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Reluctance Turns to Resolve  

P3 Student Darian Allen Amped Up for Serving on National Stage After SNPhA President-elect Win

For a pharmacy student who was reluctant to even enter the field, third-year UH College of Pharmacy Darian Allen has thrown her heart and soul into the opportunities and obligations of the profession: After serving as president of the UHCOP Chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) in only her second year, Allen went on win the office of National President-elect at the 2018 SNPhA National Conference July 27-30 in Charlotte, N.C.

Allen not only won the national election, but she also brought home the Dr. Nicole Avant Presidential Scholarship and the Walgreens Advancement of Diversity in the Community Award – and, most importantly in her opinion, the UHCOP chapter also captured the national Chapter Excellence Award in the Large Chapter category

Although Allen had been around pharmacy most of her life – she worked as a certified pharmacy technician after completing a training program in high school and her mother worked as a hospital pharmacy technician – she said it wasn't until she was nearing the end of her undergraduate education that she gave a pharmacy career serious consideration.

Allen credits a former professor at Texas A&M University, where she graduated with bachelor's degrees in both Genetics and Biochemistry, as well as a UHCOP recruiter she met at a college health professions career who "opened my eyes to the different career areas in pharmacy beyond community and hospital."

"I was attracted to the idea of being able to interact with people in a different way than say, a medical doctor," said the Beaumont, Texas, native and youngest of three in a single-parent home.

Allen's term leading the UHCOP chapter got off to a rough start, with flooding from Hurricane Harvey impacting several members of the organization as well as causing a one-week cancellation of classes, which in turn impacted extra-curricular activities.

"Becoming a first-time leader, it was an adjustment to learn how to manage people and their personalities and how to manage conflicts or opposing viewpoints," she said. "Hurricane Harvey derailed everything; immediately after it hit, we contacted all 172 members to see how they were doing and what needs they may have, and just did what we could for them and regroup."

As things slowly returned to normalcy for most students, Allen and her members began implementing their game plan for the year – including organizing a large-scale interdisciplinary health fair and hosting its annual alumni dinner – but as the semester began to wind down she said was obvious that something wasn't clicking for the organization.

"We were ranked 11th, and we needed to be in the top three of our category," Allen said. "I told our officers that we're not meeting the expectations set by our predecessors, but we're going to use the storm as a strength, not as a crutch."

The tide turned, so to speak, in the spring semester: Although the chapter held a second, even more successful, interdisciplinary health fair along with other patient-care focused events, members launched an outreach campaign to expose more high school students to the benefits and non-traditional career opportunities within the pharmacy profession.

Allen said the experience of working with high school students was one of the most gratifying of the year, which also became a big part of her campaign speech that earned a standing ovation.

"I think what really struck people (in the audience) was the emphasis on high school development," Allen said. "Something that even many of our members may not know is that high school students are eligible to join SNPhA. There are a lot of students in underserved areas where drugs, gangs, growing up in 'broken homes' and other factors that may discourage them from pursuing college and professional careers, whether its pharmacy or not."

Allen said she's also committed to enhancing communication between the larger, more established chapters and new or struggling smaller chapters. 

In a serendipitous turn of events, Allen will take over leadership of the organization when its 2019 National Conference comes to Houston in 2019.