APhM: Visiting pharmacy staff at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital

In honor of American Pharmacists Month (APhM) 2012, Everett McAllister, Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Executive Director and CEO, and I had the pleasure of visiting the pharmacy staff at the newest Department of Defense (DoD) military health facility, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in northern Virginia. These folks know something about change!

Last year, I visited the facilities in Bethesda, MD. You may recall that as a part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decision to consolidate military treatment facilities in the national capital region, Walter Reed Army Medical Center was closed and merged with the National Naval Medical Center and Dewitt Army Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir. Nearly half of Walter Reed’s services were moved to DeWitt, and the hospital’s mission was greatly expanded. In November 2007, ground was broken on Fort Belvoir’s South Post golf course (a moment of silence from the golfers) for the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

Notably, the Department of Pharmacy opened its doors on August 31, 2011. This was both a monumental logistical move from one facility to another and a dramatic cultural shift as well. The pharmacy staff grew from 50 to more than 120 personnel—civilian and military pharmacists and pharmacy technicians from three different cultures, including Army, Navy, and civilian staff—to serve a beneficiary population of more than 220,000 service members, retirees, and their family members. Blending these very different personnel policies, lingo, and operational processes must have been challenging, stressful and demanding, yet from my vantage point, this transition built a tremendous foundation for a truly integrated and collaborative DoD pharmacy service focused on patient safety.

I was impressed with the dedication and visionary leadership of the pharmacy chief, LTC Eric Maroyka, and the staff’s dedicated efforts and support to make this vision a reality. Pharmacists are provider extenders in the Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Behavioral Health clinics. They provide medication therapy management and related clinical services to DoD’s finest, and ensure effective use of technicians in the distributive role allowing pharmacists to educate and ensure proper use of medications.

The Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Pharmacy staff truly epitomizes the APhM mantra: Know your Pharmacist—Know your Medicine.