At the American Pharmacists Association Annual Meeting & Exposition (APhA2023) General Session on Saturday, March 25, Ilsa Bernstein, interim CEO, stepped on stage to an energized audience. “This meeting has always been the place where I come to recharge my battery,” she proclaimed, adding, “I hope that you all get a chance to recharge your batteries while you’re here too.”

This year’s meeting theme was “Rise! Advancing in the Face of Adversity.” The event’s goal was to address challenges and offer solutions to positively shape the future of pharmacy together.

Dr. Bernstein emphasized, “Over the past year, our pharmacists have been vital as we transition away from the public health emergency and step into new roles as medication experts and patient care providers.”

Emcee Nimit Jindal, PharmD, thanked everyone for attending, proclaiming, “While there is still a long road ahead, our profession is better today because of each one of you in the room. From those of you in direct patient care roles, to those who are more about traditional settings, to students and new practitioners, to our more seasoned members, each of you are essential to the foundation of our profession.”

Dr. Jindal noted that one of the most important things to do at the meeting was to learn from people around you, to attend sessions, and reengage with people. Attendees at the Opening Session were asked to participate in a brief phone survey. One of the poll questions asked, “What are some of the challenges that you might be facing this year?” Some of the audience’s responses were:

• Work/life balance
• Navigating residency
• Avoiding burnout
• Living expenses
• Pharmacy benefit managers
• Hiring technicians/understaffing
• Drug shortages
• Imposter syndrome
• Stress.

With deep compassion, he said, “I hope as you’re going through this and as you’re seeing some of the responses from your colleagues, you’re noticing that you’re not alone experiencing these challenges…I hope that seeing these responses on our screens, that there is a community of people that we know that we’re not alone in those experiences.”

“Despite these challenges,” he added, “it’s important to take a moment to remind ourselves of all the incredible things that we’ve done as a profession and the ways that we’ve contributed to the health of our communities.” As an example of that contribution, he noted, “The data show that in 2020 and 2021, pharmacists administered more COVID-19 immunizations than physicians did. More than 300 millions doses of the COVID vaccine have been given through pharmacies. People everywhere are looking to pharmacists to keep them healthy.”

The 167th President of APhA, Theresa Tolle, PharmD, was introduced by Dr. Bernstein, who stated, “Theresa’s passion for the profession of pharmacy has helped to crystalize the need for pharmacists to be recognized as providers.”

Dr. Tolle emphasized, “Today is the day, and we need to acknowledge and embrace the treasures we have within our pharmacy teams. Our value to patient care and health outcomes must be recognized and appropriately compensated, like other healthcare team members.” Speaking about the COVID-19 vaccines that pharmacies administered to patients, she added, “The study found—using conservative estimates—pharmacy teams averted millions of deaths, billions in healthcare costs, and impacted our nation’s health and well-being.”

The special keynote this year was Inky Johnson. As a rising college football star in his junior year of college, he sustained a life-threatening, career-ending injury. Since that day, he had a burning desire to use his situation and experiences to add value to people’s lives. Mr. Johnson emphasized to the attendees that “gratitude in advance is the most powerful and creative force on the face of this planet.” He then expressed his own thankfulness, saying, “From the bottom of my heart, I just want to say thank you for what you do, for what you’ve been through, and say thank you for continuing to persevere in the midst of what you’ve encountered.”

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