The biggest challenge of our lives

Yesterday was my first official day as executive vice president and CEO of APhA, and I planned to write a blog introducing myself and establishing my goals for the association.

Plans don’t mean much these days.

Being sworn in as the leader of this storied organization is the greatest honor of my life. Being sworn in during a global pandemic, and now social unrest brought on by injustice, will also be the biggest challenge of my life. I wholeheartedly accept this challenge.

It’s hard to feel sorry for ourselves when the entire world is dealing with the same issues.

Here in Washington, DC—where I’m currently sitting in a barely occupied APhA headquarters as the city sizes up the aftermath of several days of protests—Georgetown University has a $50 million shortfall. National unemployment is reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression: The American Diabetes Association recently announced it was laying off 44% of its workforce, and two-thirds of U.S. hospitals have furloughed employees. And now, our communities are being torn apart. The tragedies and violence affecting people of color in Georgia, Minneapolis, Louisville, and many other cities have again forced us to confront that which has divided our nation since its birth.

At the same time, I know that we—APhA, the pharmacy profession, all of you—will rise from this pandemic and confront injustice, emerging stronger and better equipped to serve our patients and our communities.

Throughout this outbreak, our pharmacists have stepped up to serve patients, often at great risk to themselves and their families and without adequate personal protective equipment until supply caught up with demand. Now, we have the added concerns about the safety of our practice sites. These are the struggles that will inform and transform the future.

What lessons have we learned from these struggles? First is that the profession of pharmacy and APhA are resilient! We have proven that we can leverage technology better than we thought we could, that we don’t have to meet in person to be successful. These learnings will span industries, which will translate to pharmacists providing more telehealth and reaching patients we previously could not serve.

Second is that we are adaptive, with trailblazing pharmacists like Beth Bryan in Tennessee who almost instantly provided COVID-19 testing in her pharmacy for her community (Dr. Bryan spoke about how she did it on APhA’s April 23 webinar—check it out if you missed it). And we have seen our Government Affairs team collaborate and fight to make sure our pharmacy patriots get paid so they can tame this virus by dramatically expanding testing.

And finally, we have learned that there are better, smarter, more efficient ways to do things, and we are going to relentlessly pursue them.

Under my watch, APhA will help you use the practice of pharmacy to serve society and tackle racial health disparities. We will aggressively fight to improve health through the appropriate use of medications, and we will ensure that pharmacists and technicians have the tools they need to succeed during these difficult times.

Pharmacists have the profound privilege of making a difference in people’s lives, and as an organization, APhA will work to heal our communities. We take pride in the diversity of our members and the patients they serve, and we stand with communities of color in rejecting hate, racism, unequal treatment, and all forms of discrimination.

We will emerge from these crises with new life, clear vision, and a renewed sense of purpose. There is a bright future at the end of this dark tunnel. We will get there together.

Stay safe. Be well.