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SDSU pharmacy students go to Pierre to learn advocacy, practice patient care

SDSU pharmacy students stand on the Capitol steps in Pierre for South Dakota Pharmacist Association Day at the Capitol.
SDSU pharmacy students stand on the Capitol steps in Pierre for South Dakota Pharmacists Association Day at the Capitol.

Students from the South Dakota State University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions made a trip to the South Dakota Capitol Feb. 13-14, advocating for their chosen profession and offering lawmakers free health screenings. 

Around 33 students, ranging from pre-pharmacy to third-year student pharmacists, and two faculty members networked in Pierre with individuals from the South Dakota Pharmacists Association (SDPhA) and South Dakota Board of Pharmacy and learned about the legislative process and how to be an advocate for the pharmacy profession. 

“We were able to hear about bills that would not only affect our patients but also the practice of pharmacy,” Aubrey Kooima, a second-year student pharmacist, said. “SDPhA works tirelessly to advocate for the pharmacy profession and our patients, so it was informative to learn what goes on behind the scenes when lobbying for a bill.” 

They also practiced their skills by providing health screenings for legislators and other Capitol visitors. Health screenings included blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol checks. The screenings were so popular, they ran out of patient screening forms.  

“This event is important for our students because it teaches them advocacy, for the profession more than anything,” Emily Van Klompenburg, assistant professor, said. “It also gives them an opportunity to practice their patient screenings, which is a requirement for pharmacy school.” 

In addition to the advocacy and patient care skills practice, this event allowed students to interact with lawmakers in Pierre and keep the conversation between pharmacists and legislators going.  

Van Klompenburg said there can be a perception that pharmacists just dispense prescriptions, but in reality, they are medication experts who care about patients and provide patient care in many different ways. 

“It’s important for us to show our faces at the Capitol every year,” Van Klompenburg said. “One of the things we like to do is show up and support the pharmacist association. It gives a face to pharmacy at the Capitol.”  

Working in shifts, the students took turns providing health screenings and sitting in on the legislative process. 

“After our time at the Capitol, I have a newfound appreciation for the legislators who work to advance the health care offered in South Dakota,” Kooima said.