October 27, 2023
With a focus on patient care and examining bipartisan partnerships that help North Carolinians find and receive health care, North Carolina Democratic Sen. Gale Adcock and North Carolina Republican Rep. Wayne Sasser, addressed an overflow crowd of faculty, staff and students from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the UNC School of Nursing. The event was hosted by the School in partnership with the Carolina Association of Pharmacy Students.
Their presentation examined ways to work across the aisle to improve health care, and they encouraged pharmacy and nursing students to be proactive in pursuing policy changes throughout their careers.
Recently, Sen. Adcock and Rep. Sasser worked together on North Carolina’s Medicaid Expansion—opening the door for more than 600,000 North Carolina residents to have health coverage.
“We share a common interest in increasing access to care for patients—regardless of if they’re receiving care from a pharmacist, a nurse practitioner, a dentist, a physician or a social worker—the quality of that care, the access to that care, the cost of that care and who can receive that care. A lot of what we’ve been working on over the last several years is furthering that goal,” said Sen. Adcock.
As a nurse practitioner for more than 30 years, Sen. Adcock knows the importance of access to health care. She is an adjunct faculty member at Carolina, Duke, East Carolina, Wake Forest University and Case Western Reserve University. She’s also a Tar Heel, having received her Master of Science in Nursing from Carolina in 1987. She served four terms in the North Carolina House before joining the state Senate in 2023 as the first nurse ever elected to that Chamber.
“Our major goal is the same as it should be for pharmacists and nurses in this room, and that’s looking after patients,” said Rep. Sasser.
Rep. Sasser is also a Tar Heel, having graduated from the pharmacy school in 1973. Since graduating, he has been a registered pharmacist and also owned independent pharmacies. He is the only pharmacist in the legislature and is chairman of the Health Committee and the Appropriations Committee. The Representative is passionate about addressing the opioid crisis and his work led to the passage of the “Stop Act”, which reduces the number of opioids that are written by prescribers.
Sen. Adcock acknowledged that there are many health problems across the state and challenged students to be more than just expert clinicians. She asked them to work beyond the patient and to start thinking bigger. “We cannot solve these problems and we cannot influence those who make policies if we continue to just take care of people one person at a time,” she said.
The legislators shared how a pharmacist or nurse can be part of bipartisan change in their day-to-day practice. They agreed it is part of one’s professional responsibility and role to influence government leaders to pass good policies. Sen. Adcock and Rep. Sasser also advised students to build relationships with their senators and representatives and help them understand the human side of health care problems by sharing stories from their own experience.
Rep. Sasser ended the presentation by encouraging students, “You have an education that allows you to have opportunities that are endless—use all of those opportunities and use your education to impact the world,” he said.