In a general session of the recent American Pharmacists Association (APhA) 2022 Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Antonio, Texas, 2021-2022 APhA President Sandra Leal, PharmD, MPH, FAPhA, CDCES, described the current pharmacy climate, characterized by challenges posed by staff shortages, legislative efforts to achieve and refine provider status, and ensuring that marginalized populations have access to healthcare.
"As the child of an immigrant parent," she began, "my entire life reminds me of all that is possible in pharmacy despite incredible challenges." She observed, "Our teams are stressed and stretched. Workforce shortages exist across the country and across all practice settings. We are dealing with a crisis where APhA's work and its advocacy efforts can seem insufficiently responsive to the demands of pharmacy practice. Patients may aggressively challenge you and your team's professional judgement, and vaccine misinformation and disinformation fuels distrust, and keeping up with rapidly evolving guidelines can be very difficult. Yet, we remain committed to serving our patients and communities. APhA has heard you and is listening to you."
Despite the myriad challenges before pharmacy, Dr. Leal said, "It is time that we double down to listen, to see, to act, and especially to have heart. Advocacy never stops; there is always work to do to make things better. And your teams have gone above and beyond no matter what practice setting you are in.
"We have an opportunity now to advance our envisioned role, and APhA is leading the way. Being a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves has and continues to be my passion. We lost too many voices and have seen too many in our community fall further behind."
Maintaining the momentum spurred by the pandemic, Dr. Leal said, is critical. "Our knowledge, skills, innovation, commitment, and access are being utilized during the pandemic. But will this be sustained when the current crisis ends?"
There is ample reason, she added, for hoping that the federal government has absorbed the message. "The federal government has opened its eyes to what pharmacists can contribute and that they can count on us. However, they cannot take this for granted. We need permanent authority and sustainability for the service that we provide. Our value must be recognized and protected so that we are allowed to grow."
Dr. Leal stressed that she has always been a champion for the underserved, remarking, "Effective delivery of healthcare is local, and we must ensure equitable and reasonable access because we are part of the public health infrastructure. In many communities, pharmacy is where health care begins. That is why it is so critical for us to articulate the importance of policies that support the sustainability and reach of community-based providers. There will be another pandemic. Will our patients," she asked, "have access to our services then?"
She pointed out that pharmacist leaders have taken on the role of advocate, talking to decision makers about the urgent need for federal provider status recognition and pharmacist payment reform. Specifically, through the Future of Pharmacy Coalition, she observed, the profession is focused on obtaining its desired future through a bill to be introduced in Congress.
"This is our moment," Dr. Leal said. "We do not need to prove our value anymore."
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Published March 29, 2022