A passion for helping others cope with the challenges and pain of racism, discrimination, and microaggressions led Leanna Baker, a third-year PharmD student at the extended campus in Augusta, to be a change agent. The Woodbine, GA native took the initiative and developed a training program on how to deal with these systemic issues, and her efforts did not go unnoticed. Leanna recently was awarded the United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award for her stellar and heroic efforts.
Leanna based the curriculum she designed on personal experiences. Following graduation from Georgia Southern University in 2018, she was accepted into UGA’s College of Pharmacy in the fall of 2019. She began her clinical rotations during the summer of 2020 at a rural pharmacy in North Georgia. During this time, Baker was faced with barriers related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The patient population wasn’t receptive of new, diverse staff members, and they would often ask for someone else to assist them.
This experience sparked a desire in Leanna to develop a program that would convey how to communicate with patients when presented with these barriers. “Creating a program like this was immensely important to me, because when hurtful remarks were made, I didn’t have the necessary tools to respond appropriately,” said Leanna. “I did nothing when painful comments were made, which impacted my mental health. I didn’t feel protected, and I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to give other students the tools to respond confidently and to feel comfortable having those conversations when faced with a difficult interaction.”
After extensively researching, making connections, attending conferences, and designing modules, Leanna created the “Responding to Racism, Discrimination, and Microaggressions” curriculum, which provides insight on how students can respond to challenging encounters and access resources if the situation impacts their academic success. In addition, her curriculum offers tips on how to be an ally to students of color, women, and LGBTQ+ community members. Leanna presented her program to the College’s students and faculty, and now, she is traveling to other colleges and organizations to share her findings. In addition, she has submitted her curriculum to the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacists for publication.
In recognition of her work, Leanna was nominated by Dr. Andrea Sikora, Clinical Associate Professor at the extended campus in Augusta, for The United States Public Health Service Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award, and she was subsequently selected. This award recognizes pharmacy students who have made significant contributions to public health by promoting wellness and healthy communities. “This award has always recognized students who go the extra mile by doing things they are passionate about and making a positive impact in pharmacy practice,” said Leanna. “It is an honor to be among others recognized in such high regard.”
Commented Dr. Sikora, “I was honored to nominate Leanna for this award. We first connected through a back-to-school event in which students could put their name in a drawing to have lunch with a professor. I am so thankful she chose me! We had a wonderful lunch and chatted about her career goals and the various things she had been involved with as a student. She immediately impressed me with her level of leadership and involvement, in addition to her humility, poise, and good humor. When she told me about the curriculum she had developed, I became even more impressed; she discussed some of the cutting-edge theories, not only in DEI but in pedagogy in general, and showed great thoughtfulness in her course design. I have learned a lot from working with her to develop the poster and manuscript associated with her excellent work. I commend her for the leadership she has provided to her fellow pharmacy students as well as faculty and staff.”
Besides being a change agent for this important topic as well as an exemplary student at CoP, Leanna is active in various student organizations. She is the former president of the American Managed Care Pharmacy and serves on the National AMCP Student Pharmacist Committee Board. In addition, she is a former executive board member of the Industry Pharmacy Organization and an active national and college member of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association. After graduating in May 2023, Leanna plans to incorporate DEI in her future career options.
“I want to thank Dr. Sikora for nominating me for this award and supporting my journey,” acknowledged Leanna. “I also want to thank Ms. Kay Brooks, Dr. Linda Logan, and Jadon Slaughter for their support in helping me put the program together.”