This spring, Axel Vazquez-Deida received the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award.
He was recognized for his work and leadership in addressing issues such as access to health services, adolescent health, immunization and infectious disease prevention, social determinants of health, tobacco use, substance abuse, and nutrition and weight status. As president-elect of the Minnesota Pharmacy Student Alliance, Vazquez-Deida works with his student colleagues to ensure the college’s outreach events effectively address disease conditions including diabetes, stroke prevention, access to immunizations and prescription drug abuse prevention, as well as other health-related topics that might be of benefit for the community.
Vazquez-Deida also volunteers at the Health of People Everywhere clinic (a student-run clinic that serves low income and homeless populations in the Duluth area), and has served as the co-coordinator for the student-run Puebla Service Project. Also, during the summer of 2015 he worked as a USPHS Junior Commissioned Officer at the Red Lake Indian Health Service Hospital in Red Lake, Minn.
“As student pharmacists, we have the privilege of having easier access to the community and thus be more aware of the challenges it faces,” he said. “It is our responsibility to contribute and help our communities achieve a better quality of life, especially since pharmacists are known to be one of the most accessible health care professionals. I have always believed that if we have the resources, health and ability to help those that are not as fortunate as we are, then why not do it?”
Vazquez-Deida was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where he initially planned to pursue his pharmacy degree. However, as an undergraduate he spent the summer of 2012 working at a pharmaceutical sciences research internship in Kentucky where he was exposed to trends in pharmacy practice within the United States.
“This had a significant impact on me and made me reflect on the differences between the practice in the United States versus Puerto Rico,” he said. “After completing the internship, I returned to the island and started researching more about pharmacy-related topics that I had not been aware of prior to the internship, such as medication therapy management, collaborative practice agreements and pharmaceutical care. This led me to pharmacy practice in Minnesota. I was immediately amazed by how advanced practice here was compared to other states, and how Minnesota pharmacists were able to practice technically at the top of their license and even further.”
Vazquez-Deida also liked that the college’s Duluth campus had a strong emphasis on rural health.
“Since I grew up in a small rural town, I have always been interested in access to care. The University of Minnesota perfectly matched with my interests and vision regarding the practice and the profession,” he said.
Although moving to Minnesota from Puerto Rico had challenges—adjusting to a different educational system, culture and even language— Vazquez-Deida says it has been a positive, life-changing experience.
“As students, we are very privileged to be part of this amazing community at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy because of the commitment and leadership of the faculty and students to improve the health and wellbeing of communities at the state, national and global level, as well as to advance the profession and practice,” he said.