Mitchel C. Rothholz, BPharm, MBA
How did your 28 years at APhA prepare you to lead the APhA Foundation?
For almost 40 years I have been blessed with opportunities to advocate for and support practice transformation and recognition for pharmacists and their teams in the delivery of quality patient care and public health roles. As a student, my engagement within APhA sparked a drive to make a difference for patients, community and the profession. My mentors throughout my career supported my work and provided opportunities to contribute. My successes were possible through the support and collaboration of team members and the APhA members for whom I was working. But it wasn’t just my work within the profession that shaped me into the association executive that I became. My public health passion and drive for pharmacists’ value within the healthcare team allowed me to collaborate with colleagues across the health professions, many of whom are personal friends today. Supporting pharmacy teams, collaboration across the profession and health care teams, and a strong belief that the APhA Foundation’s work demonstrates pharmacists’ value positioned me to lead the APhA Foundation and work with its dedicated staff and volunteers.
When first taking the reins of the APhA Foundation, what did you perceive as its greatest strength? Now having steered it through the COVID-19 pandemic, what did you discover was its greatest strength? Same or different?
I have always been a supporter of the APhA Foundation, even before becoming an APhA staff member, as I viewed the Foundation’s work supporting advancement of pharmacists’ patient care role. As a state pharmacy association executive, I utilized the Foundation’s work to advocate for recognition of pharmacists’ value. Decision-makers seek evidence within peer-reviewed journals in making decisions and the APhA Foundation provided the proof that aligned incentives and processes engaging pharmacists will result in positive outcomes. Without these publications, I am not sure we would have advanced opportunities for pharmacist engagement.
The Foundation supports the professional development of students and practitioners through scholarships, grants, programs and resources. Leadership development and mentorship are areas of interest for the Foundation, as well as demonstrating the many ways pharmacists are making a difference to the health of their communities. The Foundation is a supporting organization of APhA, providing examples, documentation and resources that support practice transformation and recognition.
What were some of the challenges?
The Foundation’s ability to achieve its mission is dependent on the financial and engagement support of individuals and corporate support. The demand for student scholarships has increased over the past several years, with demand greater than available resources. Additionally, the Foundation is striving to take its patient care projects beyond demonstration to full implementation, requiring the support of individual practices and payers. A network has been established to facilitate this work and practitioners are encouraged to join the network to be included in current and new opportunities identified by the Foundation.
In 2007, you initiated the immunizations incentive grant fund at the APhA Foundation. Please expound on this.
The immunization incentive grant funds were established to support the education, networking and practice demonstration work of the Foundation and its contributors. This has been particularly important as we strive to attain routine engagement of pharmacists during and post-COVID. The immunization fund has supported forums for pharmacists, public health, decision-makers, and other healthcare practitioners to advance the work of immunization neighborhoods. In addition, the fund ensures continuity of the availability of incentive grants to advance the role of pharmacists and student pharmacists with immunizations and improving public health.
As executive director of the Foundation, you initiated two major campaigns: The COVID-19 Heroes Campaign, and the Women In Pharmacy Recognition Campaign - The Next 10. What about these areas were important for you to highlight in advancing the goals of the Foundation?
COVID-19 provided an opportunity for the profession to demonstrate once again the value that we provide to the health of our communities. It also provided an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of the immunization neighborhood where pharmacy teams, nurse practitioners, nurses, physicians, public health and other medical and non-medical professionals came together to meet the needs of their communities. Pharmacists across the spectrum sacrificed their own safety and their family’s safety to care for individuals. Those pharmacy teams earned and deserved worldwide recognition for their contributions and APhA, and the APhA Foundation, wanted to use our positioning on our nation’s mall to say, “thank you.” Pharmacy teams ran into the pandemic war, not knowing what lied ahead, and learned along the way. There should be no doubt anymore that pharmacists are and need to be recognized and valued health care providers within our communities. We have recognized pharmacists who served in previous wars, and the pandemic war is no different. Thank you to all that made and are making a difference. This is what the campaign is all about.
Mentorship and leadership are important for the lifeblood of any profession and its organizations. The development and support of students and practitioners through networking, education and resources is what the APhA Foundation’s Women in Pharmacy Program is all about. Honoring the pioneers, learning from their examples and fostering continuing development is why I strongly supported this initiative. It has been 10 years since the Women in Pharmacy Conference Room was dedicated at APhA Headquarters. COVID provided new ways for us to connect but also has given us a chance to reflect and focus on making a difference internally and externally. I am excited to see the level of engagement and applaud the staff and volunteers working on this initiative.
What was one of your most rewarding and/or memorable experiences while working at the APhA Foundation?
I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with a dedicated staff team and volunteers who share a common mission and vision. We also have contributors who share this as well and have graciously given financially and with their time – and this is growing. Our ability to increase the level of scholarships and incentive grants, and utilize these and our demonstration projects to provide, as Ben Bluml has coined, “Edvocacy” has optimized the Foundation’s supporting role for the APhA enterprise and profession. I am glad to have had a role in this process.
Where would you like to see the Foundation in the next few years?
I see the Foundation continuing to grow its impact and reach as it connects with practitioners and facilitates “paying forward.” The Foundation’s strategic plan remains intact and the staff and volunteer leaders are focused on its implementation. I hope individuals and corporations will find ways to connect with the Foundation and advance its philanthropic, scholarship and programmatic activities.