Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy students take part in #PharmacistsOnTheFrontline campaign (from left: Samer Kullab, Simran Sharma, Samantha Cesario, Ahmad Quasim)

A group of students from pharmacy schools across the province, including U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, has partnered with the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) to increase awareness about the important role of pharmacists as frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group, Pharm Against COVID-19, is also collecting donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) and distributing the donations to pharmacists in need.

Seeing that pharmacists often lacked proper PPE and were often excluded from conversations about frontline health care workers, Mayur Tailor, a first-year student at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy, organized fellow students to source and distribute PPE donations and raise awareness about the full range of services that pharmacists provide. Pharm Against COVID-19 now has about 75 volunteers from across the province, including approximately 20 U of T students.

"As students, we want to make sure that everyone understands the role that pharmacists play, both during this situation and in general practice.”

Jash Parikh, who just completed his second year at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, volunteers as Pharm Against COVID-19’s U of T liaison, communicating with the U of T community to raise awareness of the group and its initiatives. “Pharmacists are overwhelmed with the situation right now, as they are serving a lot more patients since the pandemic started,” says Parikh. “As students, we want to make sure that everyone understands the role that pharmacists play, both during this situation and in general practice.”

Social media campaign highlights #PharmacistsOnTheFrontline

Pharm Against COVID-19 recently partnered with the OPA on a successful social media campaign to highlight pharmacists’ work on the front line. They invited pharmacists to post photos of themselves in PPE on social media using the hashtag #PharmacistsOnTheFrontline. Thanks to the students and OPA’s joint networks and reach, more than 100 pharmacists from across Ontario, Canada, and even from the US and developing countries, shared photos.

Both Parikh and Tailor say that the collaboration with OPA was a natural fit, as both organizations are firmly committed to pharmacists’ interests, and it has laid the groundwork for future collaborations related to advocacy. The partnership also helped them to raise awareness about their group. After the campaign launched, they had an increase in sponsorships and donations that allowed them to help more pharmacists and other essential services, such as shelters. They are continuing to collect and distribute PPE, and they are always looking for sponsors, donations and volunteers, as well as pharmacists in need of PPE that they can help.

Parikh is now following up with pharmacists who submitted photos, as well as pharmacy professors and students, to find out more about their experiences during the pandemic and understanding what has changed in their practices since the pandemic started. They plan to use the stories in future social media and advocacy campaigns.

For now, he is pleased that the public is grateful for all health care workers, including pharmacists. “As a pharmacy student, I’m just happy to see that people are understanding the role of health care professionals during this pandemic, and they appreciate it,” says Parikh.

By Eileen Hoftyzer

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