Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier is our guest for this month's podcast episode. Camille is currently pursuing a Doctor of Pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University. During the interview, she talks about her drug misuse prevention advocacy and her social impact initiative, Mind Your Meds: Drug Safety and Abuse Prevention from Pediatrics to Geriatrics; the importance of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day; and shares a special message to college students.
Rich Lucey: Hi, this is Rich Lucey with the Drug Enforcement Administration's Community Outreach and Prevention Support Section. And welcome to this episode of Prevention Profiles: Take Five.
I am very excited about today's guest. This is just an amazing opportunity. I have with me, Camille Schrier, who is the reigning Miss America and I'm going to tell you a little bit about Camille and her story and then we'll meet Camille and get into our questions.
So Camille Schrier grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania before moving to Virginia to pursue her undergraduate degrees. In 2018, Camille graduated with honors from Virginia Tech with dual Bachelor of Science degrees in biochemistry and systems biology and she is currently pursuing a doctorate of pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University.
In June of 2019, Camille was named Miss Virginia after breaking from tradition to perform the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide as her onstage talent.
Her unique talent performance and focus on Women in STEM has sparked a positive reaction on inclusivity for the program.
On December 19 of 2019, Camille earned the job of Miss America 2020 after competing live on NBC. A certified Naloxone trainer in the city of Richmond, Camille will use the Miss America national recognition to promote her own social impact initiative called Mind Your Meds; Drug Safety and Abuse Prevention from Pediatrics to Geriatrics.
Most recently, Camille was awarded the Engineering Champion Award by the Phi Sigma Rho National Sorority for her work in promoting women in engineering and technical fields.
In addition to her passion for science and drug safety, Camille has battled body image issues. As a young woman who previously battled an eating disorder, Camille chose to compete in Miss America 2020 because of the redirection from physical appearance to social impact.
And with that, Camille, welcome to the podcast.
Camille Schrier: Hello, thank you so much for having me. I'm so glad to be on here with you and talk about these really important issues.
Rich Lucey: I mean, this is really exciting. I know that as we were prepping for the podcast, I will say right out, I think you're probably one of our highest profile guests on the podcast, maybe outside of the tradition field in which we work. And your background both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student, and now with your platform as Miss America, everything aligns, I think, with all the work that we're trying to do at the Drug Enforcement Administration, to prevent drug misuse among youth and young adults, really across the entire lifespan. And we'll get into that in a little bit with the work that you're trying to do with your platform.
So really exciting for us and I'm going to just jump right into our first question and talk a little bit about you.
So I know your platform as Miss America focuses on prescription drug misuse and we'll talk about that in just a moment. But I want to get a little bit more of a backstory.
Were you involved in drug misuse prevention efforts as an undergrad student and if so, what are some of the types of things that you worked on?
Camille Schrier: Yes, so I actually wasn’t, which is kind of crazy. This was really born out of my interest in participating in the Miss America Organization combined with me being a pharmacy student.
And so one of the really interesting things about the Miss America Program is that people don’t really understand fully what we do. And from the local level to the state level to being Miss America, each woman is required to have her own social initiative that she works on, which is a great initiative for every woman who participates in the program to actually get out there in their communities and make a difference in a way that’s kind of outside of the classroom.
So I had always been a fulltime student and never really found the time to, you know, do advocacy work that maybe I wanted to work on. But when I enrolled in the program and decided to compete for Miss America, kind of pushed me to that new level of advocacy. So I chose Drug Safety and Abuse Prevention as my platform and that really started for me in about April of 2019. So I am pretty new to this world but I'm not new to medication safety because of my pharmacy education and I'm not new to the science behind it.
And so I'm grateful to be able to now take this on fulltime as Miss America and this platform because I've seen more than anything, how needed this is. Every time that I go around and I talk about medication safety and drug abuse prevention and the opioid epidemic specifically, I have so many faces that come up to me and tell me their stories.
Rich Lucey: Yeah.
Camille Schrier: And I'm grateful to be able to learn with everyone but also use this job that I have to really make a difference.
