My favorite season of the year is definitely spring. I used to get a bit depressed if on February 2nd the news reported that the groundhog saw his shadow. As I grew wiser (and time flew faster), I realized that no matter what happened that day, the first official day of spring was truly six weeks away. That said, in my garden beginning as early as January the first signs of spring begin arriving in the form of green shoots that will soon be daffodils, hyacinths and tulips in glorious colors of a new season. The days get a little longer…I’ll make it out of winter yet again!
As we reach the end of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m looking for the “signs of spring” in our profession and in our lives. No one has escaped the challenges of the last 24 months. Lockdowns that have interrupted both our personal and professional lives; the stark realities of the inequities in our communities laid bare how some groups are disproportionately the most vulnerable to the morbidity and mortality of the virus; and the difficulties of maintaining our professional responsibilities while ensuring that our school-age children are safe and able to progress in their education while perhaps also taking care of our own elderly parents or other relatives. This list could go on but I’m reciting the too well-known realities of these times.
Emerging from the pandemic presents the pharmacy profession with some choices that our leaders must work together to address. This issue of Academic Pharmacy Now highlights the reality that the pandemic has accelerated the closure of pharmacies in vulnerable communities, compounding the lack of healthcare resources in inner cities and rural communities. This is a crisis that can’t be ignored. Pharmacists and pharmacies have filled holes in the fabric of the public health architecture across the U.S. throughout the pandemic, administering more than 200,000,000 doses of COVID vaccines and countless tests. These access points remained open when so many other health facilities either closed or were unavailable. Deliberate attention to strategies to reverse this trend must be a top priority if we are to continue promoting pharmacists and pharmacies as the most accessible healthcare asset.
Our leaders must also confront the reality that our workforce is spent. No matter the setting in which our brothers and sisters in the pharmacy workforce are practicing, they are worn out, burned out and ready in many cases to say, “I’m done!” Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are not unique in this reality. Serving on the Steering Committee of the National Academy of Medicine Clinician Well-being Collaborative, I am acutely aware that this is true across the healing professions. Despair, moral injury and frustrations with employers permeate the health workforce. This too must be a priority for AACP and our colleagues in state and national pharmacy associations.
I am inspired by the priorities articulated in the AACP strategic plan approved by the House of Delegates in July 2021. At the top of the list is working to accelerate pharmacy practice transformation with the establishment of the AACP Transformation Center at the heart of this commitment. Please take time to read this article and engage with AACP as we prioritize where the Association and our members can add the greatest value in securing the gains realized in the pandemic in terms of our expanding scope of practice and the recognition by the public and policymakers that pharmacists represent solutions to addressing vulnerabilities in our health delivery systems. AACP can’t do this alone, but by supporting and expanding the work of our member faculty and institutions and partnering with other organizations both inside and outside of pharmacy, we can make a difference. Addressing academic innovation, the imperative of health equity and racial justice, and reversing the downward trends in well-being and resilience are also top priorities for the immediate and longer term for pharmacy education.
Let’s celebrate the arrival of spring TOGETHER again at our meetings, commencement celebrations and other uplifting events. We have important work to do together, but as my friend and colleague Rebecca Snead, CEO of the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, quotes, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together!” Together we can.
Lucinda L. Maine, Ph.D., R.Ph.
CEO and Publisher