APhA2019: Celebrating the Past and Envisioning the Future

Monday, April 15, 2019

Marsha K. Millonig, MBA, BPharm

Returning from The American Pharmacists Association’s (APhA) recent Annual Meeting & Exposition in Seattle, WA, I feel invigorated and excited about what is happening in our national professional society!

This event is my “go-to” place for networking with my colleagues, and I’m proud to say this was my 36th APhA annual meeting. This year also served as a celebration of the accomplishments of student pharmacists during the course of the organization’s history. As a former national officer, it was wonderful to see the historical displays throughout the meeting venue.

I was joined at APhA2019, held March 22-25, by nearly 6,000 pharmacists and student pharmacists. Themed “Moving Pharmacy Forward,” the meeting highlighted the pharmacist’s role in addressing public health concerns and promoted personal and professional well-being while continuing to prioritize patient care services.

The Resiliency of Pharmacists

Resiliency was front and center as a theme of the general sessions. Keynote speaker Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE, of the Resiliency Group, cited the growing body of evidence on the increased level of stress and burnout among pharmacists and student pharmacists. She discussed how to create a healthy work-life balance by improving resiliency. “Resilience is all about energy management,” she said. “Do you have the mental, emotional, and physical hardiness to keep on keeping on? And how we get energy is through the connections that we make.”

McDargh’s message aligned with APhA’s major, new initiative to promote the well-being of pharmacists and pharmacy personnel.

APhA has created dedicated resources to this new initiative. At its website, www.pharmacist.com, the organization notes: “Every sector of pharmacy is stressed and doing more with less. As the leading organization caring about pharmacists and pharmacy personnel in all practice settings, we are committed to addressing the well-being and resiliency of pharmacists, student pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, pharmaceutical scientists and, ultimately, patients.”

I will be following developments and providing updates as the initiative progresses.

First Responders and New Leaders

Participants were talking a lot about the Opening General Session keynote speaker Kevin Briggs, a retired sergeant with the California Highway Patrol who spent more than 23 years working with individuals contemplating suicide. In helping to meet the needs of those struggling with thoughts of suicide, “pharmacists are first responders,” he said. “You have direct contact with people, and you know somewhat what’s going on with them. Ask that question. Establish that rapport. It takes courage, but you could help someone in their darkest time.”

Briggs shared warning signs pharmacists should be aware of and provided tips on having discussions with individuals who may need help. Briggs is the founder of Pivotal Points, an organization focused on raising awareness about mental health, reducing the associated stigma, and providing education on crisis management and suicide prevention.

An emotional high point of APhA2019 was a leadership change announcement at the opening session from my good friend and colleague, APhA CEO Tom Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD.

“My flight path as your CEO is on course for a successful landing in 2020,” Menighan said as he announced his retirement upon the completion of his contract in mid-2020.  “I love this organization. I’m committed to helping find the most excellent and outstanding new leader.”

He added, “I live my life with gratitude and in service of this profession. It’s been an honor and privilege to work with our amazing staff and for you.” His remarks were met with a standing ovation.  

The search for Menighan’s successor will begin in April 2019, and there was some good hallway talk about possibilities.

Another important highlight was celebrating the presentation of profession’s highest honor, the 2019 Remington Honor Medal, to Lucinda L. Maine, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, another close friend and colleague from my student pharmacist days. Her Remington address, titled “Richly Blessed or Simply Lucky,” was an inspiring reminder of seizing opportunities to move things forward.  

Putting a Face on the Provider

APhA President Nicki Hilliard went into more detail about APhA’s aforementioned, new Well-being Initiative, highlighting its transformational activities, including the soon-to-be-released new membership models and member engagement opportunities. She also outlined the progress being made at the federal and state levels regarding provider status and APhA’s collaboration with other pharmacy organizations to address issues impacting pharmacists’ ability to provide patient care and remain viable providers of care. 

At the conference, APhA also announced the national launch of Pharmacy Profiles, a subsidiary of APhA, that serves as the trusted and verified repository of the nation’s pharmacist providers. The platform, developed in collaboration with NABP and ACPE and in coordination with AACP, NASPA, and other partners, enables pharmacists to securely manage all their professional information in one place. It also supports pharmacists in provider recognition and network engagement opportunities. This platform is going to be critical as the profession seeks provider status opportunities at the state and federal level.

In that vein, APhA President-elect Brad Tice, PharmD, MBA, FAPhA, encouraged members to use their stories to advance the profession. “Put the pharmacist and patient face on these stories,” he said. “They are real and powerful — do not hold back from sharing them. Make people see and feel the impact you make when given the opportunity.”

Tice went on to say, “My presidency goal is that we make our collective story not just a book but a bestseller. People may be convinced by facts and figures, but they remember stories first and forever.”

As noted earlier, 2019 marks the APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists’ (APhA-ASP) 50th Anniversary. APhA2019 honored the milestones and the impact student pharmacists and leaders have had on the profession throughout the years. The origins of APhA-ASP began in the spring of 1969 at the APhA Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada. Students from 53 APhA student chapters ratified bylaws and created the Student American Pharmaceutical Association, which was known as SAPhA in the 1970s and as Student APhA in the 1980s before evolving into what the organization is known as today.

Finally, the APhA House of Delegates (boasting almost 400 members) adopted policy related to the following issues:

  • Consolidation within Healthcare
  • Pharmacists’ Role on Mental Health and Emotional Well-being
  • Referral Systems for the Pharmacy Profession
  • Gluten Content and the Labeling of Medication
  • Unit-of-Use Packaging
  • Creating Safe Work and Learning Environments for Student Pharmacists, Pharmacists, and Pharmacy Technicians
  • Pharmacist and Pharmacy Personnel Safety and Well-Being
  • Qualification Standards of Pharmacists
  • Collaborative Practice Agreements
  • Expanding Technician Roles
  • Patient-Centered Care of People Who Inject Drugs (PWID)

Speaker of the House Michael Hogue did a masterful job of leading delegates through their policy deliberations, and it was a pleasure to watch.

I’ll keep you posted on further developments on APhA’s initiatives and leadership in the months ahead. In the meantime, mark your calendars for APhA2020 to be held March 20-23, 2020, at National Harbor in Washington, DC.

Marsha K. Millonig, MBA, BPharm, is president and CEO of Catalyst Enterprises, LLC, and an Associate Fellow at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy’s Center for Leading Healthcare Change.

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