that I was very passionate about and 3goals I wanted to accomplish with those passions. If events that I thought I wanted to attend didn't align with those goals, I would set that boundary and I would not [attend], because I also needed to make time for myself and my well-being.

Making that a priority, at least in my agenda, is something that's helped me with burnout—actually setting aside the time even if it's 20 minutes. If that is at all helpful to anyone, that would be my advice:set those boundaries, and to make time for the little things that help you to relax at night.[Take time for] self-reflection on why you went into pharmacy,what your passions are in pharmacy, and what you're doing to nourish those passions.


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