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Student Advocates for Underserved

Published on 24 June 2016

Skydiver, Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) national president, licensed insurance agent, and student pharmacist are just a few ways to describe P3 student Jessie Nia Hwang.
With a spirit for adventure, Hwang always knew she wanted to help people. As SNPhA national president, she recognizes that she has a platform to not only make a difference nationally, but also to impact her peers at the College.

During her undergraduate program at Spelman College, Hwang witnessed firsthand what it was like to work with patients who could not afford medications and health care services. After learning more about the challenges patients face in getting proper health care, she was inspired to help underserved communities.

“I want to make a difference in the communities that have raised me. I believe there is a responsibility to pour back into communities that have poured into me,” Hwang said.

Unsure of how she wanted to change the world, Hwang worked as an insurance agent where she learned to understand risks, delegate tasks, and connect with people. She went the extra mile to maximize every opportunity to help others fully understand their insurance policies. Through her love of people, she was able to grow in the insurance business and was eventually offered her own agency. She turned down the offer knowing that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of patients through a health care career.

With some encouragement from her friends, Hwang left the insurance agency and transferred to the College. “There’s a saying that ‘life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ I recall my transition from Atlanta to STLCOP as being initially uncomfortable, but providing me with an excellent opportunity to grow,” she said. “If I did not have those experiences, I recognize that I would not have been able to excel.”

Her deeply rooted passion for community service guided her toward joining SNPhA. Empowered by colleagues and faculty and having served the year prior as the national president-elect, Hwang took on the role as the 2015-16 national president. SNPhA is a student-driven, nonprofit organization focused on serving communities across the nation, while promoting diversity in the profession of pharmacy. It consists of 92 chapters across the nation, is made up of nearly 6,000 student pharmacists, and is constantly growing.

As national president, Hwang has implemented this year’s G.O.A.L.S. theme, an acronym for globalization, outreach, advocacy, leadership, and scholarship. Through her presidential address, she outlined her vision of creating cross-cultural relationships in order to encourage pharmacists globally to serve underrepresented populations. Before finishing out her term, she hopes to initiate the growth of SNPhA’s outreach internationally.

“Struggling communities and pharmacy students do not only exist within our country’s borders but also around the world,” she said. “We will always be students of our profession, and it is our obligation to ensure that we continue to pay our abilities forward.”

By sharing her experience and dedication to advocacy, Hwang is able to serve as a positive voice for underserved communities and educate other student pharmacists on how they can improve health care in the St. Louis area.

“As a national officer, I must set an example of the expectations that I would like SNPhA to instill in the communities we serve,” she said. “As a pharmacist, I believe privilege is attached to being educated, therefore I consider it an honor to serve our patients to improve their health care.”

This story was originally published in the spring 2016 issue of Script, the College’s alumni magazine. Read the current and past issues online at stlcop.edu/script.

Explore more stories in the categories of: Academics , Campus Life , Community Engagement , Script , Students

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