APhA2017: Connect with patients and listen to their story

Leana Wen, MD, takes the stage to keynote the Second General Session

Keynote speaker Leana Wen, MD, shared a statistic with the audience at the 2017 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition in San Francisco during her address at the Second General Session. She said that 80% of the time, it’s the patient’s story that determines his or her diagnosis.

As pharmacists increasingly provide patient care services, listening to the patient is a significant part of how pharmacists and all health care providers can improve care.

“Ultimately, it’s about preserving the dignity and respect of people,” said Wen. “No matter how difficult your day has been, the work we do is bigger than each of us.”

Hearing the patient’s story doesn’t mean asking standard “yes” or “no” questions, according to Wen, but really listening.

“How long we live and how healthy we are is not just dependent on health care. It’s dependent on so much more,” said Wen.

From her experience as an emergency department (ED) doctor to her current role as Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Wen shared many honest and personal stories that highlighted her path to the additional role she plays as a patient advocate.

In Baltimore, for example, an individual’s life span will be significantly affected if he or she grows up in a poor neighborhood. When an asthmatic child presents to the ED, there’s a lot that can be done medically for them, but if that child is going back to a home with mold or with smokers present, they will continue to come back to the ED, said Wen.

“The opposite of poverty is health,” she said.

Wen also touched on the idea of collaboration. As health commissioner, she declared overdose and opioid addiction to be a public health emergency in Baltimore and began convening various groups of stakeholder and health care providers together, including pharmacists, to work to solve the problem.

She said they realized quickly how much pharmacists could be relied upon for their expertise and how much everyone could learn from each other just by coming to the table together.

Wen also praised the work of pharmacists and pledged to continue collaborating, standing up, and speaking up for pharmacists.                               

“You are the public face of health care,” said Wen. “I want to thank each one of you for the work you do.”

APhA President-elect Nancy Alvarez, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA, echoed Wen’s message of connecting with patients on a personal level during her speech. She spoke about “treating the patient and not the number.”

“As our profession gains provider status recognition, success will come from active engagement of patients who know we care,” said Alvarez, who is the assistant dean of experiential education and continuing professional development at Chapman University.

Going forward, Alvarez also urged pharmacists to be players, to connect with one and other, and to show how much they care.

“We do not need to wait to be essential health care providers,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez will be the 162nd APhA President and she attributed much of her success to the opportunities she gained through APhA. She also recognized her family and the chance to “do over” how proud she was of her heritage on such a significant day. At her graduation from the University of Arizona, Alvarez refused to wear a strip of native blanket her parents cut to represent their heritage. She was concerned about standing out among her peers. During her inaugural speech at APhA2017, she wore the strip of blanket around her neck.

Awards were also presented during the Second General Session. The Honorary President award went to Philip Burgess, BSPharm, DPh, MBA, and the Honorary Membership award went to Eileen Gans.

Three individuals received awards administered by the APhA Academy of Pharmaceutical Research & Science (APhA–APRS). The Ebert Prize went to Magnus Ölander, MSc. The Clinical Research Paper Award went to Laura Shane-McWhorter, PharmD, BCPS, BC-ADM, CDE, FASCP, FAADE. And the Wiederholt Prize went to Brandon J. Patterson, PharmD, PhD.

For awards administered by the APhA Academy of Pharmacy Practice & Management (APhA–APPM), Theresa Tolle, BSPharm, FAPhA, received the Pharmacy Management Excellence Award. The Distinguished Achievement Award in Pharmacy Practice went to Jennifer L. Rodis, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA. And the Distinguished Achievement Award in Service was given to Sharon S. Gatewood, PharmD.

The Distinguished New Practitioner Award was given to Chelsea M. Anderson, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, and the Generation Rx Award of Excellence went to Sarah Melton, PharmD, BCPP, BCACP, CGP, FASCP.