Socks n’ Sandwiches
By Vu Ha, APPE Pharmacy Student, University of Minnesota, College of Pharmacy
In the practice of pharmacy, we truly never know what to expect on a daily basis as there are always obstacles that challenge our mental and emotional capabilities. Pharmacists continually face adversity in their practice setting whether it be inpatient or outpatient, and yet they always manage to find their way through for the sake of the patient. At times, it may seem that too much focus may be spent on drug therapy problems and insurance issues at the expense of recognizing our own patients’ personal adversity. Some have gone through numerous hardships in their lives while others may come from difficult backgrounds that have affected their views on medication experience.
Since 1991, Wilder Research has published a study every 3 years regarding the state of the homeless population in Minnesota in terms of demographics and factors affecting the population. Their researchers interview members of the population in order to gauge numerous variables, such as family status and nights spent without a place of stay. The most recent publication in 2015 showed a 9% decrease in the number of homeless individuals in Minnesota compared to the 2012 report, but highlighted the unfortunate truth that many are afflicted with mental health conditions and lack the basic needs to access health care services. There is an alarming need to bring more awareness to the homeless population and help bring resolution to a patient subset that tends to be overlooked by even the most astute health care professionals.
My name is Vu Ha. I’m currently a fourth-year pharmacy student from the University of Minnesota. I am a first generation Asian American and the first to receive an actual college education in my family. I am not originally from the United States; I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand as my parents sought out a clear passage to the U.S. When we finally came to America, our family had zero dollars to our name. With no house, no job, no sense of belonging anywhere just yet, it would be an understatement to say that my family struggled initially. I can recall sleeping as a cozy family of 5 on the floors of our family friends’ apartments and using coupons to get free lunches at my elementary school. My grandpa (at the age of 56) was laying tiles and bricks, my mom worked at a nail salon, and my uncle cut hair. My unique background taught me this — that hardships of any sort ultimately teach you the value of hard work. I am forever thankful for those who have changed my life for the best and influenced me to strive for more. Those around me have inspired me to do more for those who cannot help themselves.
During this past year, I began a volunteer initiative known as Socks n’ Sandwiches after developing a strong passion for community work and volunteering in underserved communities for many years at the College of Pharmacy. For this campaign, I aim to create 60 sandwiches monthly and deliver them on the fourth Thursday of every month to local homeless shelters around the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Each sandwich is affixed with a positive saying or quote on a notecard for the individual to read once they open their sandwich bags. Socks are fundraised monthly as well, and there has been an outpouring of support from the world of pharmacy. The College of Pharmacy – Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems Department, Park Nicollet Medication Therapy Management Team, Mayo Clinic Austin Pharmacy, Walgreens Specialty St. Cloud and many more have helped me each month to create these sandwiches and donated socks on their own behalf. Although the process is meant to help those who cannot help themselves, I have found that coming together for this activity promotes team building and brings awareness for the cause. Pharmacists and pharmacy students alike have offered countless hours and their services to Socks n’ Sandwiches to demonstrate our profession’s ability to understand the culture of our underserved patients and continue our philanthropic ways. As a whole, we have fundraised over 200 pairs of socks and more than 300 sandwiches have been passed out this past year thanks to our efforts.
Pharmacy is an ever-changing field that is filled with obstacles that challenge us mentally, physically, and sometimes emotionally almost every single day. Our profession demonstrates resilience and aptitude to adapt to any given situation. My challenge to you is this — join me in making a sandwich one day in the near future or donate a pair of socks and help bring awareness to the campaign against hunger in the homeless patient population.
Thanks for reading.