Walking through the halls of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Kira Weaver was on a mission.
As a fourth-year student at East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, she has learned that pharmacists can do so much more, and in a world of rising health care and drug costs, expanding the role of pharmacists might be a sure-fire way to dramatically cut the nation’s spending.
Weaver, from Lake Jackson, Texas, was nominated by her faculty mentor Dr. McKenzie Calhoun and selected by Dean Debbie Byrd to attend the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ RxIMPACT event in D.C. where she would join other students from across the country to advocate for the profession of pharmacy. However, Weaver came with a head start: she had previous experience advocating on the national stage by completing a summer internship in 2017 with CVS Health in D.C. doing management and legislative work.
“We talked to [the Tennessee representatives] about how pharmacists can help save health care costs and reduce admits to the emergency room, mainly because we are well positioned and trained to do point of care testing for both chronic and acute disease states, like flu and strep, within community pharmacies,” said Weaver, who added that none seemed to oppose the measures they discussed and some expressed their agreement. “I’ve had so many patients at CVS come to me with scripts from the ER, diagnosed with the flu or strep throat, and it breaks my heart because these are all services that pharmacists are trained to do; however, according to CMS, we are currently not recognized as providers and thus can’t be reimbursed for our services. Right now health care prices are so high, drug prices are so high, but no ones’ taking the initiative to help bridge that gap—but pharmacists are a big component of that.”
Nine out of ten Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy, Weaver said, which helps make pharmacists the most accessible health care provider.
Her passion for community pharmacy started early in her experience at pharmacy school.
“I’m a very high energy person so retail pharmacy is definitely where I thrive and where my heart is,” she said. “Just being able to make that connection with 100-200 people each day... I’m definitely passionate about the patient side of it. There is so much we can do as a profession that I don’t think is recognized or understood and so I think that’s where my passion for policy and advocacy comes from.”
After she graduates in May, Weaver has already accepted a pharmacy manager job in Florida with CVS. She is also planning to earn her combined MBA and master’s in pharmacy policy and outcomes with an emphasis in managed care from The University of Florida.
“I want to move up to where I can be a voice for the profession and help drive pharmacy forward.”
In the next 5-7 years she hopes to move up within CVS Health where she can make changing the landscape of health care part of her profession.