More than 6,000 attendees at The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting & Exposition—held March 16–19 in Nashville—heard over 100 educational presentations, from developments related to pending provider-status legislation to enhancing patient care and health outcomes. Echoing the meeting’s overarching theme, “Leading Our Communities in Patient Care,” a number of sessions called for attendees to unite around a compelling cause and champion positive growth within their profession and in their own communities.

Reinforcing this theme during the Opening General Session on Saturday, March 17, APhA President Nancy Alvarez applauded attendees who have implemented her presidential charge to show how pharmacists care about their patients and communities, often displaying leadership in the turmoil of natural disasters and a record-breaking flu season.

“Last year, I said we needed to connect, show how much we care, treat the patients and not the number, and be players,” she reflected.  “And I am glad to see that my call to action is alive and well and represented in this room.”

Pointing to the current challenge before pharmacists and other healthcare providers in the wake of the opioid epidemic, she said, “More than ever, pharmacists are needed in their communities to help patients understand the risks and benefits of all medications used to treat pain. We have consistently supported and collaborated in efforts to address our nation’s opioid challenge and the legitimate needs of patients with pain.” Through APhA’s Pain Institute, she added, pharmacists are learning about available pain management options as part of a holistic, team-based approach to patients with pain.

Dr. Alvarez also updated attendees on the current status of the organization’s legislative efforts in provider status. “We started 2018 in a strong position on our federal provider status legislation, with support from a majority of both houses. While we have the votes to move the legislation, timing is everything, and things move at a slow and frustrating pace” she acknowledged, urging attendees to keep sending strong messages to their congressional representatives “so that when it does move, there is overwhelming support. Throughout these political twists and turns, we have maintained our focus on this legislation and on doing what is right for our patients and the communities we serve. Don’t stop your efforts. “

Pharmacists, she said, are closer than ever to achieving provider status recognition under Medicare, and are seeing expanded pharmacists’ roles in immunization, chronic disease management, pain management, and mitigating the harms of opioid misuse and abuse.

Further reinforcing the leadership theme, Dr. Alvarez detailed how the APhA Leadership 360 Institute, a constellation of programs designed to develop leaders no matter where they are on the leadership, career, or life spectrums affords pharmacists “opportunities to envision and achieve greater self-awareness and conscious choice.”

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