Rich Lucey: So let me ask you, I know that I come in contact with a lot of entry level and new to the field types of professionals working in prevention. And in a sense, you did that, you know, starting as you said, when you started the initiative back in April of 2019, how much, I mean, there's a lot of knowledge that you need to gain working in this field and especially knowing the science of prevention and such.
So what was that like for you as you educated yourself about these very issues, knowing that you're looking at, as your platform says, from pediatrics to geriatrics, across the lifespan. What was your own education on this issue like?
Camille Schrier: Yes, so that’s a really good question. And I think that one of the biggest things that can really prevent someone from wanting to take the leap and really go into advocacy is assuming that you need to know everything. I think that that’s an issue that I see with a lot of people.
And just admitting when you don’t know something is really important because you're not expected to be an expert on every single piece of everything.
And I see, one of my biggest strengths in this fight is the, really, the platform that I have as Miss America. So if I don’t know everything, I have the opportunity to learn from the best and give them another platform and say hey, let's collaborate.
So I've learned a lot through the people that I've collaborated with. But my platform kind of has two sides. So I do the medication safety with really parents, kids and caregivers. And I learned a lot of that in my first year of pharmacy school, learned a lot about how to keep kids and parents safe with medications. Started to learn how to council once I'm actually getting into dispensing medications. But I didn’t really know a lot about the opioid piece of it. That wasn’t something that I got in my education. But I learned about that through taking the Naloxone training as a pharmacy student and I was sitting there like, why aren’t people talking about this? There is a huge epidemic happening in this country that I haven’t heard about until I'm sitting in this chair. And that really struck me.
And so the pharmacy education really was the base education that I got for learning about these issues but I continue to learn. And even the recovery community is a whole other piece of this so I talk a lot about abuse prevention but then I really started to work more with recovery centers, which are trying to treat people who are in the midst of substance use disorder.
And there are so many nuances within that field and I'm continually learning and growing and I think that if anything, this is going to make me a much better and stronger, more well-rounded pharmacist when I do come out of school.
But I am learning from experts, which I think is such a cool opportunity.
Rich Lucey: Absolutely, and I love what you said about not assuming that you need to know everything. I think in our field, and I've been in this field now almost three decades, working you know, specifically in preventing misuse primarily among youth and young adults, especially college students.
And I think you're absolutely right. I mean, I always like to say to folks, look, I may not know the answer but I know who to go to or where to turn to get the answer for you.
And I think that’s just as important...
Camille Schrier: Absolutely.
Rich Lucey: Than winging fast answers. I want to move on to the second question. I do want to zero in on your social impact initiative. And so I mentioned Mind Your Meds in your bio, in your introduction. So let's talk a little bit more. Tell us about the platform and how did you come to actually choose this and develop it? Because focusing on this topic isn’t typically top of mind for people when they want to, you know, focus in on an issue to address.
Camille Schrier: It's definitely not. And the reason I chose this, really from kind of like a 30,000 foot level is, I wanted an issue that I chose to really effect every single person that I came across, whether or not I was Miss Virginia, Miss Dominion, which was my local title, or Miss America.
And medication safety and abuse prevention is something that really does touch every single person's life. I image that everyone listening to this either has taken a medication in their life or has given a medication to someone in their family.
Maybe, I mean, I can't even think of anyone who hasn’t taken some type of a medicine, over the counter or prescription, in their life. Most of us have.
Rich Lucey: Right.
Camille Schrier: And if we're parents, then we're likely that caregiver for our younger children and we're helping them take medication, maybe, if they get sick.
And so it's something that touches everyone's life in a way that’s pretty unique and I wanted my initiative to be relevant to every person that I met.
But also, of course, I'm biased because I'm a pharmacy student and I grew up with a mom who was a nurse. And I was the little kid that always got sick. I mean, every single time it was cold and flu season, I was out for two weeks.
I would get strep throat. I was just a mess of a little kid. Never with anything serious, but I was always at the doctors and I always was in the pharmacy with my mom.
