Nonfoods Forum: The future of pharmacy

Today’s pharmacist is the face of neighborhood health care, highlighting the importance of training and professional development.

By Steven C. Anderson

The pharmacist is the face of neighborhood health care for consumers looking to fill a prescription, get a flu shot or seek advice on an over-the-counter product. But the care that the individual pharmacist provides in that store was made possible by the education he or she received in one of the 119 colleges or schools of pharmacy across the country.

Pharmacy students, and the faculty who guide them, play a vital role in the future of the pharmacy profession and industry. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and the NACDS Foundation are pleased to partner with pharmacy schools nationwide to help develop future pharmacy caregivers.

One of the most important ways that the NACDS Foundation assists pharmacy students is by rewarding their hard work with resources to continue their pharmacy education. The NACDS Foundation provides scholarships for pharmacy students and supports pharmacy education programs that help future pharmacists provide high-quality patient care. Through the Pharmacy Student Scholarship program, the NACDS Foundation recognizes pharmacy students who have a strong interest in providing patient care in the community pharmacy setting.

The NACDS Foundation also partners with individual pharmacy schools on programs that help educate future pharmacists. For example, Drake University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences was awarded $20,000 by the NACDS Foundation for the “Internship Program Partnering Pharmacy Students with Community Pharmacy Entrepreneurs.”  During the summer, the program places pharmacy students in internships with community pharmacy leaders dedicated to developing future pharmacy caregivers, new service models or engaging in innovation.

Mentoring programs are another way that the NACDS Foundation engages and cultivates pharmacy students. Working collaboratively with the American Pharmacists Association, the NACDS Foundation created the Community Pharmacist Preceptor Education Program, preparing pharmacists to effectively mentor pharmacy students in a real-world environment. The preceptor assists students in achieving their educational requirements and also developing activities to help students as they continue their study of the pharmacy profession. Since its inception in 2007, over 7,700 pharmacists have successfully completed the accredited program.

In addition to fostering educational opportunities for students, the NACDS Foundation recognizes the dedication and commitment of the nation’s pharmacy school faculty in their efforts to cultivate future pharmacists. Annually, the NACDS Foundation bestows the Community Pharmacy Faculty Award, originally supported by Wyeth, which is now Pfizer Inc. which recognizes a pharmacy school faculty member who has made significant contributions to the practice of community pharmacy through innovations in patient care.

Separate from the charitable efforts of the NACDS Foundation, NACDS is committed to engaging pharmacy students to help them become advocates for pro-patient, pro-pharmacy public policy, in the hope that they remain active in government advocacy throughout their pharmacy careers.

The NACDS RxIMPACT grassroots advocacy program was instituted two years ago to engage pharmacists and pharmacy advocates to educate lawmakers on the importance of pharmacy in the health care system, and to give a face and voice to the issues affecting the industry. Pharmacy students are a rising force in this program and NACDS developed an educational program to guide these professionals on how to work with lawmakers.

The RxIMPACT Legislative Advocacy Academy provides training for student pharmacists to effectively advocate on behalf of pharmacy. The Academy prepares students to walk confidently into meetings with lawmakers equipped with information on a variety of issues.

This past March, 51 students from 16 schools of pharmacy participated in the 2nd Annual NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill event, a 700% attendance increase from the 2009 event. Overall, the event resulted in over 220 in-person meetings on Capitol Hill, and we were proud that students joined our pharmacists in “white coats” as they walked the halls of Congress.

There is a tremendous amount of training, professionalism, experience and expertise that brings truth to the bold statement that pharmacies are the face of neighborhood health care. It is a pleasure to work so closely with the colleges and schools of pharmacy that help to write this powerful story every day.

Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, is president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and chairman of the NACDS Foundation.

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