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Published in News Stories on May 19, 2016
University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy graduates Lauren Lyles and Cody Clifton left their mark by founding the University of Mississippi Advocacy Council while students.
University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy graduates Lauren Lyles and Cody Clifton left their mark by founding the University of Mississippi Advocacy Council while students.

#UMMCGrad16: Lyles, Clifton to be vocal pharmacy advocates

Media Contact: Annie Oeth at 601-984-1122 or aoeth@umc.edu.

Giving patients the best of care may happen as much at the Legislature as it does in the variety of pharmacy practice settings, according to Lauren Lyles of Jackson and Cody Clifton of Walnut, two 2016 University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy graduates.

The two founded the University of Mississippi Advocacy Council (UMAC) within the School of Pharmacy to encourage students to let their voices be heard on public policy.

The council, said Clifton, “was founded when two students, Lauren and I, knew that there was a need for additional policy and advocacy awareness and involvement among student pharmacists at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. Student pharmacists need to be engaged in these types of advocacy activities as young professionals because events today determine what the future of pharmacy will be when we begin practicing.”

With help from Dr. Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs in the School of Pharmacy, Lyles and Clifton put the inspiration from participating in Dr. Ross's Leadership and Advocacy Class and attending the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and American Pharmacists Association conventions to work by forming the council while students in Oxford. The mission of UMAC is to provide opportunities to develop students as advocates, coordinate policy impacting pharmacy and health-related issues, and engage external constituencies to advocate for policy and legislative initiatives. Since its inception, the council has taken a leadership role in coordinating student involvement in Pharmacy Capitol Day at our state legislature, providing support for students who attend advocacy-focused national meetings, and hosting guest speakers to discuss public policy. 

“While at the NCPA meeting, Cody and I attended different student sessions about leadership, advocacy and entrepreneurship,” Lyles said. “We learned that the profession of pharmacy is dependent on inspiring practicing pharmacists and getting pharmacy students involved to promote awareness and education on pharmacy legislative affairs to help facilitate optimal patient care throughout this health-care reform.”

“Our ultimate goal,” said Clifton, “is to ensure patients are getting the absolute best care possible. We all know that health care and pharmacy are ever-evolving. Now, more than ever, student pharmacists' role in advocating for our profession can help usher in the new era of pharmacy that we are striving for - provider status. The University of Mississippi Advocacy Council allows an avenue for student pharmacists to become involved in these aspects and to encourage them in discovering their voice.”

Ross
Ross

Ross said the two have shown their love of their chosen profession by their leadership. “Lauren Lyles and Cody Clifton are remarkable students, and their hard work in implementing this organization is a reflection of their passion for pharmacy and their commitment to advancing our profession. We have many students who are leaders and are actively engaged in professional organizations, but few who invest time to create and identify funding for a unique organization focused on giving student pharmacists a platform for advocacy.”

After graduation, Lyles, a Terry High alumna, will begin the Eli Lilly Visiting Scientist Fellowship as the U.S. and International Regulatory Policy and Strategy Fellow in Indianapolis.

“I chose a non-traditional pathway as some may say,” she said, “but the pharmaceutical industry will allow me to have an impact on macro-level policy-making and strategy design. As a pharmacist, this will allow me to touch millions of lives through enhancing global regulatory compatibility through multi-stakeholder coalitions, developing positions on regulatory policy issues and advocating for necessary policy changes in the U.S. Europe and other countries. Understanding and improving local, state, and national policies that govern the maturity, provision, and medication utilization within our health-care system is my passion and a worthwhile investment.”

She knew the University of Mississippi was a perfect fit, she said, when the words “Hotty Toddy” were shouted to her as a student in Ole Miss' Summer College for High School Students program. “My overall experience was extraordinary, from the skilled professors to the diverse and affable student culture. I felt that I could contribute to the university as much as I would gain.”

It also didn't hurt that the UM School of Pharmacy is one of the top 25 ranked pharmacy programs in the nation, “which sealed the deal,” she said. “The pharmacy curriculum can be very demanding and difficult, yet rewarding and encouraging to others for those who persevere.”

Clifton, a Walnut High graduate, will complete a residency with the University of North Carolina and Moose Pharmacy next year, a move that he said would help him “gain knowledge in expanding pharmacists' clinical role in the community setting.”

“Pharmacists are vital members of the health-care team in providing quality patient-centered care,” he said. “There is enormous potential for pharmacists to contribute additional positive patient health outcomes. One of my goals is to seek out various ways pharmacists can be involved in patient care in non-traditional methods and improve upon those that already exist.”

Clifton gives the School of Pharmacy high marks as well. “It has been a phenomenal experience that was challenging but fulfilling in many aspects,” he said. “This school has provided me with endless opportunities to develop professionally and to succeed academically.”

Lyles and Clifton both plan to keep being advocates for pharmacy long after graduation day.

“I plan to continue to be an advocate and encourage others at state and national levels in order for pharmacists to be recognized as health-care providers,” Clifton said. “I am excited to see how the future of pharmacy evolves.”

Ross said she expects no less from them or any of the University of Mississippi Advocacy Council leaders. “I have enjoyed working with Lauren and Cody and the other UMAC leaders and look forward to seeing the impact of their leadership in health care for years to come.” 

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