And unlike most parents, and I understand this now as a doctorate of pharmacy student, my mom, as a nurse, was looking at the back of cough and cold medicines, looking at something like a Nyquil that is a combination drug, saying okay, there's x amount of this, y amount of this, z amount of this in here, I can give you a little bit more Tylenol and I'm not going to overdose you. And she was very cognizant of what was in everything that I was taking.
And when I talk to parents about this, I always talk about hey, if you're going to have your kids eat healthy food, or maybe if you're that parent who wants your child to eat only organic non-GMO foods, then why would you not be just as cautious with the medication that you're giving your child?
And that’s really what I go back to often and I'm so lucky that I grew up in an environment with medication safety, that it made me want to tackle this, because I realized that I was not the norm.
But the one thing I will mention is the abuse prevention piece came later. I don’t actually have a personal connection to substance use disorder. And I feel like I'm very unique in saying that because so many people do.
But I started to understand the links between prescription medications and substance use disorder once I got into pharmacy school. And so I'm like okay, these are all medication safety and you know, this all comes into abuse prevention. We can start this young and I really wrapped it up into that Mind Your Meds. And I felt like that was a pretty comprehensive way to tackle both of these issues at the same time.
Rich Lucey: Well, you're absolutely right in that, like I said, I've been in this field now almost 30 years and rarely, if ever, does someone set out to work specifically in the prevention field.
I mean, the people that I talk to around the country, in communities, on class campuses, every one of them has, myself included, kind of a long and winding path to ending up where we do in this prevention field.
And so you're absolutely no different in that regard.
I'm going, from what I heard you say, I imagine that with your work around medication safety and in your studies as a doctorate of pharmacy, I think there was the realization that you can get further upstream of the issue...
Camille Schrier: Yes.
Rich Lucey: For people who are misusing their meds and such and that’s probably where I think that that spark came from to focus in on the prevention aspect of it.
Camille Schrier: Yeah, and also, just thinking of what pharmacists can do. If you're even just thinking about a parent coming in and taking an over the counter medication for their child off the shelf, they might not get that one on one counseling opportunity with a pharmacist and we lose that opportunity to educate that parent about the fact that Tylenol could overdose their child if they give them too much and there are so many things that seem really benign but aren’t.
And then in the same respect, kind of what you were saying, is we kind of have this culture in our society, I think, right now where medication misuse or carelessness with medications is really commonplace and kind of acceptable. And that can lead to more detrimental behaviors when we think about things like illicit drugs or maybe misusing prescription drugs.
We have to make that really, really important from day one for those kids and to give parents the tools to be able to really give their child an environment that is cautious with these substances because even something like an over the counter medication needs to be respected for what it can do to our body or how it can hurt us because it's not always so benign.
So you're absolutely right about that.
Rich Lucey: So, and you mentioned that your mom is a nurse and so you know, I have a sister who's an ER nurse and her husband, my brother-in-law, is a PA, you know. I think that for people that are in the healthcare field, they probably have, they know what questions to ask. They know what to look for when it comes to medicines, whether they're over the counter or a prescription.
And there are so many parents though, that don’t have that education.
Camille Schrier: Exactly.
Rich Lucey: You know, they, obviously aren’t that specialized, it's not the field that they're in. So what is it about your platform that you can hope to achieve with parent education as you were just talking about, just on medicine safety and prevention?
Camille Schrier: Yeah. I think that a couple things for parents and caregivers particularly, because sometimes adults end up being caregivers for older adults like their own parents. And so I kind of group those people together as well.
But independent of that, those of us who don’t have medical training, it can be extremely confusing.
I remember when I was in pharmacy school, my first year, and learning how to counsel patients and just even myself, trying to remember the directives and what questions to ask and how to tell this person how to take this medication. It was confusing for me as someone who was learning to do that myself.
And I really had a lot of empathy for those who maybe, you know, even those who don’t have the same kind of educational background because you're also thinking of you know, where your patients are coming from. Do they have a full education and can they read? Where are they coming from and what opportunities and education do they have and how is that going to affect their ability to understand what they have to do?
And so, really, that’s kind of even the social determinants of health that we're talking about there, but that’s a whole other topic.
Rich Lucey: Right.
