Celebrating Black History Month: Organization Supports Black Health System Pharmacists


Association of Black Health-System Pharmacists focuses on advocacy, collaboration, education, leadership, and research.

During a 1978 luncheon at the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP) meeting, a small group of Black pharmacists gathered to share resources, referring to themselves as “the Black pharmacists of the ASHP.”

With a vision of a collaboration between Black pharmacists and the ASHP, the initial objective was to offer a platform and support to Black health-system pharmacists and their practice.

“It started with requesting that they do it for educational programs, so as to promote the understanding of minority health care in minority communities, because honestly, we didn't see any type of topics being discussed even in the annual conference. We thought that would be a very benign, somewhat simple thing to do,” John Clark, PharmD, MS, FASHP, FFSHP, director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Taneja College of Pharmacy at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said in an interview.

Because of historical trends, many Black pharmacy professionals and students did not attend annual pharmacy meetings, so when a few did attend, they would grab dinner to discuss their practices, which ultimately led to more individuals getting invited and coming together.

The organization worked with the ASHP and put together a proposal several years in a row, 6 months to 1 year in advance of upcoming meetings, to get topics on diabetes, hypertension, and other common conditions that disproportionately affect people of color on the schedule.

At the 1979 meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Black Pharmacists of ASHP had expanded to offer an annual business meeting and luncheon to discuss the organization’s goals and strategies. The group redefined and broadened its objectives and decided to form an organization independent of the ASHP.

Subsequently, the ABHP was born. Clark first joined the organization as a student and later served as president, vice president, and treasurer. He is now a board member.

“I never knew that such an organization existed, so this was like a novelty to me,” Clarke said.

Early on, the organization still mainly conducted luncheons.

John J. Scrivens, who organized the first meeting for ABHP, was elected as the first president of the ABHP in 1984. Since there were no memberships at the time, the election was held by the group to appoint officers.

“They decided to hold elections while they also wrote a list of some bylaws then decide to hold an election. This was an election without members, so what it had to be was an appointment-type of election where it was done amongst that group,” Clark said.

“They selected a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer,” he said.

Miriam Mobley-Smith, PharmD, interim dean of the School of Pharmacy at the Bouvé College of Health Sciences Pharmaceutical Sciences Pharmacy & Health Systems Science, was elected as vice president of administration; Theotus Butler, a pharmacist in Georgia, was elected vice president of development; Sarah Sanders, PharmD, former president-elect of the American Medical Association, was elected secretary; Frank S. Emmanuel, PharmD, associate professor at Florida A&M University, was elected treasurer; and Georgia Thomas, a former pharmacist who died, was elected as publicist.

Mobley-Smith is a member of the Pharmacy Times® Health-System Edition™ advisory board.

When the ABHP first took off, many individuals did not view it positively, Clark said.

The organization received numerous negative emails of feedback that was rather negative and was still receiving some when he took over as president from 2003 to 2007, Clark said.

“There's a long history of racism and pain that you try not to say that's what it was, but we know, historically, those things have occurred with these organizations trying to become part of another group, ,” he said.

In 1985, the ABHP experienced its first recognition on a national level, receiving an award for its newsletter from the International Association of Business Communicators.

By 1985, the ABHP had bylaws but no definitive structure. As a result, it created committees and councils, including education, fundraising, and membership committees.

The organization then focused on promoting itself more nationally and regionally, attempting to develop regional chapters, but the idea never took off, Clark said.

“It always felt that no one knew who we were,” he said.

“I get the same kind of questions today from [individuals] and they're not just white [individuals], they’re Black [individuals] too, that say, ‘Who are you? What is this about?’ It just goes to show that we still have a long road to go for this organization to really be known by a lot of folks,” Clark said.

But the leaders of the ABHP never gave up, and their resilience and belief in their cause kept them going. They created awards and presented them at their luncheons and launched a website in 2000. They presented lectures for a past member who died at a young age after a battle with cancer, which ended up influencing a talk on cardiovascular health and heart disease for populations comprising individuals of color.

“We started getting quite a bit of support from ASHP; they encouraged us to exhibit at the meeting. We ended up holding an annual exhibit in the exhibit area every year for several years up until the pandemic,” Clark said.

In 2003, the organization changed its mission statement, which became the acronym “CLEAR.”

“We're about collaboration, leadership, education, advocacy, and research to promote the health status of Black patients and raise a vision of minority pharmacists,” Clark said. “We have to partner, so we believe in partnership, partnering in other groups, that includes other pharmacy associations, the pharmaceutical industry, in any kind of local group that we can, because if we don't we don't collaborate with them, we cannot do this alone.”

Clark views ABHP as a Black-owned organization, not a Black organization, so everyone is welcome, if they believe in the group’s mission and vision.

To learn more about the ABHP and get involved with the organization, visit its website.

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