Pharmacy News

Michelle Cathers

Pharmacist becomes first Black president-elect of state association that excluded his father

Leonard L. Edloe, PharmD, ThM, will be installed as the Virginia Pharmacists Association’s (VPhA) first Black president-elect during the organization’s 140th Annual Convention. It’s one more remarkable achievement for a pharmacist who’s been showered with high-profile appointments and professional accolades over his 50-year career—but this one carries particular significance. Decades ago, VPhA denied membership to Edloe’s father based on the color of his skin.

Since at that time APhA required its members to belong to a state association, Leonard L. Edloe, Sr. could not be a member of that organization either. Rejected and excluded, Edloe’s father became an incorporator of the National Pharmaceutical Association (NPhA).

“He always told me, from the first day I got my license, ‘You have to be better. You have to prove you are better,’” Edloe said.

Racism’s ripples
Unlike his father—a pharmacist and Virginia pharmacy owner—Edloe has a long and established relationship with APhA: He served as the first student on a House of Delegates committee, sat on its Board of Trustees, and is a member of the APhA Task Force on Structural Racism today.

But despite Edloe’s success, the pain of the racist treatment his father endured never fully faded; Edloe, Sr. declined to attend the APhA annual meeting where his son was inducted as a national officer (his mother did attend).

If he were alive today, he’d be bittersweet about his son’s latest accomplishment—Edloe’s successful bid to lead VPhA. In 2022, Edloe will become the first Black president of the very institution that treated his father as inferior and undeserving.

The last laugh
Edloe’s own pharmacy career was shaped by racism from its start. The only pharmacy program in his home state, the Medical College of Virginia (later Virginia Commonwealth University, or VCU) discouraged Black students to apply for admission. Instead, the state paid for Edloe to get his education elsewhere.

He landed at Howard University College of Pharmacy in Washington, DC, an outcome that proved to be a blessing despite emerging from injustice. “I would’ve had a narrow view of the profession, a narrow view of life, if I’d stayed in Virginia,” Edloe said.

And his mistreatment by VCU also came full circle. Edloe’s received many appointments from both Democrats and Republicans; one of these was to the VCU Health System Authority, where he was the first pharmacist to chair the Quality, Safety, Risk, and Credentials Committee of the board. He also is an associate clinical professor of pharmacy at the VCU School of Pharmacy.

A righteous haul
Behind Edloe’s success is a positive attitude and unending gratitude, which has helped him manage the trauma racism inflicts. “My father died at 66, my sister died at 60, my brother died at 54, all of them from heart disease,” he said. Edloe himself had a heart attack in his 30s. “I’ll be 74 [this month], so if I would’ve let all that stuff pile up on me, we wouldn't be having this conversation today.”

And he has never stopped learning. Despite being a practicing pharmacist for decades, he went back to school at the University of Florida to earn his PharmD in 2003.

Throughout his legendary 50-year career, Edloe has been honored with dozens of professional and community awards. Along with his service on the APhA Board of Trustees and his presidency of the APhA Foundation, he was honored with the Bowl of Hygeia in 2007 and won the Hugo H. Shaefer Award in 2014.

In 1983, the Virginia Junior Chamber of Commerce named him Virginia’s Outstanding Young Man, and he was the Association of Black Hospitals 1984 Practitioner of the Year. He’s been chair of the American Heart Association’s mid-Atlantic affiliate.

He’s a recipient of NPhA’s Chauncey I. Cooper Award. The Virginia state legislature passed a joint resolution commending his service in 2014. He’s an honoree of Dominion Energy’s Strong Men, Strong Women in Virginia History awards program, and was the first Black chair of the Greater Richmond Retail Merchants Association.

VPhA honored him with Virginia Outstanding Pharmacist Award in 2015, and of course, he’ll be the organization’s president in 2022. Edloe will be installed as president-elect on August 13, 2021, during VPhA’s virtual convention.

Learn more about Edloe’s story and his work dismantling structural racism in the August 2021 issue of Pharmacy Today magazine.

Rachel Balick, senior reporter

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