APhA2019: Moving Pharmacy Forward

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting & Exposition, APhA2019, held March 22–25, hosted almost 6,000 pharmacists and student pharmacists in Seattle. This year’s theme, Moving Pharmacy Forward, highlighted the pharmacist’s role in addressing public health concerns and promoted personal and professional well-being while continuing to prioritize patient care services.

Citing the growing body of evidence on the increased stress and burnout among pharmacists and student pharmacists, Second General Session keynote speaker, Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE, of the Resiliency Group, discussed how to create a healthy work-life balance by improving resiliency. “Resilience is all about energy management. Do you have the mental, emotional, and physical hardiness to keep on keeping on? And how we get energy is through the connections that we make,” she said. McDargh’s message aligns with APhA’s new major initiative to promote the well-being of pharmacists and pharmacy personnel.

In helping to meet the needs of those struggling with thoughts of suicide, “pharmacists are first responders,” said Opening General Session keynote speaker Kevin Briggs, a retired sergeant with the California Highway Patrol who spent more than 23 years working with individuals contemplating suicide. “You have direct contact with people, and you know somewhat what’s going on with them," he said. “Ask that question. Establish that rapport. It takes courage, but you could help someone in their darkest time.” He shared warning signs pharmacists should be aware of and provided tips on having discussions with individuals.   Briggs is the founder of Pivotal Points, an organization focused on raising awareness about mental health, reducing associated stigma, and providing education on crisis management and suicide prevention.

An emotional high point of APhA2019 was the announcement from APhA CEO Tom Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD, during the Opening General Session. “My flight path as your CEO is on course for a successful landing in 2020,” he said as he announced his retirement upon the completion of his contract in mid-2020.  “I love this organization. I’m committed to helping find the most excellent and outstanding new leader.”

He added, “I live my life with gratitude and in service of this profession. It’s been an honor and privilege to work with our amazing staff and for you.” His remarks were met with a standing ovation.  The search for Menighan’s successor will begin in April 2019.

APhA President Nicki Hilliard highlighted during her state of the association speech the organization’s Well-being Initiative, and its transformation activities, including the soon to be released new membership models and member engagement opportunities. She highlighted the progress being made at the federal and state levels regarding provider status, and APhA’s collaboration with other pharmacy organizations to address issues impacting pharmacists’ ability to provide patient care and remain viable providers of care.  Recognizing that we are in a changing healthcare environment, she facilitated an audience participation exercise to make the point that “we can’t move pharmacy forward if we keep practicing in a pattern that is not consistent with the new direction.”

Other APhA2019 highlights include presenting the profession’s highest honor, the 2019 Remington Honor Medal, to Lucinda L. Maine, RPh, PhD, FAPhA. APhA also announced the national launch of Pharmacy Profiles, a subsidiary of APhA, that serves as the trusted and verified repository of the nation’s pharmacist providers. The platform, developed in collaboration with NABP and ACPE, and coordination with AACP, NASPA and other partners, enables pharmacists to securely manage all their professional information in one place and supports recognition and engagement of pharmacists in provider recognition and network engagement opportunities. 

During the second general session, APhA President-elect Brad Tice, PharmD, MBA, FAPhA, encouraged members to use their stories to advance the profession. “Put the pharmacist and patient face on these stories. They are real and powerful—do not hold back from sharing them. Make people see and feel the impact you make when given the opportunity. My presidency goal is that we make our collective story not just a book but a bestseller,” he said. “People may be convinced by facts and figures, but they remember stories first and forever.”

Traditional education session offerings focused on helping pharmacists provide better care for patients, such as best practices for pharmacists providing immunizations and addressing unmet needs in chronic pain management and the opioid epidemic. This year’s annual meeting sessions also emphasized soft skills and the needs of the pharmacists. Several sessions focused on pharmacist burnout and developing resilience including Work and Life Balance - Part I: Emotional Intelligence and Job Satisfaction and Work and Life Balance - Part II: Goodbye Burnout, So Long Stress.  There were also sessions providing legislative, regulatory and policy updates on a variety of issues impacting the provision of healthcare and the role of pharmacists, and innovative approaches to team-based care.

This year marks the APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists’ (APhA–ASP) 50th Anniversary. APhA2019 honored the milestones and the impact student pharmacists and leaders have had on the profession throughout the years. The origins of APhA–ASP began in the spring of 1969 at the APhA Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada. Students from 53 APhA student chapters ratified bylaws and created the Student American Pharmaceutical Association, which was known as SAPhA in the 1970s and as Student APhA in the 1980s before evolving into what the organization is known as today.

APhA’s House of Delegates of almost 400 delegates adopted policy related to Consolidation within Healthcare; Pharmacists’ Role on Mental Health and Emotional Well-being; Referral Systems for the Pharmacy Profession; Gluten Content and  the Labeling of Medication; Unit-of-Use Packaging; Creating Safe Work and Learning Environments for Student Pharmacists, Pharmacists, and Pharmacy Technicians; Pharmacist and Pharmacy Personnel Safety and Well-Being; Qualification Standards of Pharmacists; Collaborative Practice Agreements; Expanding Technician Roles; and, Patient-Centered Care of People Who Inject Drugs (PWID).

APhA has already begun preparations for APhA2020, being held March 20–23, 2020, at National Harbor in suburban Washington, DC.