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UH Hilo Pharmacy students create chapter of national professional group

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Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

Students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo College of Pharmacy have created the first professional organization for pharmacy students to be based at the University. The group will form a chapter of the American Pharmacists Association - Academy of Student Pharmacists, which represents the largest number of pharmacy students in the United States.

“Recognition from the American Pharmacists Association, which is the oldest professional pharmacists’ organization in America, brings us one step closer to being established as one of the top pharmacy educators in the country,” said Mimi Pezzuto, faculty advisor and instructor in Pharmacy. “It will help our students embrace the seriousness of their profession. Through patient-care projects in the community and leadership opportunities, this organization will give them an opportunity to step out of student mode and into the professional arena.”

Students will be able to spread a network throughout the country and see what their peers are doing at other schools, she added. The organization has opportunities for them to work with other students to help educate legislators and become leaders in the community. The students have already shown initiative by putting the group together on their own last spring.

One of the 10 founding students is current president, Lisa Hagiwara, now a second-year Pharmacy student. Hagiwara, from Mililani on O`ahu, received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Washington and returned to Hawaiʻi to get her Pharm.D. degree.

“We liked APhA because we felt it would not only help us as students but also allow us to work within the community,” Hagiwara said. “We plan to start off with their suggested programs and then expand to more Hawaiʻi-specific projects.”

Of 180 current Pharmacy students at UH Hilo, the new student organization has about 150 members. Hagiwara said she expects almost 100 percent participation once they get the word out. They are in the midst of t-shirt sales and membership drives, which are part of the guidance from APhA.

This fall, Crystal Atwell, a senior manager of student development for APhA based in Washington, D.C., visited with the students in Hilo to help organize the structure of the group. She said she was impressed with the knowledge, initiative and drive of the students at UH Hilo.

“The students here seem very engaged and ready to help out,” Atwell said. “Part of our emphasis is to show pharmacy students that they are more than pill counters, they are advocates for the profession. As pharmacists, they will have an opportunity to be the most accessible link the community has to the healthcare system and they can begin this important role when they are still students.”

The students receive help from the national office in creating the Hilo chapter through ready-made presentations and are given resources for professional development. Patient-care projects include diabetes screening, immunizations and heartburn awareness. Students also will become familiar with patient counseling techniques in an effort to become better patient educators.

In addition, students will be eligible to compete for scholarships from the national chapter’s foundation, such as one named for the late Dr. Gloria Francke. Francke, who graduated in 1942 with a degree in pharmacy from Purdue University, established herself as a pioneer in pharmacy and serves as a true inspiration for students because of her many accomplishments, noted Dr. John Pezzuto, dean of UH Hilo’s College of Pharmacy.

“During my tenure as dean of pharmacy at Purdue, one of my fondest memories is being able to designate Gloria Francke as the very first Career Achievement Awardee,” Pezzuto said of his friend and colleague, who died this year. “Selected from over 7000 living alumni, Gloria Francke was truly the ‘First Lady of Pharmacy.’ She was outgoing, professional and kind, exactly the spirit we hope to embody in the students here in Hawaiʻi.”

After they graduate, students can become members of other branches of the APhA, which includes more than 63,000 practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, pharmacy students, pharmacy technicians and others interested in advancing the profession.

For more information about the UH Hilo College of Pharmacy, please call (808) 933-2909 or email

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