Serving your community through scholarship
Pharmacists are on the front line of fighting the opioid epidemic and have unique roles in optimizing opioid prescribing, increasing awareness of opioid use disorder and associated treatments, and improving naloxone access across the nation. That being said, addressing the opioid epidemic as a New Practitioner can seem daunting.
Through the APhA New Practitioner Network’s (NPN) Operation Substance Use Disorders Research Award, I have been able to expand naloxone access in my state. Here are some tips for leveraging scholarship to address the opioid epidemic and serve your community.
Identify the needs of your community
First, get involved in your community outside of your daily role as a pharmacist. I sought out opioid-related community initiatives and developed relationships with other individuals invested in addressing the opioid epidemic. Although some of these individuals are pharmacists, many are physicians, social workers, rehabilitation center directors, and community members who have been personally impacted by the opioid epidemic.
Through meetings with these stakeholders, I have been able to identify the needs of our community and areas where my expertise as a pharmacist can be of most service.
Find a mentor
As if the opioid epidemic isn’t daunting enough, let’s incorporate scholarship. Excelling at scholarship takes time and experience, which as New Practitioners, many of us don’t have ... yet. Find a mentor within your practice site, national pharmacy organization, state pharmacy association, or local pharmacy organization chapter.
Find the funding
If you didn’t know about the NPN’s Operation Substance Use Disorders Research Award, now you do! Your mentor will be able to assist in identifying funding sources based on your service interests. The sources do not always need to be pharmacy-specific, so look into national and local health associations and organizations.
If your project does not have a direct need for funding, consider using the funding to hire a student pharmacist to assist in the project development and implementation.
Get to work!
With the help of your mentor, complete the award application, setting specific goals, outcomes, and deadlines. Be sure to have your project reviewed and approved by an Institutional Review Board. If the grant is not awarded, apply the provided feedback and keep searching for a new source. Your project will mature through the process! Once you complete a project, be sure to share the results with your community members and identify next steps. Engage your mentor and/or students in the process of identifying a relevant journal and drafting a manuscript. Writing a manuscript and submitting for publication is important for disseminating the information you worked hard to obtain.
Overall, scholarship can be used to advance your career and serve your community. It will take time and teamwork, but the rewards are worth the effort.
Megan Penner, PharmD, is a clinical assistant professor at the Idaho State University College of Pharmacy, Anchorage campus, and practices as an inpatient clinical pharmacist at Mat Su Regional Medical Center in Palmer, AK. She enjoys hiking, skiing, and exploring Alaska with her husband and two dogs.