Camille Schrier: But in general, I think that what I really am encouraging parents and caregivers to do is stop, ask questions and ensure they're understanding because they're going to interact with some healthcare provider, whether or not it is the provider giving them the medication, prescribing it, they're picking it up at a pharmacy or maybe they're getting an over the counter medication at a pharmacy and they have access to a pharmacists.
Making sure that you are fully understanding and aware of what you are doing, double checking, not being afraid to ask questions and empowering yourself with knowledge so that you are ensuring safety of yourself and your children.
Simple things like even just making sure that your medications are up and away and locked away from your children to prevent accidental poisonings; making a medication log for your child if your child is sick. Maybe there's more than one caregiver in the home and there can be some confusion of who gave the child the medicine, I did or you did or maybe we both did, that can be an issue. So medication logs, medication pill containers that organizational. Just simple little things that parents and caregivers can do in the home.
But the most important thing, and I can't do this because I'm not a provider yet, but most important thing for patients to do, or if they're a caregiver for a patient, is talk to their provider and ensure understanding.
And also, from my perspective, to talk to, when I'm talking to providers, encouraging them to take the moment with their patients and whoever they're writing that prescription to or handing it over to, take the moment to ensure the understanding. It's a two-way street. And it's important to prevent even small medication errors because if we can prevent one or two or many, we can get really, really significant impact there.
So I'm really passionate about just taking that extra couple of minutes because it can really make a huge difference.
Rich Lucey: Absolutely. And that’s just some great advice that you've given for our listeners on you know, this whole issue of you know, take the moment, as you said, to stop and ask questions and ensure that you're understanding exactly what you're taking or you're helping someone else with.
So I appreciate that advice.
Camille Schrier: Absolutely.
Rich Lucey: So let me move on to question number three that I have for you. So switch gears a little bit on specific population that we focus on, especially through this podcast series. From your perspective, both as a graduate student in pharmacy and as Miss America, what is a primary message that you would like to get across to college students around prevent prescription drug misuse?
Camille Schrier: Well this is definitely personal for me because I've been a college student so recently. And I remember being in college and seeing prescription drug abuse, probably more than any kind of drug abuse. And that’s interesting that that’s what I saw because that’s what I work on now.
But I think the thing that I would tell college students especially, really anyone that’s offered prescription drugs or considers abusing prescription drugs, is quite literally how risky that type of behavior is.
It can, you know, I talk to young ones about this sometimes and it's still applicable for older students, but you can always apologize to your friend or your family member when you make a mistake and you maybe upset them or offend them.
But if you make a mistake and take a prescription medication that you lose your life over, you can't say sorry for that. You can't backtrack that mistake and do it over again. It’s a permanent and it can be a life-altering decision.
Whether or not its life-altering in your physical body, or you end up in trouble with the law and you are impacted in the opportunities that you can have later in your life, you're making a really serious decision.
And for college students, especially with amphetamines, things like Adderall, are very, very commonly misused by students and shared because of studying. And that was what shocked me the most, of how normalized that culture was. And so I also encourage students who see that behavior to speak to it, to tell your friends if you see them doing that, that that’s really dangerous and not okay and that’s not an acceptable way to behave.
Because if that culture is still normal then it's really going to be hard to change that. So let's be college students who don’t let that behavior slip by the wayside. We can speak up to it.
And I think that that’s really important.
So also, just safe prescription ownership. If you have those kinds of prescriptions that you take for a very reasonable reason, if you are prescribed that medication yourself, lock it up. Don’t let your friends have it. You are just as responsible to take care of that medication if it is yours as anyone is to not take it. So you need to be a safe prescription owner too, because that can also fall back on you.
Rich Lucey: Yeah, the couple of things that you mentioned really you know, strike a chord for me so I'm really glad that you brought up the issue of prescription stimulants because in the presentations that I do around the country and in conversations that I have with colleagues, when we would talk about this issue specifically as it relates to college students.
So first I always say, yes, we absolutely have an opioid crisis in our country, but, you know, among college students, the class of prescription drugs typically misused are stimulants.
Camille Schrier: Yep.
