Army Pharmacists Keep Troops, Families Healthy in War and in Peace

Pharmacy Careers
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Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

Located in Honolulu, Hawaii,Tripler Army Medical Center(TAMC) provides carefor active-duty and retiredmilitary personnel and their familiesfor the entire Pacific region. As a?projection platform,? where troopsgo before being deployed, TAMCmakes sure troops are fit to fight,which means pharmacists screenevery soldier and make sure thatthey are outfitted with all their medications.Upon their return, pharmacistsensure the soldiers have nogaps in care. Although the workloadincreased exponentially after2001, TAMC?s American Society ofHealth-System Pharmacists?accreditedresidency program is one of thepremiere opportunities available topharmacists today.

The residency program accepts 2active-duty and 2 civilian residentseach year. Uniformed pharmacistswill go on to complete 3 years ofactive-duty service following theirresidency. While equipped with thesame skills and training, these pharmacistsfollow a slightly differentpath, as their roles require leadershipskills and training. The military relieson its officers to be managers withinthe pharmacy department, while thecivilians serve as staff pharmacistsand pharmacy specialists. Civilianpharmacists are not obligated to serveas military or government employeesupon completion of residency, butmany are hired to work at TAMC.

Brian White, PharmD, a graduateof the University of California-SanFrancisco pharmacy school, completedhis residency at TAMC as anactive-duty officer and remained anofficer for 6 years. He has since transitionedto the civilian side. Whitewas attracted by the Army?s progressivepharmacy practice, which hefelt provided autonomy and allowedhim to use all his skills. ?Civilianpharmacists at TAMC are fully privilegedmembers of the medical staff,analogous to a nurse practitioner ora physician assistant. Once the physiciangives the diagnosis, the pharmacistcan take over patient care,order labs?working totally independently.?This approach to pharmacyis somewhat unique to TAMC, as alarge medical facility.

LTC Octavio Mont, PharmD, says,?Army pharmacy is a viable optionfor any pharmacist out there.? ButMont avoids the term recruiting, asTAMC is not looking for soldiersbut rather pharmacy residents. ?Weare not here to recruit soldiers. Wewant the best residents possible, andwe will give them the best learningexperience possible. We think thatthey will be impressed with our levelof expertise.? Mont notes, ?Thereis that misconception that if you doyour residency in the Army, that weare going to hand you a gun?andthat is just not true.?

While one of the biggest attractionsto practicing pharmacy withinthe Department of Defense is theabsence of insurance woes, Whiteand his colleagues all agree that thegreatest aspect of the job is knowingthey are contributing to somethingimportant.

?The Army fights wars. Armypharmacists exist to support fightingwars, which is why they maintainuniformed officers. They go to Iraqand Afghanistan to directly supportthe war. You give to the nation in atime of need,? says White.

?I am a soldier first. I love beinga soldier,? adds Mont. ?Ultimately,our mission is taking care of troopsin the field.?

Mont served in Iraq at the beginningof the war. ?That was when we becameone team, one family. We set up shopin something like a 2-sided trailer.Next to us was the lab and x-ray, and20 meters away was the [emergencyroom]. We were all co-located andoperating under harsh environments?shrapnel, heat exposure?but we didwhatever we could.?

?We are very passionate about whatwe do,? says White. ?There is a teamworkspirit within military medicinethat facilitates pharmacy practice. Thelack of ego?sets the stage for collaboration,which sets the stage for peoplegetting better health care. You are herefor a bigger cause?keep people healthyso they can defend our country. Keeptheir babies and wives healthy. Thatpromotes a spirit of teamwork.?

For more information on TAMC?spharmacy residency program, visit

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