Student Pharmacist Internationally Recognized for Her Public Health Advocacy Efforts

Fifth-year pharmacy student Mabelle Rechdan has won the US Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award for her significant achievements and contributions to health literacy and development in the local community.

By Sara Makarem

Mabelle Rechdan receiving the award from Dean Naser Alsharif and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Lamis R. Karaoui at the School of Pharmacy.

Mabelle Rechdan, a P3 student at LAU’s School of Pharmacy, is one of 90 pharmacy students from the US and pharmacy-related schools to be recognized this year by the United States Public Health Service.

In March, she received the United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award given to US pharmacy students and those enrolled in US-accredited institutions such as LAU, who have made significant contributions to public health by promoting wellness and healthy communities.

The School of Pharmacy organized an award presentation ceremony on May 14, 2024, in the presence of Rechdan’s classmates, the school’s faculty, and staff.

Rechdan has been dedicating her time outside class to eliminating health disparities, achieving health equity and literacy, creating supportive environments, and encouraging healthy development and behaviors across all life stages.

For over four years, she has been holding informative sessions on important subjects like STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and drug misuse for teenagers and adolescents in her community, emphasizing the importance of safe sexual practices and the dangers of substance abuse. Her previous outreach efforts involved numerous collaborations with multiple schools and communities in Byblos.

Rechdan is a certified general trainer at the Lebanese Red Cross, specializing in youth and health. She is also a member of several committees and clubs, including the Lebanese Pharmacy Students Association, the IVPN Network, the Paracetamour NGO and NAPHASS (No Apathy Pharmacy and Health Awareness Student Society)–LAU’s Pharmacy Club. Additionally, she serves on the School of Pharmacy’s Co-Curriculum Program Committee.

In this interview, she talks about her win and the reasons behind her investment in local public health issues.

Can you tell us what it means to you to have won this award?

Winning the US Public Health Service Excellence Award is an immense honor and a profound validation of my work and its impact in advancing public health. The award motivates me to continue striving for excellence, innovation, and compassion in improving public health outcomes.

In your opinion, what role can pharmacy students and professionals play in raising community awareness of public health issues? Which specific issues have you been addressing?

As accessible healthcare providers, pharmacy students and professionals play a vital role in raising awareness of public health issues through education, advocacy, and patient care. We educate patients about medication adherence, counsel on proper medication use, and advocate for public health policies. We also conduct disease awareness campaigns and screenings to detect medical conditions including hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

For example, I have facilitated sessions on drug misuse, STIs, non-communicable diseases, and antibiotic resistance during my time as a volunteer certified trainer at the Red Cross for the past five years.

Part of your international recognition comes from your commitment to contribute to public health through training and volunteering. What motivates you to be actively involved in numerous multidisciplinary committees and organizations in this sector as a student?

As a pharmacist, I believe that health is a fundamental human right, and being part of initiatives that aim to improve health outcomes aligns deeply with my values and aspirations.

Volunteering and committee work allow me to apply the theoretical knowledge that I learned during my pharmacy program to real-world scenarios, bridging the gap between academia and practice, especially when I witness the direct impact of the initiatives on people’s lives. It reminds me of the reason I am doing this and motivates me to continue working for the benefit of healthier communities.

What role do the university and faculty play in encouraging students to become public health advocates?

LAU and the LAU School of Pharmacy support student-led clubs and initiatives focused on public health. We are encouraged to actively engage in community service and outreach. The school also offers co-curricular activities (CCAs) such as workshops, seminars, and guest lectures by pharmacists and public health experts to expose us to timely topics and innovative practices in the fields of pharmacy and public health.

What recommendations can you give junior pharmacy students or freshmen considering pharmacy as a major?

I would advise them to be organized and develop good study habits and time management skills early on. It was really helpful for me to use to-do lists to keep track of assignments and exams. It is also important that they always ask for help from professors or classmates if they are facing difficulty with any topic.

I highly encourage them to get involved and join clubs and NGOs to strengthen their skills and apply all the knowledge gained through didactic and experiential courses.

Most importantly, they should maintain a healthy balance between their academics, extracurricular activities and personal life. Pharmacy school can be challenging, but a work-life balance will help them stay motivated to learn.

Finally, the pharmacy profession requires all of our commitment to lifelong learning and continuing education. The field of pharmacy is constantly evolving, so we need to always stay up to date with the latest knowledge and research.