Rich Lucey: And it's because of this misguided belief that if I pack a stimulant and you know, you've named some of them, I'm going to get a better grade. And this notion and yet, you know, I've talked to Dr. [inaudible] and Dr. Amelia Arria at the University of Maryland and others who have really researched this issue. There's not one piece of research to prove that if you, you know, non-medically use a stimulant, that it's going to help you get a better grade.
Camille Schrier: So true.
Rich Lucey: And yet, is that something that among, not necessarily your peers, but as a college student, you know, you said you, you know, prescription drug misuse was likely the form of misuse you've seen more than any other drug.
Camille Schrier: Oh my, yes.
Rich Lucey: It seems that that’s the prevalent thinking among students.
Camille Schrier: Absolutely. Yes. So, so much and I, that always blew my mind that students would resort to taking a drug to allow them to do better on a test or an exam. That was just so backward to me.
And I think that it also goes back to our culture of you know, if we have an issue, we can take a pill to fix it, which I think is a lot of the way that our culture functions. And so it only propagates that type of behavior.
But I would just kind of chuckle and the joke in college was that I was always the girl that went to bed at like 8pm because I figured if I can't out study you, I can out sleep you.
And so it's so important, really in terms of self-care and making sure that we actually can do better on an exam, things like getting enough sleep and actually, you know, allotting your time to allow yourself the opportunity to study are going to be more effective and healthier ways to do better on an exam.
And so we need to really take charge and talk to college students about that more. And so, if you're a college student listening, really, I'm telling you, get some sleep, study for your tests, you're going to do fine.
Rich Lucey: Well, absolutely and something else that you mentioned in this issue of easy access, you know, in the prevention world, we know that access and availability are two of the factors that, you know, contribute to...
Camille Schrier: Yes.
Rich Lucey: To the elements of drug misuse. For those students who are living in residents halls, you know, it may be easier to secure your meds, whether it's in a lockbox or some other method, but that may not be a feasible if you're you know, living in a residents hall. And grant it, we're in a different time at the moment, right?
Camille Schrier: Yeah.
Rich Lucey: With shared quarters and all that kind of, you know, traditional living arrangements that we would have for college students.
But I think that the important message is that regardless of your living quarters, I would say, whether it's an apartment off campus or whether you are living on campus, you need to find a way to secure the meds however, you know, possible to do that because in fact, they are yours. They were prescribed to you, not someone else and they shouldn’t be shared.
Camille Schrier: Absolutely. And when we're talking about things like stimulants, we're talking about schedule II medications. These are on the level with opioids, medications that have a high abuse potential and high risk for those who take them.
And so I think that, I mean, if I was a parent sending my child away with a medication like that, that’s prescribed to them, there's little lockboxes that you can get to bring with you, something to secure them because you are responsible for taking care of that medication if you are the owner of it.
And so I think there's lots of fun ways to make sure that you secure it. But it is definitely harder in college quarters, but definitely you're still responsible.
Rich Lucey: It's absolutely worth continuing to get the message out, regardless of how hard it is, right?
Camille Schrier: Absolutely.
Rich Lucey: So let me move on to question number four and it really centers around one of DEA's high profile efforts and that’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
We had to postpone the last one, which is typically held in April, because of the pandemic. The next event is right around the corner. We are planning to proceed with the next Take Back Day, scheduled for October 24th from 10am until 2pm.
What would you like to say to communities and schools, including college campuses, about getting involved in the next Take Back Day?
Camille Schrier: I think the Drug Take Back is one of the most proactive ways that we can prevent drug and medication misuse. And so I'm really passionate about Drug Take Back and safe medication disposal, which for those of you who are listening and don’t know, National Drug Take Back Day is a way that you can safely dispose of medications in the right way.
And so, fun fact, most of your medications, some, some can be but most should not be flushed down the toilet. That’s never the first reaction that we have when we're trying to get rid of medications and I feel like most people think that that’s what you're supposed to do.
