Reflective Essay: AACP Week 1
John Michael Segars
10/15/12 – 10/20/12
While riding on a bumpy metro train, I pondered what I should expect during my first day at AACP. The view of underground metro stations and people hurrying back and forth outside the window was already drastically different from the forests and small towns that are the norm of my Mississippi home. Everyone was moving rapidly, like blood rushing through a vein. It was an exciting energy that made me feel like I was at the pulse, the center, of something very exciting.
When I arrived at the office, I was greeted with a welcome breakfast and an extremely kind group of AACP staffers. Introductions were made, and I was cognizant of the fact that each person’s title was distinctly diverse compared to other employees. This made me realize that I would need to learn the various sections and departments that go along with a national association. During my first moments in the office, I had been slightly anxious, still unsure of what to expect; however, the smiling faces and plates of food soon expanded into laughter reverberating around the room, and I realized all anxiety had been extinguished.
My first task was to meet with Dr. Jennifer Adams, my APPE preceptor, and discuss what was expected of me during my time here in the office. Jen, as she prefers to be addressed, was welcoming and informative – a professional with a diverse pharmacy background that had resulted in unbounded knowledge on student and academic affairs. I valued her commitment to make me feel comfortable in this new environment at AACP. She encouraged me to meet with all of the senior staff at AACP to learn more about the various tasks that each person accomplishes for the organization. Additionally, she gave me an overview of how AACP is set up by showing me organizational charts, going through the website, and discussing various committees within the organization. She informed me that I would be responsible for completing a project during this APPE rotation and gave me a list of contact information so that I could hopefully get ideas from my meetings with senior staff members. I realized after leaving the meeting that I was now armed with my responsibilities and instantly began sending emails to start the process of accomplishing them.
My first meeting was with the Director of Communications and Marketing, Gerry Romano. I was excited to learn about Gerry’s journey to AACP. I arrived in her office, which overlooked the courtyard and trees just beyond the building, and I secretly hoped I would not get distracted by the beautiful view during our encounter. We had a meeting filled with humor and educational topics. I obtained information from her about the operational side to the organization. We discussed marketing materials, American Pharmacy Educator Week, academic journals, and script writing for volunteer leader’s speeches. I realized that this department is crucial to the organization since it is the area that allows AACP members to remain "in the know" of what is going on in various pharmacy schools and informs them of upcoming events.
As the week continued on, I explored the streets of Alexandria, VA during my lunch breaks. The crisp autumn air and the local shops with their bricked structures provided plenty of scenery to satiate my needs to see more of the area. Each time I walk onto King Street, I feel as if I have entered a bubble of cobbled-streets and mysteriously unique shops. The buildings here are reminiscent of a lost colonial age that now have mild brushstrokes of modern times. It is quite an exceptional location for AACP employees to conduct their work in.
My next major encounter was with AACP Executive Vice President and CEO, Dr. Lucinda Maine. My immediate impression of her was that she contains a talent that is often hard to find in today’s world: the ability to make people feel like they matter. She sat beside me in a chair, not behind a desk, and looked at me squarely in the eyes during our meeting. These non-verbal cues made me feel comfortable and instantly let me know that my questions were important. This is an ability I have recognized among successful independent pharmacists, and this trait of connecting with people has surely been a catalyst in allowing Dr. Maine to achieve a status of a nationally recognized leader in pharmacy. During our discussion, she talked about how she came to acquire her role at AACP. She discussed how she recognized components of her career as a faculty member where change and standardization were needed, and she talked about how association management allowed her to be a part of the process to make such changes in the profession. I was very impressed with our discussion of pharmacy education, and we agreed to meet again in the future to discuss the matter further.
Dr. Vincent Lau, Vice President of Research and Graduate Education, was the next scheduled meeting, and I gleaned a large amount of information from him. He talked about his role in enhancing a given pharmacy school’s ability to market its graduate program. He informed me about his goal of developing a faculty and graduate student mentoring program where networking and information can be shared among professionals with similar research. He educated me about the Academic Leaders Fellows Program, which teaches leadership to fellows and then allows participants to collaboratively work on a project together. I respected Vincent for his works because I am aware that only about half of all pharmacy schools offer graduate programs. I thought it was a great idea for AACP to have a role in honing the skills of the existing graduate professors, researchers, and students while also providing opportunities for these individuals to network with one another.
On Friday, October 19, 2012, Jen and I made our journey to the American Pharmacists Association Midyear Regional Meeting for region 5 in Fargo, North Dakota. Our arrival in North Dakota was similar to the sensation of jumping into an icy swimming pool, when one’s internal temperature regulation becomes slightly jolted and the skeletal muscles quiver to compensate for the chill. We stepped into temperatures that were 30 degrees less than the environment in which we had left, thus both Jen and I had a teeth chattering chill as we walked to the rental car outside. As we drove to the hotel, I noticed that Fargo was a terrain of flatlands, with few hills in sight. It felt very open and spacious with an overcast sky above us. The people of Fargo were very polite, with northern accents that perfectly contrasted my southern dialect.
At the MRM Region 5 meeting, I was able to speak with many students about AACP. I talked about the AACP Walmart Scholars program, discussed academia as a career path, and I told them about my own interests. The students seemed exceptionally kind and willing to take in all the new information. Most of the students I spoke with were in the first or second professional year of pharmacy school and were still unsure of an area of interest. I am hopeful that some of these students will now know where they can go if they do decide on academic pharmacy as a career and remember the time we spent with them. I realized that many of the students I spoke with were having pharmacy experiences similar to my own. They had all worked very hard and were still unsure of what path to take in this profession because so many options exist. Even in academia, I have come to realize that there is no standard of what path to take. Each graduate and residency program leads to different outcomes depending on the location or preceptor or funding of the institution. It was my goal to at least provide enough information on academic pharmacy for students to make a better decision when such a time occurs that he or she is lost in the whirlpool of possibilities that appear as pharmacy school winds down.
As I reflect on my experiences collectively, I can better appreciate how pharmacy is still evolving. AACP has many departments with numerous activities that come together like a mosaic to accomplish a common vision of making pharmacy a better profession by support academic pharmacy. In my first week, I began to understand how pharmacy schools want to prepare student pharmacists with the most effective and standardized methods of teaching. Through the efforts of AACP, these schools are given resources to network with other schools, given clarification on what a graduating Pharm.D. should be able to achieve via revision of the Center for Pharmacy Education (CAPE) Outcomes, and services that can enhance the teaching skills of preceptors and faculty. My primary takeaway point from the week is that AACP has an influence on thousands of lives. Whether the influence is on how pharmacy schools admit students through PharmCas or how these institutions advance the skills of the faculty and staff through leadership programs, AACP has an immense opportunity to enhance the pharmacy profession.
I still have many more senior staff members to speak with, and I have much to learn about the actual management of a national association. Therefore, I plan to continue on with my meetings of senior staff members. I also will be developing a project in the upcoming days as well. The process of constructing a project will take some time, but I am hopeful that it will involve academic affairs in some way. I look forward to another week at AACP, and I am deeply grateful for the time I have here.