The Promise of Pharmacy

MAY 12, 2014
Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS, ScD (Hon), Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief

The power of pharmacists to positively impact patient lives and improve health care quality is being widely recognized, but achieving the promise that pharmacy offers will require effort, funds, and commitment.

I have probably attended a few hundred pharmacy conventions. It must be obvious that I enjoy them. The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting and Exposition is the most recent meeting I attended, and it has become my favorite for a lot of reasons. As far as I’m concerned, I am a pharmacist first and a differentiated pharmacist second. Since the APhA tries to focus on advancing the profession while the association also tries to meet the special interests of pharmacists in different practices, it is quite compatible with my own philosophy.

One thing that occurs at most conventions is a report to the membership on how well the association did last year. The APhA 2013 Annual Report was titled “The Power and Promise of Pharmacy.” This 24-page report opened with these words, “As medication experts, the power of pharmacists to positively impact patient lives and improve health care quality is being recognized and actively pursued by policymakers, payers, and many other health care sectors that understand the importance of safe and effective medication use. In 2013 APhA is especially proud to have helped pharmacists move closer to full recognition for themselves and their profession in a way that promises continued advancements and improvements in patient care.” What follows is how the APhA helped accomplish this mission by (1) advocating for pharmacists and patients, (2) transforming the role of the pharmacist, (3) elevating pharmacy practice, (4) educating and informing pharmacists, and (5) building strength and influence.

Any association achieves its success through the efforts of many. However, the association’s chief executive officer plays a critical role in making things happen. Thomas E. Menighan serves the APhA membership as executive vice president and chief executive officer. Having served as an elected president of a national pharmacy organization as well as the chief executive officer in a state association, I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to be a good chief executive officer. Pharmacy is well positioned right now with Tom Menighan in this role. In his letter included in the APhA Annual Report, Tom says, “APhA’s strength and influence will be undeniable when every pharmacist is a member and the power of our collective voice cannot go unheard. Much like our prominent and historical position on Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC, APhA invites you to be part of the power and the promise of pharmacy through active membership and collaboration in 2014 and many years ahead.”

I wish to echo this challenge to my readers. How are you contributing to the power and promise of pharmacy? Which pharmacy organization are you supporting with your dues as well as your ideas for how we can continue to advance as a profession? Achieving the promise that pharmacy offers will require effort, funds, and commitment. It is time to stop being a professional freeloader, letting someone else pay the dues, volunteer the ideas, and write the letters to promote the profession. To achieve this promise we all need to do our part. Are you a player?

Making policy to guide the profession takes place at many pharmacy conventions. At APhA, this process occurs through the House of Delegates. I enjoy the debate that occurs at open hearings as well as on the floor at the House meeting. Because of the diversity in the House membership, different viewpoints get expressed, leading to better policy outcomes. Yes, I sometimes get frustrated as a few try to wordsmith policy on the House floor. But in the end, the policy that gets approved is better. When agreement can’t be achieved, the policy item often gets referred, allowing time to improve the wording of the policy when it is finally approved.

Lastly, I enjoy conventions because I get to hear outstanding speakers. Tom Menighan provided an update on all the efforts that are being made to achieve pharmacy provider status. We also convened our annual Pharmacy Times editorial board meeting and dinner and presented a lively Pharmacy Careers panel. This year, I left Orlando professionally re-energized. The promise of pharmacy was reinforced, and I went home wanting to help pharmacy achieve the promise. Yes, I do enjoy conventions because I leave professionally renewed. What an exciting time to be a pharmacist!

Mr. Eckel is a professor emeritus at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is emeritus executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists. A lifelong advocate for the profession of pharmacy, Mr. Eckel has lectured on pharmacy issues and trends in all 50 states and has traveled to 6 continents to promote, and educate audiences on, the role of the pharmacist.

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