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Christopher Noel obtained his Pharm.D. from Drake University in 2010. He is an Assistant Professor at Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College and practices at the Rochester Psychiatric Center in Rochester, New York. Dr. Noel has served on the Board of Directors for NAMI Rochester and has participated in the NAMI Walks Committee. He has also worked closely with NAMI on Campus and has integrated NAMI programs in the classroom. His volunteer work provides an excellent example of how psychiatric pharmacists can help serve patients and their families.

Dr. Noel explains that his work on the Board of Directors for NAMI Rochester does, of course, include some discussions over topics that may not be in his area of expertise, such as finance and legislation; however, he is happy to add his perspective as a young pharmacist to the organization. His work with NAMI as part of the Programming Committee and the NAMI Walks Committee in Rochester has afforded him an excellent avenue to provide resources to his community.

Some specific examples of his involvement include his work with NAMI on Campus. This is a group for students who suffer from mental illness or who have friends or family members suffering from mental illness. He has developed a relationship with the Wellness Center on campus, which offers a graduate program in Mental Health Counseling. Individuals from that program volunteer to be available to members at NAMI on Campus meetings and offer their skills in counseling.  He has also helped bolster fundraising and increase awareness of mental illness by reaching out to other degree programs at St. John Fisher College and inviting them to create teams for NAMI Walks in the past. Connecting these different groups together is a vital role he plays to help provide support to those in his community who struggle with mental illness.

Christopher has also incorporated NAMI’s “In Our Own Voice” program to provide presentations from patients living with mental illness in his classroom. This program allows people with mental health conditions to provide a first-hand account of the issues they face. He explains that this is an excellent teaching tool that leaves a lasting impression on the students and drives them to get involved as well. To schedule a presentation like this, one may contact his or her local NAMI chapter. More information is available at www.nami.org.

Christopher credits several of his colleagues and mentors for guiding him to volunteer in his community. One such mentor is his supervisor at the Rochester Psychiatric Center, Larry Guttmacher, M.D., who has been an inspiration to Christopher to get involved locally. Another mentor of his is Sarah Grady. Sarah is a Board Certified Psychiatric Pharmacist and CPNP member. She was his faculty advisor while in pharmacy school at Drake University and has been instrumental to his professional growth.

Dr. Noel is enthusiastic about the volunteer work he does in his community and providing resources to those affected by mental illness. He is passionate about breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illness as he recalls a time that an extended family member was diagnosed with cancer and the way in which everyone came together—“…it was a phenomenal support effort.” This same family has a daughter with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and there is barely ever mention of how she is doing. As professionals in this field we must do what we can to advocate for patients and their families and to create a support network to which they can turn for help. The work Christopher is doing provides some excellent examples of ways in which we can all get involved in the effort to end the stigma surrounding mental illness and provide much needed resources to our communities.

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