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Craig Walkenshaw, PharmD, BCPP, Clinical Pharmacy Specialist, Psychiatry, Stormont-Vail Health, Topeka, KS
Consumer Relations Committee

The CPNP Consumer Relations Committee will be highlighting the volunteer activities of several CPNP members in the coming months to increase awareness of these activities and to provide insight and guidance to other CPNP members that may be interested in getting involved in volunteer activities in the future. This month, CPNP would like to highlight the volunteer efforts of one of our members, Ryan Starr.

Ryan Starr is a pharmacy student at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore.  He is the president of the university’s CPNP student chapter. Ryan works with CPNP and other local organizations to improve the lives of patients with mental illness in his community. This article will outline some of his experiences and hopefully provide some ideas for other CPNP members about how they can get involved. 

CPNP has been instrumental in getting Ryan involved in volunteer opportunities at the University of Maryland and its surrounding community. For instance, fellow students Saemi Cho and Caroline Kim provided information about CPNP Maryland Student Chapter’s partnership with the HOPE Wellness and Recovery Center, which provides services such as blood pressure readings and health education to homeless patients experiencing mental illness. He has also participated in such events as the Alzheimer’s Walk and Moving Day DC, which is organized by the National Parkinson Foundation. These events offer great opportunities to provide counseling and education to patients and caregivers about these devastating diseases.

Ryan shared some examples of experiences he’s had while volunteering in which he was able to have a direct impact on patient care. One of these included discovering a patient suffering a hypertensive crisis at the HOPE clinic who he was able to direct to an emergency department to receive necessary treatment. In another instance, he was able to identify a drug-drug interaction for a patient suffering from Parkinson’s Disease which was decreasing the efficacy of the patient’s drug regimen. Being able to provide services to help underserved patients in these types of situations is what makes volunteering so rewarding to professionals and indispensable to patients.

Volunteering and having face-to-face encounters with patients has done a lot to strengthen Ryan’s character and has helped intensify his genuine empathy for the individuals he works with. He states that his involvement in the community has helped him grow both as a future pharmacist and in general as an advocate for patients suffering from mental illness.  

When asked what he would say to get other CPNP members motivated to volunteer, Ryan discussed the negative effects the stigma of mental illness has on patients and gave the following statement:

Whether you’re an accomplished practitioner or a first-year student, having confidence in your abilities to freely discuss these issues empowers your future patients to explore treatments and therapies that may change their lives. Pharmacy is a career in which we are all lifelong learners, just like the patients which we educate on a daily basis. When you volunteer, you are not only providing a service that can save lives, but the lessons you learn from your community members can’t be taught in a textbook. As our role in providing quality care to our patients expands, pharmacists must venture into our communities and confidently demonstrate our place as one of the most trusted professions in the world.

Ryan provides a great example of the compassion and empathy we should all have for our patients and the dedication we should have to our profession. He wanted to also give credit to Dr. Nicole Brandt, Dr. Susan dosReis, and Dr. Raymond Love who have introduced him to organizations and individuals in his community and helped cultivate his passion for volunteering.

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