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Michael D. Hogue, PharmD, FAPhA, FNAP, FFIP

Michael D. Hogue, PharmD, FAPhA, FNAP, FFIP

Michael D. Hogue is the 15th Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).

Read more about Michael 

Published on Tuesday, July 2, 2024

What’s happened in a year

One year ago, I had the honor of becoming APhA’s 15th CEO and Executive Vice President. It’s been a tremendous year with challenges I did not anticipate and joys I never could have predicted. As I’ve traveled across the country in the last year, visiting pharmacies, hospitals, and schools and colleges of pharmacy, as well as attending professional meetings, I have spoken with so many of you about what APhA is doing for the pharmacy profession and where we go from here; to that end, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the past year and share with you what our journey looks like moving forward.

What is APhA doing to make itself relevant to pharmacists?

This is probably the most common question I get asked in open forums. It’s an honest question that comes from a genuine desire pharmacists have to be truly represented. They want to know that someone is listening to their concerns and acting on them.

APhA is directed by practicing pharmacists and a staff who are among the most dedicated in the industry. They work hard to ensure that members have access to the very best tools and resources to advance their careers. We have been and remain focused on career advancement even as the profession is in a transition right now, and the scope of work for pharmacists is not the same as it was 20 years ago. As a result, APhA is changing the way we help you explore practice opportunities and changes. We’ve made some of these changes already with our updated bylaws which allow members greater flexibility in how they engage with us as an association, as well as allowing for more and deeper engagement across the profession.

Regardless of whether you are a community pharmacist, hospital pharmacist, board-certified specialist, or categorize yourself in some other area, there are growing opportunities for you at APhA to network, learn, engage, and lead in our profession. It’s the most practical thing we can do to help individual members find their path or chart a new one within the profession.

What is APhA doing to directly address workplace conditions?

There is no question that poor workplace conditions have led to a staffing crisis in American pharmacy. Much has been written on this topic and there are a lot of strongly held opinions about workplace conditions. Several factors play into the current state of workplace conditions, and I will name them, starting with corporate profits and greed, and—to be clear—I’m not referring to chain drugstores (which have their own set of problems), I’m talking about PBMs and the corporations that employ them. The blame for much of this lies at their feet. PBMs add no value to the health care system. They make money hand over fist while community pharmacies go out of business.

APhA, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, has put together a map showing the breadth of pharmacy closures—it paints a bleak picture, and I encourage you to take a few minutes to review it. Soon, APhA will be launching a new consumer-focused campaign to better inform the public about the true dangers of PBMs and what it means for pharmacists and for their community pharmacy.

These challenges with staffing are then compounded by the fact that the very nature of how pharmacists work is changing. For example, within the pharmaceutical industry, the PharmD degree became the only option in the U.S. in the mid-1990s, and salaries began to rise significantly, but big pharmaceutical companies decided they couldn’t afford pharmacists as they had historically. Now, with high-cost, high-touch biopharmaceuticals topping the market, and specialty markets tapping out in the billions of dollars, pharmaceutical companies have decided they must have pharmacists throughout their operations to ensure regulatory compliance, accurate marketing, research and development, and education to prescribers and other pharmacists. Too much money is on the line. These largely work-from-home jobs for pharmacists have pulled hundreds of our colleagues away from hospitals, long-term care, and community practice into a work environment that is often less stressful and comes with a more robust financial upside. I applaud our profession for clearly making the case that we belong in positions across the entire landscape of health care. In addition, many entrepreneurial pharmacists have identified niche markets where their interests intersect with the health care system’s needs. From pediatric specialists to long-term care at home, to veterinary compounding, and beyond, pharmacists are starting their own businesses and finding their own path in what seems like record numbers.

So where does this leave our colleagues in traditional community and hospital settings? Again, the answers aren’t easy. APhA is meeting with corporate chain organizations and with large health systems to discuss how we can support shifting staffing needs. Floating pharmacists hopping from store to store is not a solution. The stability of a team of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in a single pharmacy to establish relationships and practice responsibilities seems to lead to better satisfaction with work and the work environment. APhA will continue to promote the stability of pharmacy teams. We’ve also been advocating that organizations take a critical look at their pharmacy technician pay scales to ensure technicians are paid a living wage, and to take meaningful measures to professionalize the role of the technician to reduce burnout and turnover. Supporting Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification of technicians, even if it isn’t required by the state, is a key action; supporting immunization certification for technicians in states where administration by technicians is allowed is another. Boards of pharmacy need to also adjust state practice acts and regulations to optimize the role of pharmacy technicians so that they can support pharmacists fully in their work, and boards need to embrace pharmacist-directed technology integration to automate dispensing processes that do not require a pharmacist’s touch.

What is APhA doing to address the reduced number of student pharmacists?

It is critical that we create an environment that young people want to enter. I believe pharmacy is still the very best profession out there to make an impact on people’s lives in local communities. We are going through a painful time of change. We must amplify the voices of those who enjoy what they do. Discouraging young people from pursuing their passion or their dream because of our own dissatisfaction is, in a word, selfish.

On balance we should discuss the challenges of our profession and the potential of our profession and then let individuals decide their path. To address the reduced number of individuals pursuing pharmacy, APhA has two very active initiatives underway. First is a revitalized Pathways program for schools and colleges of pharmacy to use to help students see the various paths available to them. This encourages students who’ve already selected a career in pharmacy to see a bigger picture. Additionally, through creation of intentional networking opportunities within APhA’s new community structure and our new membership model, we’ve created a space for pre-pharmacy students to engage in APhA’s communities and explore areas of interest with pharmacists, student pharmacists, technicians, and researchers who share these common interests. APhA is becoming the place where pharmacy colleagues and supporters come together in community every day to network, explore, and grow.

I hear you and I’m very focused on actively addressing your concerns

I care deeply about our profession. I speak honestly and call things like I see them. Not everyone will agree with everything I say or do. And I’m going to make mistakes. We all do. I can’t promise that your world is going to get better tomorrow, because we didn’t get into the difficulties of our profession overnight. However, what is happening before our eyes is the dramatic change that we’ve all been betting on for the past 30 years. The pressure of change is accelerating, and the positives—payment for our care services, streamlining the dispensing process, expanded authority to practice to the top of our training—are all coming to pass. As we press on toward a bright future, APhA will continue to stand with our members and support you every step of the way. We’ll help you push through the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities. If you’ve not been a member in a long time, we invite you to join us. And if you have a topic you’d like to get us to engage, or a question you’d like to ask, please email me directly at CEO@aphanet.org.

For every pharmacist. For all of pharmacy.

 
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Author: James Keagy

Categories: CEO Blog

Tags: CEO Blog

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