Miss America returns to VCU, stresses opioid education during overdose symposium

VCU pharmacy student and Miss America Camille Schrier partnered with #SilentNoMoreVirginia to discuss the nation’s opioid epidemic. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Hannah Eason, News Editor

When they called Camille Schrier’s name as the winner of the Miss America title, she forgot what song was playing in that moment. She described the feeling as “delirious” and something she “never thought would happen.”

“I got the ultimate prize and it was a whirlwind and it’s been kind of hit the ground running since then, but I’m very grateful,” Schrier said.

The VCU Pharmacy student turned Miss America returned to campus Tuesday — for the first time since her win for the national title — to talk about opioid education for the “Silent No More” Overdose Symposium in Cabell Library.

Schrier said when she was looking for graduate programs, she was looking for somewhere “that felt like home,” an aspect she loved about her undergrad years at Virginia Tech.

“I did find that in my school pharmacy,” Schrier said. “The faculty, the staff, the Dean of Students, every person in that entire building, and we were kind of singular. We’re in one building, pretty much.”

Schrier went to undergrad at Virginia Tech and was in her first year of her doctorate program at VCU when she won Miss America. She plans to return to VCU in fall of 2021 after her time as Miss America and once she can return to the doctoral program.

“They’ve gone out of their way to support me through this process and publicize what I’m doing,” Schrier said of VCU. “It’s kind of like a working relationship now because I’m helping promote them and they’re helping promote what I’m doing.”

Schrier, who has spoken about the opioid epidemic and ways to combat it throughout her Miss Virginia and Miss America competitions, said her passion for the issue grew during a Naloxone training session.

“It opened my eyes because it wasn’t something I experienced in my life, to the need and the community, especially what we can do as healthcare professionals to help combat that epidemic, made me want to really focus on this as my social impact initiative through my process with the Miss America organization,” Schrier said.

Forensic science professor Michelle Peace gave a talk as a forensic toxicologist in October, advocating that forensic science should be part of the conversation regarding substance abuse disorder.

Peace said she was later contacted by someone from the U.S. Attorney’s Office about holding a symposium in Central Virginia as part of the “Silent No More” campaign.

“One of the big challenges that we have is that the substance use disorder is usually identified by how many people die from it,” Peace said. “We have to change that conversation so that we’re talking about who is suffering from substance abuse disorder, talk about it as a disease and find solutions for that.”

The “Silent No More” Overdose Symposium comprised government officials, police officers, health administrators and doctors to talk about what is and isn’t working in the battle against the opioid epidemic.

Olivia Norman, the assistant United States attorney and the Eastern District of Virginia’s opioid coordinator, spoke about an educational program for middle and high schoolers in the state. She says instead of just telling kids “stay off drugs,” they educate them on what happens inside the brain after drugs are taken.

“We share information with the kids about what’s on the street and what to watch out for, to watch out for counterfeit pills and whatnot,” Norman said. “As a federal drug and violent crime prosecutor, I talked about some of the cases that we’ve had, and tell them about what ends up happening with with some of these folks.”

The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Chief Data Officer Carlos Rivero introduced Schrier at the end of the event, and said he was inspired by her passion to show that “smart and science are also beautiful.”

“Unlike car crashes, murder and gun fatalities, drug overdoses are the result of a growing and powerful disease — addiction,” Schrier said. “Opioid addiction is arguably unlike any other. Unlike cancer or heart disease, we have the unique power to prevent this disease from spreading through education.”

Schrier started initiatives with the opioid crisis at Miss Virginia by working with the Virginia Department of Health and VCU to add safe disposal boxes on campus. As Miss America 2020, the opioid epidemic is her chosen “Social Impact Initiative,” a topic chosen by each Miss America candidate to make a social impact during their year of service.

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