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Week 5: 11/12/12 - 11/16/12 by John Michael Segars

Reflective Essay: Week 5

11/12/12 – 11/16/12

I had every intention of writing my final reflection about the topic of “advocacy,” but as I traveled to the AACP office on the final morning of my rotation, I heard my mother’s voice reciting the phrase “doubt means don’t” in the back of my mind. I paused before exiting the metro train, the engine grumbling beneath my feet, and I realized I wanted to express my overall reflection of this APPE experience on one topic: gratitude.  I have had quite an amazing experience at AACP over the last few weeks, and as I leave this rotation, I think of all I have learned about leadership, student affairs, academic affairs, research, professionalism, standardization, advocacy, governance and numerous other topics.  Gratitude, to me, is more than expressing thanks, but it is an emotion that emphasizes the valuable aspects of life, not the negative, and allows the ability to demonstrate appreciation. Thus, I must express my gratitude to the AACP staff for allowing me to come into their work environment and for spending the time to educate a small town boy from Mississippi about the remarkable, highly respected work they do because I would not have received the chance to experience such an opportunity in my world back at home.  Unlike most groups I have worked with in the past, the staff was unbeatably intelligent, productive, creative – true professionals and leaders within the pharmacy profession.
Throughout my rotation, I have reflected and become more self-aware of my own understanding of various topics. As the weeks went on, I was increasingly aware of AACP’s mission to validate members through American Pharmacy Educator Week or through creating programs to bring members to a greater level of success. This week, my analysis was proven true once more as Will Lang, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, explained his role at AACP.  We discussed advocacy in regards to how it serves the members, and I was impressed to learn that he educates legislators or informs the Department of Education about the pharmacy profession to make sure institutions such as the National Institutes of Health continue to grant money for scientific research.  AACP provides this service because the profession moves forward as research is conducted, and many AACP faculty members receiving funds need the financial support to succeed in their position at a college of pharmacy. In my opinion, advocating on behalf of members is a form of gratitude because it demonstrates the appreciated value of the work a given member is conducting.
After our discussion, I thought about how the outcomes associated with advocacy are the result of a plan directed toward serving AACP members.  Generating plans has been a theme as decisions are made at AACP, and I thought of the AACP Board Meeting where brainstorming ideas and creating committees to assemble information on particular topics took place. I attempted to expand my view of how AACP functions, and it led me to recognize how planning ahead to achieve goals is quite a remarkable habit because it emphasizes a self-awareness of what skills and steps are needed to prevent failure.  I have learned from AACP that creating a strategy is a key component of success.  By planning and setting standards for accountability, strategic planning is the only way to meet an outcome in a successful way.  For so many years, I have only been thinking about finishing school, but now that school is ending I am left with the realization: what now?  I have to create a new goal, set forth a strategy and work hard to achieve it much like AACP does to sustain its own success as an organization.
This week I attended a conference at the APhA headquarters called, The Pharmacist’s Role in Addressing Opioid Abuse, Addiction, and Diversion.  At this meeting, leaders from many pharmacy organizations came together to discuss how pharmacists can improve education, prescription drug monitoring programs, proper medication disposal techniques, and enforcement strategies in an attempt to improve our ability to educate and prevent opioid abuse and misuse.  From the meeting, I learned more about drug diversion and addiction than a reader would want to comprehend in one essay, however, I can state that overall I was impressed with the pharmacy profession’s willingness to act.  Discussions took place to expose the shadows on this issue and to verbalize the truth about what pharmacists are experiencing out in practice.  My initial takeaway was that once again, “strategy” was demonstrated as a necessary component of success to fix current issues on this matter.  Additionally, I noticed how the leaders were focused on developing educational abuse prevention strategies because 25,000 people are dying from opioid overdoses each year.  They discussed this matter with the intention of helping the patients struggling with the disease of addiction.  They infused the idea that a pharmacist has an obligation to intervene when possible.
I left the meeting knowing more clearly that pharmacists are trying to provide quality care to patients in a manner that best serves a patient’s health.  I concluded that drug abuse seems comparable to a parasitic relationship, where 1 entity slowly degrades the existence of another.  The parasite is the drug itself, overtaking an abuser who is riddled with addiction with no benefit in sight.  However, by creating strategies to prevent addiction or upgrading education techniques for patients currently suffering from opioid abuse, pharmacists are presented with the chance to combat this growing problem.  Furthermore, I surmise that even though opioid-seeking patients may enter a pharmacy, this could be an opportunity worthy of gratitude.  Pharmacists can be grateful because such an experience allows a pharmacist to have the opportunity to educate and potentially save a patient who is on a downward spiral.  The knowledge that pharmacists can conduct such interventions teaches me that we can be grateful for the good moments and the bad.  More importantly, I am happy to have a better understanding that as pharmacists we can always exude thanks for the instances when we can actually enhance the quality of a patient’s life. 
Though I feel I only just started, I must appreciate the five weeks I spent on rotation at AACP.  I have been privileged to work with my preceptor, Dr. Jennifer Adams, on a daily basis.  I wanted the final portion of this reflection to include my thanks for the time she spent teaching me and motivating me to learn.  Rudimentary exchanges never occurred when I arrived for meetings with Dr. Adams.  Enthusiastic conversations developed as the norm of our dynamic during meetings, and I always walked away having learned something new.  Additionally, I was impressed with her ability to understand what topics I needed more information about and her ability to focus our conversations toward improving my understanding of how AACP operates.  She is the first person to encourage me to be more self-aware of the deeper meaning behind a given event or topic.  For example, while helping me understand how to write reflective essays, she spent a large portion of her time reading my drafts, providing feedback, and motivating me to consider the implications of what “speech making” or “fiduciary responsibility” or “strategic planning” could have on pharmacy and my own career.  I realize now that I learned how to liberate my restrictive way of viewing the world by becoming a more self-aware student.  She taught me about leadership by representing her ability to accomplish tasks, and she created a schedule for me that was filled with locations and events that I never would have been able to experience had she not opened those doors for me.  I leave this rotation with sincere gratitude, which ultimately is an emotion that forces me to focus on what I have versus what I do not have, and what I have is an immense appreciation for academic pharmacy, a group of people I can now call friends at AACP, a preceptor who guided me to analyze the complex implications of learned information by using self-reflection techniques, and memories from this experience that I will look back on with a smile as I move forward into the next phase of my educational journey.



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