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Kelly's Declassified Advocacy Survival Guide: Pharmacy students advocate for profession at state capital

By Kelly Andrews, Fifth-year pharmacy major, Contributing Writer

Students from across Ohio shuffle off the various charter busses like well-dressed zombies into the Sheraton Hotel at Capitol Square. Passersby may wonder why this flock of white coats has gathered. Maybe a convention for dentists? Doctors? White coat enthusiasts? If you guessed the Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA) Student Legislative Day, you would be correct. 

This year nearly 300 pharmacy students from all around Ohio gathered at the state capital to speak with their legislators about pharmacy issues. While speaking to state senators and representatives may seem paralyzing at first, once your palms have dried from sweat and the redness in your cheeks has burnt out, Legislative Day will seem like a breeze. Coming from a seasoned veteran with multiple state and federal legislative days under my belt, and with just as many mishaps, here are a few tips and tricks to aid you in the coming years.

First and foremost, know your legislators. There are five key legislators everyone should know and if you can memorize the top 200 list of drugs, you can memorize this list: state senator, state representative, US senator, US representative, and governor. Getting an idea of who your legislators are is as easy as knowing your home address and completing a quick Google search. This bit of information can not only help you make personal connections with your legislator but also keep you from addressing the legislator by the wrong title. If a senator asks you where you are from, of course, they know you are from Ohio, be a little more specific in what part of their district you are from.

Keeping in the same vein of specificity, the wise words of Ernie Boyd, the Executive Director for OPA, come to mind: “You are not Beyoncé or Cher. Use your first and last name.” You can bring your name tag and your business cards, but if you do not first greet anyone with your first and last name you will be lost in the sea of other Sarahs that visit the statehouse. You want to be remembered and you want to know your asks and talking points before the meeting. You can have a lovely meeting with your legislator and establish a repertoire; however, if you do not have a clear idea of what you want to say going into the meeting, you may end up like a deer caught in the headlights of awkward silence. 

All in all, OPA Student Legislative Day is an invigorating time to introduce yourself to other student pharmacists from across Ohio and learn from legislators passionate about helping our profession. Start advocating for your profession sooner rather than later!

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