MUN and Dal pharmacy students were collaborating and learning together at the Atlantic Pharmacy Advancement Conference (APAC) held Oct. 31 – Nov. 2 at Memorial University. The conference establishes an open forum for Atlantic Canada’s pharmacy students to collaborate on a variety of topics and issues that are focused on advancing pharmacy education and the profession.
Started in 2005 by a group of students from Memorial, the event is organized and run by pharmacy students from Memorial and Dalhousie, with the schools alternating each year as the host university. This year 77 students travelled from Halifax to join 100 Memorial students for three days of presentations, workshops and social events.
The theme of this year’s conference was ‘From the Classroom to the Clinic: Translating Ideas Into Practice’. Maria Whelan is a fourth year student from Memorial who was also the conference chair for APAC 2013.
“Our goal for this conference was to inspire and enable pharmacy students to take the knowledge they have learned in the classroom and translate that to innovative practice in the community, hospital and beyond,” she said. “We wanted to showcase the expanding role of the pharmacist and motivate pharmacy students to step up to the challenges that the pharmacy profession is facing today and make their mark.”
A featured conference speaker was Mark Barnes, a graduate of both Dalhousie and Memorial who has been in the national spotlight for his advocacy work on the on the dangers of Fentanyl abuse and the lack of policy on this issue. In a presentation titled, '5 Minutes to Make a Difference', Mr. Barnes told a powerful story of his evolution as an advocate for addiction treatment.
“If there was one thing that I hoped the students would take away from my presentation is not to be afraid to do something different,” he said. “Stepping out from behind the counter and making a connection with patients – to understand addiction treatment beyond its social stigma or portrayal in the media. When you do this work on a day-to-day basis you make real connections with patients and it’s very rewarding for both the pharmacist and the patient.”
Over a year in the planning and organizing stages, the conference was a huge undertaking for the committee of six student volunteers from Memorial’s School of Pharmacy.
“It's a lot of work,” said Ms. Whelan. “Balancing school and other responsibilities with this type of volunteer commitment has been a challenge for everyone involved. We have dedicated people on our committee with varied backgrounds who brought many different ideas and opinions to the table. Collaborating for 18 months and finally seeing everything come together over the last few days to produce a successful conference is something we’re all proud of."