USC students were among those honored at the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) national conference in Arlington, Virginia, on July 18-21. Students were recognized with scholarships honoring proactive leadership addressing pressing health issues locally and around the world.
This year the chapter has been led by president Renata Ahegbebu and president-elect Maria Nduati, both of whom attended the annual meeting along with Walter Cathey, the USC SNPhA advisor and an alumnus of the School. The USC chapter is a young chapter, having been started just six years ago with a membership of less than 20. Today the group is among the most vibrant organizations at the School and boasts a membership roster of well over 100 students.
At the conference, Ahegbebu received the Target National Leadership Scholarship. Vice President of the USC chapter, Victoria Schells was given the Walgreens-SNPhA Diversity Advancement Scholarship. The chapter was also recognized with second place in the Walgreens HIV/AIDS Health Outcomes Award.
Emblematic of the USC SNPhA chapter’s outreach is a recent service trip to Ghana, in which 13 members traveled to the West African nation to conduct health fairs and screenings for high blood pressure and diabetes, along with providing HIV/AIDS information and testing. They also offered body fat analysis and cholesterol monitoring. Bringing their own supplies, the students coordinated a slate of education, counseling and caregiving efforts with local health professionals. They delivered their services to severely underserved rural areas, visiting two fishing villages and one farming community. The students also partnered with local clinics to ensure proper follow-up care.
Ruth Awosika, PharmD ’12 and a past president of the chapter, served as a preceptor to the students during the Ghana trip. “The biggest barriers to better health in Ghana are lack of education and sanitation,” she notes. “The students went to schools, orphanages, town halls and youth crisis homes to share facts about hygiene, immunization, poison prevention and sexually transmitted diseases—information that people can use to improve their lives.”
In addition to the Ghana effort, students do a quarterly outreach trip to Tijuana, Mexico, in collaboration with Healing Hearts Across Borders. The chapter sends ten pharmacy students and one pharmacist to clinics as part of an interdisciplinary team providing much needed services to vulnerable populations.
Back in Southern California, members also work on HIV/AIDS education in high schools and juvenile detention facilities in Los Angeles, programs promoting healthy living activities for children, immunization awareness promotion, public policy efforts and screenings at health fairs.
Area high school students also benefit by having SNPhA members as frequent speakers during Pharmacy Explorers club meetings held at many schools. This program, known as PEP, mentors high school students interested in a career in healthcare. Sofia Santos, a student at Bravo Medical Magnet High School, said, “The SNPhA mentors introduced me to the world of pharmacy which I had never really thought about before. They also gave me the confidence that I could achieve anything if I set my mind to it.”
The student activities have impacted thousands over the past year in which they administered 4,037 immunizations, 3,877 diabetes screenings and 2,800 screening tests in Mexico. In all, their efforts have resulted in over 26,000 screening tests, counseling sessions and educational presentations. Students are also involved in legislative issues impacting the pharmacy profession.