FDU’s School of Pharmacy “Gives Kids the World” on Spring Break
Group photo of FDU School of Pharmacy students at the Gives Kids The World Village. From Left to right: Gargi Patel, Akash Shah, Nikisha Patel, Veronica Feltrin, Adam Carlson, Katerina Hatzis, and Mariana Milan.
By Jenny Connell
Service has been a key component of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Pharmacy, dating back to the inaugural student orientation last summer, and spring break this year was no different. A group of six students and two staff members from the School of Pharmacy spent their spring break at the Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, Fl.
The Village is a 70-acre, nonprofit "storybook" resort, located near Disney World, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations.
The FDU group — who dubbed themselves the “Rx Angels” — had one mission for the week: to put smiles on the childrens’ and families’ faces during their time at the park. The Angels worked multiple shifts a day, completing duties including: face painting for a Halloween-themed night, helping children create stars for the Magical Castle, pampering at the spa, manning the carousel, and running the night’s program for the Village Idol event where kids display their talents.
“I worked at the La Di Da Spa. There was an area for manicures, hand massaging, makeup, face-painting, and airbrush tattoos. Two other volunteers accompanied me, so that work was split,” says first year pharmacy student, Veronica Feltrin. “I took on the task of airbrush tattooing. It was nerve-wracking because I wanted the art to come out perfectly so the kids would like it, but I’d never done it before so the pressure was on!”Veronica Feltrin and Mariana Milan are primping and pampering at the La Di Da Spa applying makeup and giving manicures while Akash Shah gives kids airbrush tattoos.
Chadwin Sandifer, the school’s assistant dean of student affairs and community engagement at the School of Pharmacy, organized the service project. “It’s important to go on these missions to build an empathetic and core understanding,” says Sandifer. “As pharmacy grows as a profession, the leaders of the industry will be the ones who can communicate and advocate for the population.”
FDU students embraced the volunteer effort while also envisioning the bigger picture as a future pharmacist. “This trip prepared me for my healthcare profession to be around individuals who are terminally ill and at their weakest points; how to comfort, support, and communicate,” says pharmacy student Marianna Milan.
Although FDU’s School of Pharmacy is only in its first year of operation, the student affairs staff wasted no time in making sure that students had the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the five core tenants of the program: think, lead, advocate, communicate, and implement.
“The five core tenets are set up as five non-negotiable skills and characteristics that as a school we think pharmacists need to have in order to be the pharmacists of the future,” says Adam Carlson, student affairs counselor at FDU’s School of Pharmacy. “I think that in many ways all of those core tenants were brought to life through this experience.”
Carlson says how one of his favorite moments of the trip was when he witnessed one of the Rx Angels walk up to a family and start dancing with their children to recruit participants for Village Idol. “I was totally shocked! He’s a pretty reserved guy,” explains Carlson.
“One of the things we focused on during this trip was helping our students challenge themselves and throw them into situations that might be uncomfortable. So when I think of our students dancing with the kids and interacting with the families, I know as an administrator, that this is what this week is all about,” says Carlson.
This trip is just one of the service options that will be available for students in the School of Pharmacy in the future. Sandifer has big plans for other service-based leadership projects that students can take advantage of—and not just during spring break.