MILITARY PHARMACY: DISPENSING IMPROVED HEALTH CARE OUTCOMES
SERVING THE UNITED STATES INthe armed forces is a dauntingendeavor, especially in the currentworld climate. Recruiting is on thedecline, and therefore, staffing all thenecessary positions to support all 4services has become a challenge. Themisconception is that anyone who joinsthe military will be expected to becomewarriors and fight. That is not the case;the reality is that the armed services hasoffered and continues to offer tremendousopportunities to men and womeninterested in a variety of professions,including pharmacy. Bases all over theworld have clinics and pharmacies thatrequire highly trained pharmacists touse their clinical knowledge to improvethe health care of servicemen.
Military service has always been apart of life for Justin Eubanks, LT,MSC, USN, who grew up in a Navyfamily with a father who rode submarines.After joining the CoastGuard reserves, he accepted a Navyscholarship to attend pharmacyschool and found the military atmosphereto be a natural fit. After graduatingfrom the University of Georgiawith his PharmD, LT Eubanks wentto work at the Newport Naval Stationin Newport, RI, at the base's ambulatoryhealth care center, where he hasbeen for the last year and a half.
As an officer, leadership is animportant part of Lt Eubanks' job asa military pharmacist. "When yougraduate, you are still learning, but[in the military] you are expected to bea leader right away. You are responsibleto your staff for their ability to get promotedand stay out of trouble." Headds, "I guarantee that I work withsome of the best people in the world.They are hospital corpsmen first andthe hardest-working, best-trained,most dedicated people."
At the clinic, LT Eubanks' biggestresponsibility is pharmacy management,including staff and budget. Inaddition to military personnel, the baseclinic employs civilian pharmacistswho bear the brunt of the dispensing.While he is able to spend time on the"front line" at the window, he managesa staff of well-trained, highly competent,military pharmacy technicians. Atthe clinic, there are active military personneland their dependents, as well asretirees. Most of his patient populationtends to be younger, but with theretirees, the pharmacy sees its share ofdiabetes, heart disease, and chronicobstructive pulmonary disease. "Wedon't see a lot of rare diseases. Many ofour patients have been screened. You'renot going to see a lot of MS [multiplesclerosis] for example."
Military pharmacies are adoptingsome of the same initiatives as civilianpharmacies, such as wellness clinicsand preventive care. "We are trying toget clinics started here. That is definitelyone of our initiatives. The Navy isencouraging those kinds of things—keeping costs for health care down bygiving sound advice and medicationtherapy management and preventingwasteful, improper use of medication."
Besides working at the clinic, LTEubanks serves on a Pharmacy andTherapeutics committee, as well as performingcollateral duties within hiscommand that are not related to pharmacy.For example, he and his staff takepart in regular physical training, or"PT," a requirement of the command."These things distinguish me from mycounterparts. I am an officer first," saysLT Eubanks.
JOIN THE NAVY, SEE THEWORLD
The Navy scholarship requires LTEubanks to serve 3 years of activeduty, which will be spent in Newportas part of a 3-to 4-year rotation.Beyond that, the travel opportunitiesafforded to him at his job are far andwide. "Some of my colleagues havetraveled to Guam, Italy, Japan. If yourinterest is to see different parts of theworld, then this is a great opportunity." Pharmacists may accommodaterequests from other sites requiringtemporary help, such as the pharmacyat Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Theyalso are allotted time for continuingeducation conferences and participationin recruiting activities.
When recruiting, LT Eubanksrelates the day-to-day aspects of militarypharmacy, what it means to be apharmacist in the military, includingthe considerable responsibility. "Peopleare scared," says LT Eubanks."They hear military and are bombardedwith negative aspects." Onething LT Eubanks wants to makeclear is, "if the Navy hires you [to be apharmacist], your primary job is tobe a pharmacist—not a nurse, not agate guard, not carrying a weapon.They have hired specialists for thosereasons. I am working in my field,just doing slightly different things.One of my biggest things is to reassure[pharmacy students] that oncethe Navy invests the time, effort, andmoney to get you hired, they willwant you to use your skill set, yourspecialty."
One advantage to a career in militarypharmacy is the growth potential.Residency programs are availablethrough the Navy, where there is agenuine interest in seeing their peopleadvance and better themselves. Amilitary pharmacist can pursue aPhD, study pharmacoeconomics ortelepharmacy, get a masters of businessadministration or an informationtechnology degree, becomeadvanced cardiac life support-certified,or attend field medicine school.According to LT Eubanks, there areboundless opportunities to improveand change the course of your career."It is up to you. I am young, brandnew. All the time, I am seeing opportunitiesfor advanced training, degrees,opportunities that you mightnot get on the outside. There isunlimited growth potential. It is whatyou make of it."
Within the military, there is theadded pressure of serving one'scountry, but also the rewards that gowith that duty. "I have to say, whenyou see who you are working alongsideof, it makes you proud to serve.You are a pharmacist, but you arewearing the same uniform as patriots.It makes a huge difference whenyou put on this uniform," says LTEubanks. "You are really aware ofwhom you are working for and whoyou are working with."
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writerbased in Wakefield, RI.