Ziegler served as staff liaison for the leadership pipeline development task force and can feel the genesis of the DEIA committee in its deliberations. In late 2019, AACP created the committee to carry on the diversity, equity and inclusion work. The murder of George Floyd in 2020 elevated the conversation and reignited the movement for racial justice. Senior staff knew they needed to expand the committee and add anti-racism to its title. “Racism has led to so many disparities and inequities in healthcare. AACP felt it was important to shine a light on the racial component,” said Terri Moore, AACP senior director of academic services.
The DEIA committee expanded with members and purpose. It was designed with three pillars, one for staff (including the board and leadership), another for members and affinity groups, the third focusing on external partners and stakeholders. Committee members pondered, ‘Why does this committee exist? What do we plan to do?’ and crafted a charter, affirming that the DEIA committee aims to provide guidance and recommendations for actions to achieve AACP’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals and needs. “We wanted to show we have more than good intentions,” Moore said. “We wanted to say, ‘We are going to put together a plan, we are going to get things moving, we are going to do things.’ This isn’t just another statement of our intent, it’s how we are going to generate action.”
The committee, made up of mainly staff, recognized that they were not necessarily subject matter experts but knew that they had access to members with expertise who were doing this work and could provide counsel. So, the committee decided to create a DEIA advisory panel that would comprise experts who could lend guidance and strategy for action.
The committee put out a call to members earlier this year to gauge their interest in joining the panel. “Close to 40 people responded and we said, ‘We are going to take them all,’” said Moore, who leads the member pillar of the DEIA committee. “How can we exclude anyone when this is about inclusion? Anyone who is interested and has experience can be on this panel. If someone raises their hand and says, ‘I want to be included on this panel,’ then welcome.”
Different institutions are at different levels on the DEIA continuum. Moore believes that’s the brilliance of the panel: it creates a place where members can share ideas and information, learn what is happening elsewhere, be inspired and implement like-minded actions at their home institutions. The panel was not designed to run like other committees. It is meant to be less structured, it does not have a chair and it does not have to meet every month. Rather, as Moore said, “As we figure out what we need, we want to have a group of members to advise us as we trek this journey together.”
Diminish Disparity by Promoting Diversity
Schools want to know what’s going on at other schools. That’s what makes the advisory panel so influential. “Our panel members are our boots on the ground to help us understand what the DEIA needs are, to share the challenges and successes with us, so we can help exchange that information,” Moore said. AACP has launched a DEIA page on its website. The panel will add content and share resources there. Topics, strategies and school endeavors will be featured.
AACP has also established a DEIA Connect Community, where members can pose questions and share suggestions. The DEIA panel will plant topics and questions to get the conversation started, then let the members take it away. The beauty of a Connect Community is that it’s driven by those who are part of that community. “Again, under the goal of inclusivity, this Connect Community will be open to any members who want to join,” Moore said. “We are not excluding anybody. It’s just going to be one of those communities that has a lot of people in it, but hey, tell me what’s wrong with that? It’s all for the better.”
AACP’s strategic plan has been evolving in tandem with the thinking of the DEIA committee. Initially, the strategic planning committee did not list DEIA as its own priority, instead weaving it throughout all priorities. But when they started vetting the draft out to members for feedback, “We heard loud and clear, DEIA warrants its own space. It needs to stand alone because it is a priority,” Moore said.
The plan now names leading DEIA efforts as a priority to help diminish health disparities and promote health equity. One goal focuses on strengthening the pipeline to cultivate learners from more diverse backgrounds, which will improve cultural competency and patient care outcomes. Cultivating and supporting a more diverse faculty is another goal, to reflect and support more diverse learner and patient populations.
AACP also wants to provide DEIA professional development activities for all its stakeholders, continuing the EDI Institute and featuring DEIA topics at all meetings. And the association will advocate for all pharmacy schools to integrate DEIA topics into curricula. “If we are striving to accomplish health equity for all, our pharmacists need to understand the people they are serving, the communities they are serving,” Moore said. “This is where the advisory panel gets really exciting because there are schools that are doing some very innovative and creative things in their communities, helping to prepare student pharmacists as graduates to best serve all communities. As we share these ideas and opportunities with more schools, who knows where the ripples of that might flow.”
The fifth goal focuses on expanding research and external collaborations, which aligns with the third pillar of the DEIA committee. AACP recently became a partner organization collaborating on a demonstration project that looks at health disparities made by dubious policies. The project, “Eliminating Generational Racial Health Disparities,” funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through its Office of Minority Health, intends to identify and evaluate policies that may perpetuate health disparities through structural racism. Dr. Richard Braylock, principal and COO of BHK Consulting, a unity, equity and justice consulting firm, will serve as projector director. AACP will examine policies that create barriers to supplying a capable pharmacy workforce ready to address the unmet needs of communities where health disparities prevail; policies surrounding federal student financial aid; the lack of scholarship and loan repayment programs; and the content of pharmacy curriculum and continuing professional development programs.
“This is a big step in the right direction. I mean just to have the Office of Minority Health put this out there and for AACP to be part of this conversation and do some of the work, it’s huge,” Moore said. “We are positioning ourselves to find funding to take on more of these projects and we are going to need our member institutions, we are going to need our advisory panel. This is exactly what we need to be doing not only to move our own DEIA efforts forward but to achieve health equity and dispel health disparities.”
A Collaborative Effort
On the staff side, AACP has joined CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, a CEO-driven initiative to advance DEIA efforts in the workplace. The group has served as a resource, giving AACP many topics, tools and workshops, such as a model for an April Day of Understanding, which AACP led with its staff. The day started with a series of kickoff discussions surrounding unconscious bias. Then staff broke off into smaller groups, giving individuals a more intimate space to share stories. “The real goal of that day, as its name states, was to think about how we understand DEIA-related concepts and how does that help us to better understand others who may be different than we are? That’s what diversity is all about,” Moore said. “The day was rich in terms of conversation, staff was engaged and now we can recommend this day to members as something they may want to do at their own institutions.”