USC PharmD student Parth Parikh has won the Pharmacy Times/Walmart RESPy award given to students who demonstrate a commitment to volunteer service, a high level of professional and public health-related activities and a dedication to advancing the profession.
“Volunteer work and community outreach gives pharmacist students a chance to find out what they can really do,” Parikh said. “It’s a chance to be creative while changing lives for the better.”
Parikh has been involved in volunteer work since his first semester at the USC School of Pharmacy, and he has participated in more than a dozen health fairs and community clinics that provide screening and counseling services to underserved populations in Los Angeles.
As a member of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists Operation Diabetes, he helped project directors plan various health fairs and develop effective educational tools. He also is involved with Students Helping and Receiving Education, where he is director of the smoking cessation program offered to homeless people in the Skid Row area.
“Working with homeless patients was extremely rewarding,” Parikh said. “For them, the smoking cessation program was like a rebirth, and I was so glad to be a part of that.”
Parikh co-organized Project India, an outreach project that educates pharmacy students in India about clinical aspects of the profession, a facet not currently emphasized abroad.
The project included two training sessions in which students from four schools of pharmacy in India were trained to screen and counsel for diabetes. The sessions took place in December at the Nirma University Institute of Pharmacy and the L. M. College of Pharmacy, both located in Gujarat, India.
The students also organized seven health fairs where 1,025 participants were screened, with 70 receiving referrals to local physicians. At these health fairs, students who participated in the training sessions were given the opportunity to use their newly acquired skills to provide free diabetes screenings to the community.
“Students there had no clue about clinical pharmacy, so educating them about that aspect of the field helped give them pride in their profession and a different outlook on what a pharmacist can do,” Parikh explained.
Parikh will continue the project, returning to India in December to educate students about clinical pharmacy opportunities and empowering them to initiate outreach efforts of their own.
Each year, only eight students from across the country receive the RESPy award for “Respect, Excellence and Service in Pharmacy.” The students are selected by a panel of judges who evaluate their commitment to community service.
In recognition of his award, Parikh will appear in the September issue of Pharmacy Times.