Dr. Brian L. Erstad, professor and head of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, has paid a lifetime of dues. As an active member of numerous professional organizations, he has been a member of the board of directors for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, held committee chair positions with the Society of Critical Care Medicine and served as a volunteer on many AACP sections and committees.
So it’s no surprise that he’s answered the call to pharmacy service once more by accepting a role on the Food and Drug Administration’s Drug Safety and Risk Management (DSaRM) Advisory Committee. As one of just a few members with a Pharm.D., Erstad’s latest volunteer venture has positioned him as one of the main representatives of the field.
The DSaRM Committee advises the Commissioner of Food and Drugs on best practices to ensure safe use and regulation of the drugs and other products for which the FDA has responsibility. Issues before the committee range from assessing the benefits and risks of marketing calcitonin salmon for post-menopausal women to evaluating the safety and labeling of testosterone undecanoate following severe reactions in clinical studies.
Committee members are selected from nominations by professional societies, members of industry, advocacy groups or the individuals themselves. As one of 13 voting members, Erstad plays a key role in helping recognize and manage risks presented by the issues brought before the panel. And his background in pharmacy represents a powerful voice for the field. “When you’re the only pharmacist, or just one of a couple, you really do feel that you’re representing the profession. That’s why I need to make sure I pay my dues and do the homework ahead of time to try to make good decisions.”
Despite the challenge, however, Erstad finds the committee appointment a rewarding answer to the call for service. “These are important decisions with all sorts of impact. You like to think that in some way, you’re contributing to the better use of medications.”
The interprofessional make-up of the committee is crucial, Erstad believes, as it represents a clinical setting. “There is a group dynamic where multiple heads are better than one in terms of thinking through some of these issues and making sure the right questions are being asked.”
As medication use experts, pharmacists’ expertise touches upon countless larger issues facing the healthcare community and Erstad’s interest in medication errors and adverse drug events has helped his work on the committee. “Even though I happened to do studies in an intensive care unit or an emergency department, the fact is, they have applicability across the board.” Furthermore, his new position as department head has reaffirmed the importance of his committee work. “In my new role as administrator, I’m looking at things at a broader level. Medication errors and adverse drug events apply across all pharmacy.”
Erstad has certainly put in the work to be recognized with such an important position. He’s still unaware of who exactly nominated him for the committee, but surmises it stemmed from his broad obligation to professional service. “For younger people, it’s one to realize you don’t necessarily start at the top. There is something to be said for paying your dues and performing service at a variety of levels.”
And while finding the position an honor and fulfilling his desire to serve the profession, the appointment isn’t without professional compensation. “For a moment in time, you feel like you’re almost the expert in some of these areas. Because you’ve prepared for it, you’ve listened to all these experts, you’ve been able to ask questions. It’s something I use for people in training, as an example of how service is not only a professional obligation, but a rewarding experience.”
Kyle R. Bagin is Communications Assistant at AACP; firstname.lastname@example.org.