Students lobby for bills in D.C.
By Judith Brown
Staff Writer, Laurens County Advertiser
Through certain programs, newly-graduated teachers and physicians can have their student loans forgiven to varying degrees by agreeing to work for a period of time in areas of high need, such as very rural or heavily urban regions of the country. If current legislation in Washington, D.C., is passed, however, then newly degreed pharmacists could have the same benefit.
Last month, rather than brushing up on their summer tans before their rotations start next week, three second-year students from the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy were able to spend some time with Sen. Lindsey Graham’s aide and ask for his support in the Loan Forgiveness Act.
“As a first-year charter, we were allowed to bring three students to the American Pharmacist Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) leadership conference,” said Matthew Lineberger, president of the local chapter of the group. Other officers — vice president Fairlynn Grooms and treasurer Jeannie Norge — also attended the workshops at the nation’s capital, where they were briefed on the bill and provided opportunities to visit with their state’s senators or their aides to make a case for the bill.
The other bill is one which goes along with the new trends in health care, Lineberger said. The PC School of Pharmacy has rotations and classroom work in place to help its students learn to work alongside physicians to improve the health care for the patient, and Lineberger said that the integrated system has been tried in order to help decrease readmission rates.
“But because it’s not mandated, it’s not working very well, and this legislation would encourage a plan of action” where it is needed, Lineberger said. “It can help us deliver health care more effectively.”
Norge said the opportunity to explain about the importance of bills with Graham’s aide, Leigh Ellen Gray, was exciting.
“Going into it, we did research and found that Sen. Graham was not one of the senators that sponsored either bill,” Norge said, “so our goal was to inform them on the benefits of the two bills and ask him to cosign on the bills.” The Clinton students joined with another pharmacy student from the University of South Carolina School of Pharmacy, so the South Carolinians could go as a unified voice.
The meeting lasted about 20 minutes, Norge said, during which time Gray took notes and agreed to pass everything on to the senator. Although the pharmacy students won’t know for some time whether Graham will comply with their request, the students said it was an important step in their professional training.
“We think it will be very important for students to participate in these opportunities as often as possible,” Lineberger said. Currently, the PC group is about 35 students, and with a new class of 80 coming in next week, he hopes to increase the numbers in the student branch so others can learn to make in impact in the pharmaceutical profession.