Walking through the halls of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Kira Weaver was on a mission.
As a 2019 graduate of East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, she has learned that pharmacists can do so much more than fill prescriptions, and in a world of rising health care and drug costs, expanding the role of pharmacists might be an effective 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 Dr. Debbie Byrd, dean of Gatton College of Pharmacy, 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, also in Washington, 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 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, we are currently not recognized as providers and thus can’t be reimbursed for our services,” Weaver said. “Right now health care prices are so high, drug prices are so high, but no one is taking the initiative to help bridge that gap—but pharmacists are a big component of that.”
Nine out of 10 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.”
Before she graduated from Gatton College of Pharmacy on May 3, Weaver had 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 be a voice for the profession and help drive pharmacy forward.”
In the next five to seven years she hopes to move up within CVS Health where she can make changing the landscape of health care part of her profession.