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SDSU pharmacy student honored nationally

Ellie Balken and Tucker Wieneke
Ellie Balken and Tucker Wieneke display the Innovative Programming Award they received at a six-state regional contest in November 2022. Now they will present their project at the national meeting of the American Pharmacists Association in Phoenix March 24-27.

Ellie Balken
Ellie Balken

Ellie Balken, a South Dakota State University pharmacy student, has received a couple major recognitions from the nation’s largest and oldest association of pharmacists in the United States.

Balken, of Dilworth, Minnesota, was one of four students to receive the Student Leadership Award from the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists and one of six students chosen for its National Standing Committee. In addition, she and another SDSU student will give a presentation at the association’s annual meeting in Phoenix March 24-27.

The leadership awards go to a student in their next-to-last year of pharmacy schooling (their third year of pharmacy education) who have at least a 2.75 GPA. Only one student can be nominated from each school.

Balken is completing her second year as president of Student Collaboration for the Advancement and Promotion of Pharmacy, an SDSU organization open pharmacy and pre-pharmacy students that has affiliations with the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists and other pharmacy groups.

The club has 175 members, including 62 pre-pharmacy students.

Previously, Balken served as secretary and for a brief time as president-elect. Officer terms are May to May.


Put emphasis on mental health

Through her work with the organization, Balken has gained the support of peers and faculty as witnessed in comments made by Brittney Meyer, professor of pharmacy practice and club co-adviser.

“Ellie’s personality traits have helped and strengthened her capacity as a leader. She is a caring individual – quick with a compliment or word of encouragement and ready to help tutor her fellow classmates or to take time for community service. Her enthusiasm is contagious. She has a very positive attitude and displays professionalism both in and out of class. She leads by example and has gained the respect of her faculty and peers because of it,” Meyer stated.

As Balken moved into her presidency, she committed to growing the group’s awareness of mental health issues. Among the activities conducted this school year were a mental health 5K in the fall and a one-hour training session on how to identify mental health issues.

The training followed the club’s February meeting and featured a local presenter trained in the Question, Persuade, Refer method of assessing mental health issues. The presentation also was opened to SDSU nursing, pre-medical and pre-professional students.

“I had read about the training and thought it would be a good opportunity for our students to get experience with before beginning their careers,” Balken said.


To serve on national committee

In addition to her work with Student Collaboration for the Advancement and Promotion of Pharmacy, Balken has been a committee chair with Kappa Psi pharmacy fraternity, is a member of Rho Chi honor society and tutored SDSU students in science classes for three years.

Balken becomes the first SDSU student in 10 years to be selected for an American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists National Standing Committee. She will serve in the area of member engagement. She will work with the 100-plus Academy of Student Pharmacist chapters in the nation to increase their involvement in various ASP endeavors.

Most of the work will be virtual, but she will lead some training sessions and facilitate discussions at national meetings twice a year.


Balken, Wieneke to give presentation

At the March 24-27 American Pharmacists Association annual meeting in Phoenix, she and second-year pharmacy student Tucker Wieneke, of Rushmore, Minnesota, will give two poster presentations and a 10-minute verbal presentation on Student Collaboration for the Advancement and Promotion of Pharmacy Week at SDSU. They are one of eight teams presenting.

Balken and Wieneke earned the right to compete after winning a six-state regional contest in November 2022. Activities included participation in the student engagement expo at the University Student Union, a bean bag/pie the professor event, minute-to-win-it games and a scavenger hunt in the Avera Health and Science Center.

The week wrapped up with Friday at the Fair, where students gave blood pressure and other health screenings at the State Fair in Huron. In 2022, Balken said 35 students gave 437 total screenings.