Starting a Local Pharmacy Association

I don't recall learning about local pharmacy associations in pharmacy school, but today, I can't imagine not being part of my local.

I don’t recall learning about local pharmacy associations in pharmacy school, but today, I can’t imagine not being part of my local.

Since graduation, I’ve had the opportunity to reactivate the Genesee County Pharmacists Association (GCPA), an organization originally known as the Flint Druggists Association when it was founded in 1928. Restarting this local has been a fruitful experience that has allowed me to learn about association management, compliance, and technology.

It was during one of my last fourth-year pharmacy rotations when my preceptor invited me to attend a meeting of the Kent County Pharmacists Association (KCPA), my first exposure to a local association. I continued to attend their meetings and was eventually elected to serve on the executive board while I was completing a residency in the area. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed to the Michigan Pharmacists Association’s Local Association Development Committee (LADC), which is responsible for providing resources to Michigan locals and helping them maintain compliance.

Through these new roles, I began to understand much more about local pharmacy associations and the value they bring to the profession and their members. Locals allow members to meet up to obtain education, network, discuss solutions to pharmacy issues, support their community, and have a voice in the legislative realm of pharmacy. All of this is offered closer to home than a state or national pharmacy association and, from my perspective, it’s critical to stimulating advancement of the profession.

While I was enjoying my time serving in these new roles, a new job opportunity pulled me back to the Genesee County area where I grew up. I had to resign from KCPA, but I was fortunately able to remain on the LADC.

Just prior to moving home, I learned that my anticipated new local association had become inactive nearly 20 years earlier due to exhaustion of the leadership. Nevertheless, I decided to pursue reactivation of the GCPA. (Click here for suggested courses of action to start, reactivate, or annex a local.)

The first phase of the reactivation process was to file for reactivation with my state association, which required evidence of interest from potential members. Through my state association, I was able to provide contact information for pharmacist and technician members.

At the time, there were fewer than 100 members in the local territory. Approximately 30 of them attended the first meeting, where several volunteered to serve on the would-be executive board.

We also approved bylaws, and each attendee signed a commitment to help ensure the success of the association. With that, we were able to apply for reactivation and request startup funds from the state association. On June 17, 2011, the GCPA was formally recognized as an active local association.

With leaders and funds to provide the foundation, we now turned our focus to creating a presence among local pharmacy professionals and demonstrating our value. I knew we needed an online presence, so I looked into building a website for the association. It took some work, but it became a great tool for communicating the association’s activities.

Next, I had to learn how to file for ACPE accreditation and organize continuing education (CE) programs, which is something commonly offered by locals. It took a few trials, but we eventually were able to draw a sizeable crowd to an educational dinner program. (Although the free dinner may have helped.)

In the 5 years since its reactivation, the GCPA has accomplished great things. We’ve formed 6 committees, offered several hours of CE, more than doubled our membership, and raised nearly $30,000 over 4 golf outings. I think much of this success can be attributed to creating that presence among the members, managing an active website, and distributing weekly communications to both members and area pharmacies.

Today, there are several initiatives across Michigan to create new active local territory. Some activity is being led by pharmacists, and impressively, there are students interested in starting new locals. Some of the territories are counties with pharmacy schools, while others are areas that succumbed to leadership exhaustion, similar to how GCPA did years ago.

Reestablishing the GCPA and working with amazing individuals in both the local area and at my state association has been a great experience. I’d encourage anyone with a local networking deficit to investigate opportunities to fill that void. It may be just a matter of getting in touch with your current local association, or you may have the chance to build something from the ground up.

For more information on local pharmacy associations, keep an eye out for my next story on grassroots pharmacy advocacy, a key opportunity to protect and advance the profession.