APhM “Improving Healthcare, Increasing Access” Essay Winner Announced

Allison Given, UCSOP P1 Student, won the essay contest for American Pharmacy Month on “Improving Healthcare, Increasing Access”.

In lieu of the Amazon gift card awarded to the winner, Allison asked that a donation be made to CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital. The donation paid for stuffed animals for the NICU and coloring books for the emergency department. Great job, Allison!

Below is her essay submission:

To me, improving healthcare by increasing access means pursuing the concept of a world without illness that science fiction writers often dream of. Almost a year ago now, I was talking about Star Trek with my father, and he had mentioned how advanced the medical technology in the series was. Being a pharmacy student freshly accepted to a program, I was quick to point out that we are very capable of medical marvels today; we have doctors who can transplant hearts into patients and grant that patient a new lease on life. We have medications that can remedy scores of illnesses without picking up a scalpel, we can view a beating heart or functioning brain in real time through medical imaging. Medicine operates on the cutting edge of innovation, and there is always a newer and better system in the works. My father responded with pointing out these advances mean very little when they cannot be accessed, and that we still live in a world where disease states that we have tools to treat still carry a death toll. He was right.
What good does an epinephrine auto-injector do when it sits on a shelf in the back of the pharmacy gathering dust? I have had the privilege to work as a pharmacy technician for several years before entering a pharmacy program, and I have met some of the most kind and caring people in pharmacies. I have no doubt that if someone were to experience an anaphylactic reaction in the building, that epinephrine pen would be removed from the shelf and utilized without any concern over payment. The issue is the pharmacy is not normally where anaphylactic reactions occur. They occur on playgrounds, in lunchrooms, in restaurants, and a thousand other potential locations where life-saving epinephrine is not readily available. Medicine needs to be where people are in order to have a positive impact, and pharmacists serve as essential players in making sure the right medications get to the right people and are used in the right fashion.

We know compliance with maintenance medications produces optimal outcomes for patients, and we know that access to emergency medications and emergency care improves patient outcomes after an acute health event. It is not enough that the technology to prevent serious illness exists, it needs to be accessible when it is needed. If medication costs make medical access a privilege of wealth, then we have not created a cure, we have only created another injustice by which the average person suffers. What good does a groundbreaking medication do when it sits on a shelf or is only accessible to a privileged few?

For pharmacists, taking a position in the issue of medical accessibility is essential. The pharmacist is the healthcare worker that patients associate with the rising costs of their medicine, though pharmacists have little say in how a medication is priced and how much insurance companies will cover. Pharmacists are the face associated with prescription drug pricing, and it is important that patients know the goal of pharmacists is to get their medication to them in a timely and affordable manner. Pharmacy staff see firsthand how hard it is for patients to afford their maintenance medications, they see firsthand the herculean effort it is for some patients to be medically compliant when that compliance involves a variable cost near several hundred dollars every month. Pharmacists must advocate to increase medical accessibility because this profession sees firsthand how inaccessible healthcare is becoming. If we do not stand up for our patients and accessibility, who will? Improving healthcare by increasing accessibility means making essential medications that already exist easier to access so that they may be used to treat every patient without the restriction of a hefty price tag.