Story by Mike Hibbard, Reporter. Originally published in the Finger Lakes Times, March 27, 2012. Used with permission.
BUFFALO — If people were looking down on D'Youville College's fledgling School of Pharmacy, they probably aren't anymore.
The school, in only its second year at the Buffalo college, took home a top honor earlier this month for its Generation Rx presentation. The award was presented at the annual meeting and exposition of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP), which was held in New Orleans.
A major player in D'Youville's effort was Waterloo High School graduate Josh Cahill, the school's Generation Rx coordinator.
"We were competing against some titans of the pharmacy world, and we ended up getting first place. I was absolutely freaked out," said Cahill, a 2008 Waterloo High grad. "It was a little bit of a David-versus-Goliath thing."
Of the 127 APhA-ASP chapters across the country, 55 took part in the Generation Rx competition, which highlights the growing problem of prescription drug abuse. D'Youville finished ahead of renowned programs such as Ohio State University, which founded the Generation Rx movement several years ago, and defending champion University of Florida.
"I'm not sure anyone had heard of D'Youville, so for a new chapter to do what ours did ... well, that's just unheard of," said Gary Stoehr, dean of D'Youville's School of Pharmacy. "And Josh was the driving force for our chapter."
As part of its Generation Rx initiative, D'Youville student pharmacists have also visited middle and high schools and made 11 presentations to over 3,000 teens and 1,000 adults. Although most of those presentations have been at Western New York schools, the group visited Cahill's alma mater — Waterloo High — last fall.
"It was pretty awesome to be able to go back to my high school and make a difference," Cahill said. "If we can make one student think twice about using prescription drugs, or if they can prevent a friend from doing it, that makes it all worthwhile."
Members of the chapter have also participated in prescription drug "take-back" days scheduled at sites across Western New York. They also produced a YouTube video to highlight the problem of prescription drug abuse and met with the staff responsible for Western New York's Kids Escaping Drugs program to learn more about it.
"We heard from one of the graduates of the Kids Escaping Drugs program, who told us her story of going from prescription drugs to heroin," Cahill said. "It was really interesting to see how prescription medication played a role in her addiction."
"It's just mind boggling how the whole issue of prescription drug abuse has taken off lately," Stoehr added. "When you see what people have in their medicine cabinets and are just sitting on, and now kids are getting attached to their grandparents just to get into their medicine cabinets."
For winning the national Generation Rx competition, D'Youville's chapter received a plaque, a $1,000 cash award and reimbursement for travel expenses to attend the University of Utah School on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies from June 12-17.
Cahill also ran for APhA-ASP national president at the convention in New Orleans, and was a top three finalist out of nine nominees.
"He didn't win but his speech was exceptional. Josh writes and speaks very well. I was very proud of him," Stoehr said. "From someone from a brand-new school to get that far is pretty amazing, and it would be unusual — maybe impossible — for a student from a school that hasn't reached full accreditation to be elected president. Our students did a terrific job campaigning for him and he did a great job representing a new school."
D'Youville College's School of Pharmacy received its charter just last year. Cahill, who is scheduled to graduate in 2014, is a member of the school's inaugural class.
"I don't look at going to a new (pharmacy) school as a bad thing, although some people do look down on them," Cahill said. "I can't say I'm unhappy with my decision. It's been great to build something from the ground up, and we have a unique opportunity here to make our mark."
"We're a brand-new school, so students who signed on with us took a little bit of risk because we're not an established pharmacy school," Stoehr added. "There's something different about this class. They are a little more involved in things. We tell them we don't have a reputation, so it's up to you to create one. Josh became a class officer within a month of being here, and he was instrumental in starting up the chapter of the APhA organization. He's not afraid to start from scratch and stick his nose in there."