OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi pharmacy student was selected to attend the 2014 National Association of Chain Drug Stores RxIMPACT program in Washington, D.C.
Stephen Lirette of Waynesboro, a fourth-year professional pharmacy student, or PY4, was among 300 advocates from around the country who met with lawmakers and other pharmacy professionals March 12-13 to discuss issues and legislation.
“I received the email telling me I had been selected at 7:30 in the morning,” Lirette said. “I was beyond excited. It was truly a great feeling knowing I would get to speak with legislators on Capitol Hill.”
Lirette became interested in advocacy after taking the Leadership and Advocacy elective his second year of pharmacy school. The class focuses on advocacy related to health care and leadership development.
“It enabled me to see the different leadership styles of many great leaders of the past and present,” he said. “It also revealed the strengths and weaknesses that I need to improve upon.”
Leigh Ann Ross, the School of Pharmacy’s associate dean for clinical affairs and chair of pharmacy practice, encouraged Lirette’s participation in the program and hopes his experience can be shared with other students and incorporated into advocacy courses.
“Stephen’s participation in the Leadership and Advocacy elective and his continued interest in advocacy positioned him well to represent the University of Mississippi in the RxIMPACT program,” Ross said. “I am thrilled that he was able to build upon his classroom experience and see advocacy in our nation’s capitol.
“I look forward to Stephen utilizing this experience to contribute to both the PY2 elective and the newly developed PY4 Leadership and Advocacy APPE (Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience) in the coming year,” she added. “We hope Stephen is the first of many UM students to participate in RxIMPACT through our Leadership and Advocacy course and APPE.”
Pharmacy wasn’t always Lirette’s career goal.
“I started out as an architecture major but soon realized I could not draw, so I changed to chemical engineering,” he said. “After changing, I had to take so many calculus classes to be a chemical engineer that I realized it wasn’t for me. My good friend was majoring in pharmacy at that time. He convinced me to talk to our professors and his boss at CVS, and I loved it.”
Advocacy is important to advancing the pharmacy profession and pharmacists’ recognition as health care providers, Lirette said.
“Many patients come to a pharmacy before they see a physician,” he said. “We can take those opportunities to inform patients of the importance of screenings, such as blood pressure and glucose. Activities such as these can lead to pharmacist interventions to prevent disease or to manage existing diseases to produce better outcomes. There is so much potential in pharmacy, and I would like to show legislators how we can contribute.”
After graduation, Lirette is pursuing a postgraduate pharmacy practice residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and hopes to become a board-certified oncology pharmacist. Eventually, he would like to work in student affairs at a pharmacy school, where he can put his advocacy and leadership experience to good use.