Pharmacists! Called to Serve and Lead.
By Cynthia J. Boyle and Raymond C. Love
As we considered where to direct personal philanthropy contributions, the APhA Foundation COVID-19 Heroes campaign concept was uniquely aligned with our experiences and vision. Never before has our profession of pharmacy been so unified to respond to a public health emergency. Have you ever seen pharmacists more prominently featured nationwide to meet the needs of their patients, students, colleagues, and communities than for COVID-19? They were called to serve and lead, and they did.
As long-time pharmacists, we have renewed perspective for the growth of our beloved profession. We served on a bioterrorism response committee for the Maryland Board of Pharmacy after Sept. 11, 2001 to train and mobilize pharmacists for emergency preparedness. We advocated with our legislators initially for the influenza vaccine administration within the pharmacists’ scope of practice, and we received expert testimony from APhA to aid our efforts. Soon we went back for other vaccines. We will never take for granted the value of pharmacists’ immunizations, and we take pride in standard of practice that now exists.
As educators, we promoted the APhA Pharmacy-Based Immunization certificate program, and after train the trainer certification, we taught pharmacists and student pharmacists to provide immunizations. It was an honor to promote emergency preparedness in other professions, and now we can mobilize.
COVID-19 stopped the world….but not education and not health care. The media covered the tractor trailers leaving the Pfizer plant with those first doses of vaccines for public distribution. People did not understand the supply chain need for safe distribution, but pharmacists did. They ordered freezers and recommended ways to withdraw every precious drop from vaccine vials. They adapted their practices, workflow, safety precautions, and documentation systems for new demands. Pharmacists and student pharmacists went on the road where the need was greatest.
Pharmacists also worked with and within FDA, CDC, USP and even the World Health Organization to meet the challenges of the pandemic. They worked with state and local health departments to develop systems for storage, distribution, traffic flow and documentation as well as administration of vaccine. In our health care institutions, they set up systems to not only immunize their patients and public, but their colleagues.
And, it wasn’t just about vaccines; Pharmacists developed protocols and systems for antibody treatments. They embraced testing for COVID-19. They helped set up field hospitals and researched ancillary treatments. They debunked the misinformation regarding the many unproven treatments promoted through social media. They worked to preserve scarce inventories of medication and supplies for patients who truly needed them. They stood out as trusted sources of information and served as voices of reason.
We are so proud to recognize and honor all pharmacy personnel for all their efforts. Pharmacists weren’t just on the frontlines; when the public health and wellbeing were threatened, pharmacists maintained the supply lines, developed the strategies, executed the tactics, and led the charge! Take a moment for pride and gratitude.
As the new plaque on the APhA terrace states, “thank you for saving the world.”
Pictured below: Cynthia and Ray's stone paver engraved through the COVID-19 Heroes Campaign and the new dedication plaque at APhA Headquarters.