With a passion for public health, Sam Zakkour has been advocating for the pharmacy profession to become involved in preventive health since his first day in pharmacy school. “There’s a divide between prevention and treatment – especially with diseases like HIV that rely on medication management. We can be that bridge.”
An HIV diagnosis is very different than it was twenty years ago. Instead of a death sentence, it is looked upon as a chronic disease managed with drugs. “You can’t exercise and diet your way out of HIV. Once you have it, the only treatment is medication therapy. There’s no surgery, there’s no diet, there’s no exercise program that will cure or curtail the disease,” says Sam.
Pharmacists are medications experts, “so it’s logical that we are the one’s involved in counseling patients who have an HIV diagnosis. What these patients are most concerned with is the meds – how they will affect them, how they can get them, and how much will they cost. They also ask about ways to reduce their risk of transmitting HIV to others – all of which involves counseling and education skills that pharmacists are currently trained to do.”
Sam’s involvement in public health policy has grown during his four years of pharmacy school where he has been the impetus behind an HIV/STD testing and counseling program with pharmacy students running the show, testing and counseling patients. By training and conducting workshops directed toward intern pharmacists and practicing pharmacists, he’s helping position pharmacists as the “go to” resource for HIV treatment and care and he’s gotten a name for himself along the way.
In addition to developing the HIV testing program, Sam was one of four students in the country selected to complete a rotation at the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention during his P-4 year to become more knowledgeable about public policy work. And his next step on the path to merging public health with pharmacy is a residency position at the University of Missouri-Kansas City focusing on public health and HIV primary care.