When Kelli Jo Welter, fourth-year doctor of pharmacy student, became the National President of the American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Students (APhA-ASP) in 2019, she unveiled her theme for the year – “Fearlessly Authentic”. By encouraging student pharmacist members to be “Fearlessly Authentic” and pursue their passions, Welter and the National Executive Committee empowered them to use their unique qualities to guide their future pharmacy careers.
“Student pharmacist leaders practiced authenticity by discovering the power of vulnerability and created a space for others to open up, which led to more effective collaboration across the entire Academy,” said Welter.
The “Fearlessly Authentic” theme set the tone for a successful year of growth and teamwork in the Academy. Welter and the National Executive Committee and Standing Committees initiated several new strategies to enhance the experiences of student pharmacist members across the country. Chapter leaders networked at various events annually, but Welter and her team took that a step further with Chapter Leader Development Calls. The calls allowed leaders to network more often and share ideas and success stories that they could implement in their chapters.
Welter and her team also increased collaboration among the five National Standing Committees: Member Engagement, Awards, Policy, International, and Communications. The increased collaboration among the Committees (each comprised of four appointed student pharmacists across the country) led to a stronger leadership team.
“While meetings are a great opportunity for students across the country and region to connect, we wanted to strengthen those relationships even more by creating more of a continuity throughout the year,” said Welter.
Finally, the National Executive Committee organized the annual PharmFlix Video Contest that encouraged chapters to make videos promoting the pharmacy profession. The PharmFlix Contest usually incorporates the Academy’s yearly theme, but recognizing the increased need for advocacy efforts, Welter’s team announced the 2019-2020 contest theme as “Student Pharmacists in Action – Advocating Through Patient Care.” The videos were widely circulated after the contest ended and the winners will be announced during the APhA-ASP Awards Celebration on social media this year.
The Academy also held several annual events where all student pharmacist members had the opportunity to network and advocate for the profession. Welter and the National Executive Committee, as well as APhA staff members, visited 63 schools and colleges of pharmacy through the Academy’s Student Outreach Visit program. Welter herself visited several of those programs, reaching thousands of students and working one-on-one with them to give them individualized guidance and training to help their communities.
The 2019-2020 year was also special as APhA-ASP celebrated 50years of being in existence. Welter believes the future of the APhA-ASP is bright as the Academy will continue to build community and give all student pharmacists a home, regardless of background, ability, and future plans. To start, Welter and her team laid the groundwork for projects and programs that the 2020-2021 National Executive Committee will continue to develop.
“I’ve been fortunate to meet so many people from around the country and I want to give them the best experience I can by encouraging them and inspiring them to be their best,” said Welter. “As a member of the APhA Board of Trustees, I have learned the power of my voice; however, it’s not just “my” voice – it’s “our” voice. It has been an incredible experience to be a representative for the collective student pharmacist body. Students are so powerful, and I want to keep reminding them that we can do so much and we are so valuable to this profession and to our patients.”
Originally from Monticello, Iowa, Welter is no stranger to leadership roles as she has pursued her own “Fearlessly Authentic” path. She served on the Iowa Pharmacy Association (IPA) Policy Committee on Professional Affairs and represented Drake University student pharmacists at the 2017 IPA House of Delegates. In addition to Welter’s impressive leadership accomplishments within APhA-ASP, she is also active in the Beta Chi chapter of Kappa Psi, was a four-year member of the Drake Dance Team, and has been able to sustain a record of high academic achievement throughout her career at Drake.