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Pharmacists Have a Responsibility to Educate the Public

Michael Ungham, Pharm.D. Candidate, The Ohio State University and OPA Extern

As pharmacists and pharmacy students, we have a vast quantity of scientific information and specialized knowledge. However, educating the public, not just about medications, but about disease, disease prevention, and health and wellness issues is one of our most important functions.

Erica Scheuffele (OPA extern from UC) and I spoke to 6th graders at St. Andrew's School in Columbus about hazards they would most likely encounter during spring and summer. Topics included preventing and treating sunburn, insect bites/stings, and poison ivy/oak/sumac. Because childhood is an excellent time to instill healthy lifetime habits, our visit focused mostly on prevention. We spoke at length about sunscreen, insect repellants, and how to recognize and avoid poison ivy/oak/sumac. We also covered how to treat these ailments with OTC products and a little help from their community pharmacist.

The students were very attentive and had many intelligent questions and comments. Erica and I were surprised at how knowledgeable they were on sun protection factor (SPF), aloe vera, OTC pain relievers, and even SQ epinephrine injection (EpiPen®) for anaphylactic reactions. The students were curious about the steroids used by bodybuilders and athletes. We explained the difference between anabolic steroids and corticosteroids.

I think the real benefit (to our profession and our communities) of this presentation was demonstrating to these students that pharmacists are knowledgeable and accessible health professionals who they can approach for drug, disease, or health related questions. Hopefully, we left a favorable impression that will follow them into adulthood. Share your experience and expertise in your community through public speaking/presentations, organizational involvement, or even by just stepping out from behind the counter. I think it would be rewarding for everyone involved.

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