A pharmacy student wearing a white coat smiles for a photo outside the office of Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders.A pharmacy student wearing a white coat smiles for a photo outside the Capitol Hill office of Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders.
Student Spotlight | 4/4/2024

Student Advocates for the Pharmacy Profession on Capitol Hill

By Jennifer Persons

A pharmacy student wearing a white coat smiles for a photo outside the office of Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders.A pharmacy student wearing a white coat smiles for a photo outside the Capitol Hill office of Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders.

Marjorie DesLauriers was one of hundreds of pharmacy students and pharmacists from across the country to meet with lawmakers about issues facing the profession.

As Marjorie DesLauriers stood among 300 other pharmacy students and pharmacists getting ready to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the power of the image struck her.

“We were all wearing our white coats. It made a statement,” she said.

This March, DesLauriers, PharmD ’24, traveled to Washington, D.C., for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) RxIMPACT Day. The organization brings pharmacy students and pharmacists from all 50 states to the nation’s capital to help advocate for pro-patient and pro-pharmacy public policy. The faculty from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) School of Pharmacy – Worcester/Manchester recommended DesLauriers apply to attend.

“It was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “It showed me how much of an impact even one day can have.”

This was the first time in five years the NACDS was able to hold the event in person. After arriving in D.C., DesLauriers and the other students had a half-day crash course on the topics they’d discuss with lawmakers.

“We were focused on pharmacy benefit manager reform and two bills, one in the Senate and one in the House,” DesLauriers explained. “The bills would expand Medicare Part B coverage to reimburse for pharmacist services, including vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 and the flu. The emergency act allowing that coverage during the pandemic is about to expire, and these bills would make it permanent.”

The next day, DesLauriers and the other students donned their white coats and headed to Capitol Hill for meetings in legislative offices. She was paired with Alexander Vose from the University of Rhode Island. They were dubbed “Team New England.”

Two pharmacy students wearing white coats pose for a selfie outside the United States Capitol.
DesLauriers and Vose pose for a photo outside the U.S. Capitol.

“We had eight meetings that day, the most of any group,” she said. They met with staff in the offices of senators and congresspeople from Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New Jersey.

“It was overwhelming because it felt like we were being thrown into it,” DesLauriers said. “But after the first meeting, we got into a rhythm and got more comfortable with our talking points.”

The most significant conversations happened when DesLauriers and Vose combined their expertise as pharmacy students and their personal experiences.

“When I was on clinical rotation in Vermont, I administered 60 to 100 vaccinations per week, and a lot of those patients had Medicare,” DesLauriers said. “We tried to emphasize to the staff that the bills are about access to care, especially in rural areas of their states.”

The topic of pharmacy benefit manager reform was more challenging due to its complexity and larger implications for both pharmacies and insurance companies. Overall, DesLauriers said the people they met were open-minded.

“The staff took thorough notes and were really open to our discussion,” she said. “We even met a pharmacist who works in policy in association with Senator Bernie Sanders’ office. That’s something I never expected a pharmacist to do.”

Both bills are in the early phases of the legislative process. Still, DesLauriers left D.C. feeling hopeful for the future of her profession and optimistic about the contribution she made.

“It has opened my eyes to being more involved in what’s happening with pharmacy and joining the conversation,” she said. “I like the idea of coming back to do this on an annual basis with other pharmacists.”

DesLauriers has accepted a position as a Clinical Pharmacist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, NH and will be starting this September After the NACDS experience, she said she will remember to think beyond the day-to-day and stay informed about possible changes coming to her profession. She encourages other pharmacists to do the same.

“Politics aren’t as scary as I thought they were, and other students shouldn’t be afraid to try advocacy work,” DesLauriers said. “Seeing so many people who care about pharmacy in one place working toward the same goals was truly incredible.”

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