Ryan Swensen, PharmD, regional pharmacy supervisor for Shopko Stores Operating Co., LLC, received the first-ever NACDS RxIMPACT Key Contact of the Year Award at this year’s NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill. NACDS.org spoke with Swensen this week about why he remains such a dedicated advocate for pharmacy.

I believe it’s a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and I need to be one of those people.

The award recognizes pharmacists who actively engage with members of Congress on pro-pharmacy legislative priorities. Swensen attended his first NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill in 2012, where he met a staff member in then-Rep. Jim Matheson’s (D-UT) office and hosted an NACDS RxIMPACT pharmacy tour for the congressman. Swenson went on to develop a close, productive relationship with Matheson, defining a central tenet of the NACDS RxIMPACT Key Contact PLUS program.

Q: You’ve consistently been involved with the NACDS RxIMPACT program. What keeps you engaged?

A: Number one, I love being a grassroots advocate. I like being able to voice my opinion and push for issues that are good for pharmacy. I believe it’s a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and I need to be one of those people.

Q: What are you doing with the NACDS RxIMPACT Key Contact PLUS program?

A: I’m trying to find people in my company and other regional chains who have a passion, or at least an interest in grassroots advocacy, so they can get involved with NACDS RxIMPACT and make contact with their legislators.

Q: You’ve seen firsthand how effective it is to build relationships with lawmakers. Why do you think more people should get involved?

A: A good portion of people are just not engaged. They’re distracted by so many other things that are going on, from social media to their iPhones to TV. I think in America, we need to make sure that we’re always vigilant. NACDS, among all of the other groups that I have seen—and particularly with the NACDS RxIMPACT program—represents such a large group of pharmacists that it gives us more of a united voice. It serves as an example to the rest of the profession that when we get good people together under a really good organization, we can do a lot of things for the profession and for our patients.

Q: Why do you think it’s essential for lawmakers to know about issues that affect pharmacy?

A: Almost everyone is an expert in a couple of areas and only knows a little bit about everything else. Lawmakers are no exception. Just because you’re elected doesn’t make you an expert on everything that’s going on. We need to be involved so we can be those experts legislators can call when they have a question about an issue—say, provider status. The legislators need to know they have trusted experts where they can get the best information to do what’s right for their constituents.

Q: Are you planning to come to next year’s NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill?

A: Absolutely. I plan on being in D.C. for NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill for as long as that event is going. I’m going to try to bring my son with me, too. He wants to be a pharmacist, so I think it will be very memorable.

Q: What brings you back every year?

A: I love to see what the new challenges are and how we can impact them. Not only is it a fun event, it’s effective and it generates so much energy and excitement. I fell in love with the program the first year I went.