Closing Chapter: Now is the time for us to do something great

The following is the fifth and final edition of APhA President Brad Tice’s guest blog.

Dear Pharmacists,

This is such a unique time in our personal and professional lives.

When I started my presidency last year at the APhA Annual Meeting, one of my three charges was for pharmacists to tell their stories of the value they bring to patients for the purpose of helping to advance the profession. Years ago, I went to training at the Harvard Business School on teaching using the Case Method, and they said, “You don’t have to worry about trying to create stories for cases; you won’t be able to come up with anything better than what happens in real life.”

Well, they were right. I could never have imagined the stories we will have from this year, especially ending with a public health crisis that has caused us to cancel the Annual Meeting for the first time since World War II. While I couldn’t be more disappointed in having to cancel the Annual Meeting, I am also inspired as pharmacists step up to the challenges before us and help to lead our country in addressing the crisis and recognizing the value pharmacists provide.

At a time when health care has been increasingly driven primarily by big business interests to the detriment of patients and providers in many ways, this time is bringing increased awareness to the value of front-line health care providers and has increased the awareness of every American on health care and infectious disease precautions. Each day, I see calls for our country developing increased capacity in health care and control of our health care and pharmaceutical supply chains. In addition, the value of pharmacists and expanded authority we have advocated for years is being acknowledged and asked for.

APhA at work

The 2020 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition was scheduled for this upcoming weekend, and we have had to cancel the in-person gathering. It’s a time where the APhA House of Delegates meets to set policy for the profession. It has been remarkable to see the efforts of so many months come together in a time of crisis. We have actually been planning for the addition of “Virtual House” components to our deliberations for the last 2 years and were just getting ready at this Annual Meeting to pass the procedures for it. Now, we are going to implement a “Virtual House” session this weekend and meet via a nationwide webinar to consider policy.

One of the policies we are voting on is to urge the federal government to classify pharmaceuticals as a national strategic asset to make sure a certain amount of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) are manufactured in the United States. How timely is that! We have been working on this policy for a little over a year, and now it is coming to a vote at a time of urgent need. While we have been working on the policy, we have raised the attention of policy makers and the federal government and are already seeing action.

While the APhA Annual Meeting has been cancelled, APhA staff have done a tremendous job of demonstrating resiliency and resolve. Not only are they working around the clock to ensure pharmacists have the best information on addressing the coronavirus outbreak, they are also working on creating an “APhA2020 Virtual” that can be broadcast and have far greater reach than the live meeting. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together, and while I am disappointed in not having the in-person gathering, we

may be able to reach further across the profession through these new capabilities. Look for that to be released in the coming months.

During this public health crisis, we are also taking action to both protect and advance pharmacists’ ability to provide care. We are pushing for pharmacists, on a voluntary basis, to be able to administer the COVID-19 tests, including developing training to enable them in a short amount of time, increasing these pharmacists’ role in public health, and creating roles beyond just this crisis. We are also advocating directly with the top executives at chain community pharmacies, health systems and the federal government to ensure that pharmacists on the front lines are protected .

Be encouraged

Those who know me know that I am an avid sports fan. Since there are no sports currently, let me share one sports story. One of my favorite teams since I was a child is the Kansas City Chiefs. Finally, after optimistically hoping each year for the last 50 years, my team won the Super Bowl! You can imagine how excited I was for that after waiting so long. In each game in the playoffs, that team was down by double digits. In one game they were down 24 points and came back and won by 20. They were down by 10 points in the middle of the fourth quarter in the Super Bowl and came back and won. Throughout those victories, their star quarterback and other team leaders were on the sidelines reminding each other, “You have to believe,” “There is no better time do something great,” and my favorite, “They are going to talk about this forever.” Now is the time for us to do something great. We are certainly going to be talking about this time forever.

As my official time in APhA presidential office comes to a close during this time of crisis, I will continue to be engaged. I will continue to fight for the advancement of the profession, and I will continue helping to address this crisis and creating ways to advance pharmacists’ opportunities to deliver and be compensated for care that improves people’s lives. I look forward to doing that with you.

This is not the ideal situation for anyone, but now is a time we can step up, lead, and create opportunities for the future. We are doing just that. I hope you are encouraged by this, and I look forward to hearing the stories of how pharmacists have helped their patients and their communities in addressing and overcoming this crisis.