Fred M. Eckel, RPh, M.S.
Meetings at the state level are a bridge between grassroots ideas and the national stage.
The presentation was entitled “The Future of Community Pharmacy: Why the Yellow-Brick Road Hasn’t Led Us There.” It was to be presented by a panel of practitioners that included a pharmacy school faculty member, a new graduate working in a hospital-based ambulatory care setting, a chain pharmacist executive, and a pharmacist working with an organization engaged in population-based community care. I chose this session because I thought the panel would be reflective of a broad view on where we are as a profession and how we can best move forward.
Questions on my mind as I waited for the meeting to start included, “Would they have a message I could share with our readers?” “Would they have answers that made sense?” “Would they convey a sense of optimism for our future?”
Another question I asked myself was “What am I doing here on a Sunday night attending one more meetings at another state pharmacy association annual meeting?” Although I lost count many years ago, I am sure I have attended more than 100 state-level meetings and probably a greater number of national pharmacy meetings.
Why do I continue to attend these meeting at this stage of my career? Will I learn anything new? Is the cost involved worth the expense? Am I just attending these meetings because it has become a habit that I can’t break? Yet as I left this session, I was really excited about where pharmacy is today and how well it is positioned for a critical role in the future. I was enthused about pharmacy’s future because I met some younger pharmacists who were already leaders—and they are going to continue to advance our profession.
For me, this experience made me realize why I continue to attend pharmacy conventions. The investment of time and finances has contributed to an enjoyable career. By giving back to the profession, I realize that I have gotten more from this investment than it has cost me. I share this reflection to challenge you to consider joining and participating in your state pharmacy association meeting. In order to get something from your profession, you have to make an investment in it. For me, one of those investments has been my participation in state pharmacy associations. There were several messages that evening that got my attention.
Although pharmacy is not where we want it to be we have really moved pretty far down that “yellow brick road.” It is helpful to occasionally look back on just how far our profession has come. It provides the encouragement to stay the course when the going gets tough. All of the panelists were uniformly in agreement that pharmacy was in a good position to continue to move forward, although some settings were in better positions than others.
Another message I heard was that we could be better served if our organizations could find a way to become more unified. Although a merger or a federation might be best, several panelists mentioned that more cooperation than ever before was taking place between national pharmacy organizations.
Another message delivered was that too many pharmacists are reluctant to do what needs to be done and ask for forgiveness when compared with other providers. The fact that pharmacists want to hide behind the law too often seemed to resonate with all of the panelists. Although this is true, our profession does have a few risk takers—and we need to be thankful for what they have helped us accomplish.
One panelist made a strong case that pharmacists seemed to have a hard time respecting those pharmacists who work in another setting. Rather than embracing all pharmacists for making valuable patient care contributions, we seem to be critical of the valuable roles they play. I don’t know if this is a bigger problem in pharmacy than in other professions, but it certainly is true in pharmacy. That’s one reason we have so many different pharmacy organizations representing a small component of our profession.
For me, however, the best take-home message was that we are making progress, and we have capable pharmacists coming up who can continue moving the profession forward. Participating in state pharmacy organizations helps these young pharmacists grow professionally.
Are you one of those leaders that will move us forward? If not, what investment are you willing to make to become one?
Mr. Eckel is a professor emeritus at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is past executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists.