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Pharmacy’s best days…
Michelle Powell 450

Pharmacy’s best days…

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Association Perspective

Michael D. Hogue, PharmD, FAPhA, FNAP, FFIP, EVP and CEO of APhA

APhA held a student leadership event in Washington, DC, recently. The energy from 170 students in a room is contagious! I had the good fortune of talking with the group in a Q & A session, and the very first question was perhaps the most important one I’ve been asked in a long time.

“Dr. Hogue,” said the student (and I paraphrase), “Constantly we hear about the difficult working conditions in pharmacies. We have pharmacists tell us they’d not choose this path again. We hear about the poor reimbursement for drugs. Pharmacy schools are not filling their classes. Yet as we’ve interacted with you, you seem to have optimism for something in the future. Where does your hope come from?”

Boom! There it was! The question of questions. The ONE question that every pharmacist who pauses long enough to take a breath must ask themselves. The ONE question that drives us to persevere through challenges. The ONE question that allows us to contemplate tomorrow. It’s the ONE and only question that truly, at its core, makes even the toughest day bearable. Hope. A simple four-letter word.

I have hope, and so should you. Yes, I’m in touch with reality. Yes, I know things have been bad. But I have hope things will get better. And I have evidence that they will. “Good,” you say! “It’s about time someone tells me what there is to be hopeful for!” I say, “Come on! You’ve already got it in you!” And then I smile. Let’s sit and talk about it, shall we?

I have hope because I know that I am on this planet to make it a better place. I have hope because I have a purpose, and my purpose is to relieve suffering and be used as an instrument of healing. My guess is that’s why you became a pharmacist, too.  As APhA CEO, part of my job is to help you see that hope.

We should have hope because there is a world in tremendous pain that needs us to lean in and provide care. And the pandemic, while causing a lot of pain, has given me even greater hope for the future of our profession.

For the first time in my career, I’m hearing patients and patient advocacy groups actually lobbying state legislatures and Congress for access to their pharmacists. I’m watching as a physician assembly member in California champions a new law that requires payment for pharmacist’s services at the same rate as physician providers. I’m seeing those OUTSIDE of our profession truly value our profession and what we do. This is unprecedented!  Pharmacists are breaking through! 

I’m also seeing pharmacists in local communities stand up for their trusted patient relationships. Pharmacists who are saying they’ve had enough with inadequate staffing, inadequate technical support, poor reimbursements, and those who are unkind. 

These pharmacists are standing up and saying, “NO! My patients matter! My health matters!” And the result is that change is in the wind. Employers are listening. Patients are watching. Regulators are acting. Everyone recognizes with crystal clarity that the  pharmacist–patient relationship is a bond that must be preserved and can’t be broken. Patients don’t want to lose their access to local pharmacists and they are getting involved, too. 

While you may not see it happening as fast as we all want, it really is happening. Technicians are being elevated in responsibility to truly be the assistant pharmacists need. Payers are recognizing that pharmacists do more than put pills in bottles, and policymakers are quickly moving to provide compensation for our care services. Fundamentally, the entire way that consumers access a pharmacist, receive their medicines, and access health care in general is changing—but we’ve got to first go through the transformation of change, and it’s not an easy journey.

So today, like every day, I look ahead to where we are going and all the opportunities in front of our profession. Getting to it is a struggle. Change is hard. But this profession is worth fighting for. This hope is real, and our patients need us to keep pressing on.

I know where my hope comes from. I’m betting you do, too. Dig deep. It’s there. Embrace it. Chase it. Persevere through the challenges. I see you. APhA is with you. Pharmacy’s brightest days are yet to come.

For every pharmacist. For all of pharmacy.  ■

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