At the APhA2013 Political Leadership Reception on Friday evening, keynote speaker Rep. Raul Ruiz, MD, (D-CA), a first-term Member of Congress trained in emergency medicine, wowed a crowd of more than 500 with his personal story, professional experience with pharmacists, and call to community service and political involvement.
Proceeds from the reception benefited the APhA Political Action Committee (APhA–PAC) and the APhA Political Leadership Fund.
“I encourage you to get involved. I encourage you to think beyond the laboratory or the pharmacy,” Ruiz told a buzzing room of pharmacists and student pharmacists. “Go into the community. Come to Washington, DC. Be involved in all levels of government that make rules on how you practice pharmacy in your community.”
Ruiz cited the advent of the Affordable Care Act and health care being in flux. Now more than ever, he said, “It is imperative that we work together as a team, as a health care team, through policy, through best practices. That is why it is important that pharmacists also have a voice in Congress and have a seat at the policy-making table—just like they have their seat at the table during rounds in the hospital ward,” he continued.
It’s important to get engaged and educate policy makers, Ruiz said. He added, “There can be a role for pharmacists to be solutions in addressing the lack of care that we have in underserved communities to address the disparities that we have in our health care system.”
Ruiz, the son of farmworkers, said that education was his path to the American dream. He earned enough money to go to college by walking from business to business in his hometown in the Coachella Valley, promising to become a physician and return to the community to help others.
“More important than the money was the idea that a community came together in the belief of a young man’s dream to defy the odds to become a physician and come back home,” Ruiz said. “And when I was 17 years, I set sail on this journey in pursuit of an education and found empowerment along the way.”
After graduating magna cum laude from the University of California, Los Angeles, he became the first Latino to receive three graduate degrees from Harvard University—in addition to the MD, he earned a master’s degree in public policy and a master’s degree in public health.
“Pharmacists were my educators and my saviors in time of difficult moments with difficult decisions to save a patient’s life,” Ruiz said. “And in my training, and as an emergency medicine physician, pharmacists are my resource and my reference.”
Steve C. Firman, BSPharm, MBA, APhA–PAC Board of Governors Chair, welcomed attendees to the reception and introduced Ruiz and awardees.
The recipient of the Hubert H. Humphrey Award was Bob Greenwood, BSPharm, a community pharmacy owner and community leader in Waterloo, IA.
Selected in recognition of his activities related to the political process at the local, state, and national levels to promote civic and community development, as well as the important role pharmacists play in the health care system, Greenwood noted that he graduated from pharmacy school in 1977 but didn’t become politically active until 1987. He advised student pharmacists to seize the moment, to find a mentor and network, and to get involved.
The recipient of the Good Government Student Pharmacist-of-the-Year Award was Jonathan W. Magness, a 2013 PharmD candidate from the University of Utah College of Pharmacy. He was selected in recognition of his collaboration, teamwork, and advocacy for local and national legislation through a network of students, technicians, pharmacists, and legislators.
APhA2013 marked the third year of the APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists Winter is Cold … But Advocacy is Hot! APhA–PAC Match Challenge, won again this year by the University of Florida College of Pharmacy.
Rounding out the rest of the top five—there was a tie for fifth place—were the East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, West Virginia University School of Pharmacy, University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy, Samford University McWhorter School of Pharmacy, and University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Pharmacy.