Pearls on Starting a Student Chapter of PPAG: A Faculty Advisor Perspective
Hanna Phan, PharmD, BCPS
Assistant Department Head and Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, The University of Arizona, College of Medicine
The continued growth and development of pediatric pharmacy practice lies in the hands of future pharmacists – namely our fellows, residents, and students. Nurturing professional interests of future generations of pharmacists requires an avenue to generate opportunities to share their passion with their classmates and community. Starting a student chapter of PPAG is one way to increase the awareness of pharmacy students to the specialty discipline of pediatric pharmacy, while also providing opportunities for them to serve their local communities through philanthropy and heath education programs for children and families.
The University of Arizona’s student chapter, PediaCATS, was formed in 2010 to educate the local community and students about pediatric pharmacy practice. It was honored to be the first pediatric pharmacy student group recognized by the Pediatric Pharmacy Advocacy Group (PPAG) in February 2011 and is available to help other new student groups get started. From my experience as the primary faculty advisor for PediaCATS, here are steps I recommend towards successful initiation of a student chapter:
1. Work with PPAG and other Chapters When Getting Started.
It can be quite daunting starting something from the ground up at your institution, but you are not alone in this endeavor! Folks at PPAG are happy to help answer questions about starting a new student group/chapter. Matt Helms and the Board of Directors were especially helpful in guiding PediaCATS get established with PPAG and continues to be a great resource for our organization. With the development of student groups all over the US, PPAG now has student group/chapter contact information listed on the PPAG website as well as resources (e.g., example by-laws and Annual Report from PediaCATS) posted to help those interested in starting a new student group. Other established student chapters are also a great resource for guidance on starting your chapter. For example, PediaCATS (i.e., faculty advisors and student board) is happy to help other new, starting student groups through answering any questions about our experiences, sharing our documents and event planning, etc.
2. Have a Strong Student Core or Student Executive Board.
This student core group will help you assess the student interest in your College or School to determine the estimated size of membership, what kind of events are feasible given this membership size, etc. This group can not only establish the chapter from a student perspective, but also are the key towards official recognition by a University or College. If your institution has a main campus student council or association, it is recommended that your student leadership look into obtaining official recognition by the University and/or College in order to qualify for benefits such as rights or privileges to services on campus for student organizations.
3. Understand your University, College/School, and State Regulations and Establish Relationships with Your Community Schools and Centers.
Having a good grasp of regulations pertaining to activities such as students participating in health screenings (i.e., permitted to include pediatric age patients) on a local and state level will help guide the types of activities your student group may want to include in their planning. Establishing relationships with local schools and community centers may also help in developing activities for the student chapter, such as education seminars for school age children about poison prevention, healthy living, asthma, etc.
4. Develop Strategies for Fundraising.
Fundraising is another challenge that you will need to help address as a faculty advisor. Our student chapter raises funds to support activities in the community (e.g., supplies needed for education seminars such as the “Germ Seminar”) through fundraising sales (e.g., bake sales, selling items that are pharmacy specific such as mortar/pestle charms, t-shirts, etc. to the students and faculty) as well as through donations from local businesses. All funds are deposited into a bank account at the local bank which is used by many of the University student organizations, with access limited to the President, Treasurer, and faculty advisors.
5. Set “Ground Rules” and Develop a Timeline that is Both Feasible and Productive.
Development of student chapter or organization by-laws are a good way to keep the group organized. A copy of the by-laws developed by PediaCATS to use as a guideline in developing your local student chapter is available on the PPAG website. Developing a timeline of student chapter development including membership drive, meetings, events, fundraising, and executive board meetings is necessary for a smooth start. As a faculty advisor, it is critical for you to guide your student leadership in planning appropriate numbers and types of events given possible limitation on time and available funding. When PediaCATS began, the number events were kept smaller initially to “test the waters” and see what types of seminars, education sessions, etc. were best suited to their available resources. Remember, doing a few items well is much more successful that doing too many events poorly, especially as a new student organization.
6. Make Time for Reflection and Future Planning
After the initial launch of your student chapter, take time after the first academic year to reflect on the events and projects your group completed over the course of that year. Composing an “annual report” of sorts may be useful in documenting your achievements as a chapter and provide an avenue to see what changes may be made to improve certain aspects for the coming year. A copy of PediaCATS’ annual report that was sent to the PPAG Board of Directors is available (on the PPAG website) to help new chapters for review and use as a guideline for reflection on their achievements and future chapter event planning.