But I'm particularly excited about Drug Take Back and I think that when we think about what college campuses and all of us at home right now can do, is if you're sitting at home, maybe you're working from home right now because of COVID. Take an opportunity right now to go through your medicine cabinet. See all those old bottles that you have sitting there? Gather them together, maybe if you have an older adult in your life, a mom or a dad or grandma, grandpa, go to their house and do the same. Figure out what they're not using and gather those together and get them ready for National Drug Take Back Day in October. Because this is the perfect opportunity to get those unused, expired medications out of your home because you're going to reduce the risk that those medications can be misused. And especially if you have little ones in your house, talking about the medication safety, going back to that, you're preventing accidental poisonings of children.
And you're not supposed to throw them in the trash. It can be an environmental hazard and also people can access them who maybe shouldn’t.
So definitely use this opportunity. It is the perfect opportunity to go through and clear out your cabinets. And I know that I'll be encouraging my family to do the same while we're home.
Rich Lucey: Absolutely, and you know, as a plug obviously, for Take Back Day, on all of our websites, we have a banner that you can click on that will take you to the main site. But let me give that to the listeners now so they have it. So takebackday.com and you can learn more about Take Back Day and also find, through the locator, find out the nearest location for you to drop off your unwanted, unneeded and expired medicines.
As I said, October 24th, from 10am until 2pm. So you know, very glad that we are able to continue that. And Camille, certainly very, very happy that you're able to use, you know, your platform and your profile to get that word out as well because as you mentioned, it is, you know, one of the most proactive ways that we have in our country.
And I think the statistics bear that out when you see the tonnage.
Camille Schrier: Yes.
Rich Lucey: And that’s not an exaggeration, the tonnage of medications that are collected each time we do the Take Back Day.
So thank you for your messaging on that as well.
Camille Schrier: Of course.
Rich Lucey: So as we begin to wrap up, I move on to our fifth question, which is kind of standard question that I ask of all of the guests but usually it's focused primarily on college campuses.
But you know, in this particular case, because of your platform, which really, again, is across the lifespan as I call it, pediatrics to geriatrics, I want to ask you, what advice do you have for others who are working to prevent drug misuse regardless of the population that they are serving?
Camille Schrier: Oh, goodness. You know, drug use and particularly substance use disorder transcends every socioeconomic class, race, gender, creed, anywhere in this country. And I think that working on preventing drug misuse and drug abuse is so important no matter where you are, not matter how big the group or community that you're working in is, because someone there is affected by this, I can guarantee you.
And even in the most unsuspecting communities, I think that we see substance use disorder penetrate. And it affects more than just that family or just that person that’s being affected by substance use disorder, it affects the whole family. And then, consequently, can affect that whole community.
And I've seen so many communities that I've gone through this year really decimated by this disorder and decimated by drugs that have come in and changed the way that the community operates. And it's really, really sad.
And so I would say that no matter how big or small your efforts are or wherever you are doing them, you are making a positive difference. So keep doing it because I can't do this alone. I say I can shout this from the rooftops and let everyone know that this is an issue, but I can't have my feet on the ground every small community in this country that’s affected.
So I need everyone to really join with me and fight this battle alongside me.
Rich Lucey: Well, we really appreciate that and that’s a great note to end on. Camille, this has been an absolute pleasure, very excited to have you on the podcast. And you know, you've given so many different populations just in this broadcast some terrific advice, whether they are parents, whether they are you know, students themselves, the professionals who are working in schools and communities.
I think your platform again, your whole social impact initiative says it all in looking at again, pediatrics to geriatrics is an issue that touches every single aspect of our populations and across our country. And we're just really happy, of course, that you know, through your profile as Miss America, that you have that significant voice that you can lend to these efforts.
So I really appreciate you beings on today's podcast and for the work that you're doing on this.
Camille Schrier: And thank you so much for having me and it's my pleasure and honor to be able to talk about these issues nationwide.
Rich Lucey: That’s awesome and thanks again, Camille. And for our listeners, we really appreciate you tuning in. Again, we've got National Prescription Drug Take Back Day that’s coming up on October 24th from 10am until 2pm. So you can visit campusdrugprevention.gov to see the web banner to learn more about that or go to takebackday.com to learn more about the day's events and find a collection site near you.
So good luck in all the work that you continue to do out there. I thank you for tuning and for listening and have a great day.