As I muse over the nearly 50 years since I dedicated my professional energy to pharmacy, I am at once struck by the magnitude of the change that has occurred across those years and the pace. The magnitude is indisputably enormous, yet the pace has not been what I and many others have sought. Some examples: Shortly before I entered the Auburn pharmacy program as a pre-pharmacy freshman, Act 205 of the Alabama Pharmacy Practice statute said that a pharmacist was not to put the name of the product on the prescription label. Further, communication courses across the country prepared students to respond to questions about medications with, “This is best discussed with your doctor.” The APhA Code of Ethics for Pharmacists reinforced these outrageous positions until it was updated in 1969 to reflect that pharmacists had the responsibility to share their knowledge (ok, so the Code said “his knowledge”) with their patients.
Consider how much has changed across the decades with the introduction of a vast array of patient care services delivered by pharmacists across every setting where pharmacists practice. If pharmacists had not embraced the need for and opportunity to become active vaccinators throughout the 1990s, our nation would not have achieved the COVID-19 vaccine penetration that it has (though there is still a very long way to go before we reach our necessary coverage, including adolescent and childhood vaccines as well as boosters for all). It has been estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of all COVID-19 vaccines were administered by pharmacists, student pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. You are my heroes!
Despite the evidence of our progress and its impact on individual patients and populations, the pace has in many respects been glacial. Despite significant attention—especially in the last 10 years—on the value of interprofessional education to equip graduates to provide team-based care, teams remain elusive in many patient care settings. Interoperability to exchange critically important patient data and recommendations between clinicians and with patients is not robust in and across most settings. We aren’t compensated in most cases for the value-producing contributions pharmacists make every day. And political opposition to pharmacists and other health professionals working at the top of their education and licenses is still too evident. The APhA House of Delegates took a loud and clear stand at the March Annual Meeting, saying that “enough is enough” and calling on the American Medical Association and other organizations to simply wake up and become supportive of the fact that pharmacists play critically important roles in making medication use safer and outcomes of care better.
There is much work to be done, and this issue of Academic Pharmacy Now focuses on the ultra-marathon in which we are running to address long ignored challenges in achieving diversity, equity and belonging in the delivery of care to the communities that pharmacists serve, and doing so with cultural sensitivity and humility. AACP’s leaders, members and staff are poised and committed to doing our best to accelerate progress on several fronts that are not isolated from each other but instead strategically interconnected: accelerating the transformation evident in the 50 stories from 50 states ACT Pharmacy Collaborative; keeping academic innovation in the forefront; increasing our work in DEIA; and working to achieve well-being for all. It is a tall order, but with Lee Vermeulen, an exciting and visionary new executive leader, assuming his role as our 7th EVP and CEO on July 1, AACP has the components needed to be an agent of change in partnership with all of our members and external partners. Fasten your seat belts. The pace is picking up!
Lucinda L. Maine, Ph.D., R.Ph.
CEO and Publisher