Both Tom Menighan and Kelli Jo Welter agree that the future of pharmacy looks bright.
By Tom English
Following APhA2019, Kelli Jo Welter will assume the role of APhA–ASP President, and thus will have a front row seat as APhA–ASP’s 50th anniversary celebration rolls on beyond Seattle. Along for the ride—and beaming with pride—will be APhA Executive Vice President & CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon).
During the January APhA–ASP National Executive Committee Business Meeting, with the anticipation of both the 2018–19 APhA–ASP Regional Officers and a weekend snowstorm arriving in Washington, DC, Student Pharmacist sat down with Tom and Kelli Jo for a look at pharmacy’s past, present, and future, and thoughts on APhA–ASP’s big milestone.
SPM: What comes to mind when you reflect upon APhA–ASP’s 50th anniverssary?
Tom Menighan (TM): Such occasions always stir reminiscence. SAPhA was in its infancy during my student days. My major (minor) contribution as a student then was to help deliver talks on drug abuse education to local schools. The project was government- funded through our chapter. Later, as an APhA staffer in the late 1980s, I witnessed amazing progress as Midyear Regional Meetings came of age in form and substance for leadership and policy development.
In the broad span of 50 years, we’ve seen enormous maturation of the organization and the impact student pharmacist and practitioner members make today. APhA has heavily invested these 50 years in the careers of student pharmacists to develop generations of leaders for our profession. The services these folks have delivered have improved the lives of millions of patients. I’d say that’s a good investment, but sadly, not an investment well-recognized by many! This celebration of 50 years is a great way to remind all of our promising future together and of the important role APhA plays in students’ professional development. The importance of maintaining your connection with APhA throughout your career is vital and a great way to pay it forward.
Kelli Jo Welter (KJW): Being part of this historical celebration is nothing short of overwhelming. I have had the opportunity to learn so much about the history of APhA–ASP and I have grown to appreciate our deep roots in the profession. Looking back at how previous student leaders fought for our voices to be heard reminds me that we should never pass up any chance to continue to build up this organization, because it ultimately ends up shaping the future of pharmacy.
SPM: So, Tom, what got you into pharmacy?
TM: Gunpowder and potassium permanganate/glycerin volcanos. I was fascinated with chemistry, which led me to Phillips Pharmacy to buy my chemicals. I liked the feel of the place and the new owner, my lifelong mentor Jim Phillips, gave me a job that lasted 10 years. He was so good to me. When I’d come home from college on weekends, I didn’t have to ask. I just showed up and he put me to work. The
message to all is to value and treasure your mentors!
SPM: That’s such a true statement. Kelli Jo, how about you?
KJW: After I realized that my childhood dreams of being a Broadway choreographer may not suit my skillset best, I found an interest in health care. My initial interest stemmed from how much my pediatrician positively influenced the health of my siblings and myself. My uncle, who also happened to be my calculus teacher, brought up the idea of being a pharmacist. Much to my surprise at the time, he even said I could consider becoming a pediatric pharmacist. Since then, I have come to appreciate how dynamic a pharmacist can be in exploring different areas of the profession.
SPM: Tom, what were students concerned about when you were in school?
TM: This student was concerned about getting through pharmacy school and learning how to open a pharmacy someday. I hadn’t really discovered the full benefits of organizational engagement. During our final year, a small group of us carried a big question to the university president’s office: During commencement exercises, could pharmacy BS graduates who had completed well over the number of hours needed for a master’s degree be recognized along with the master’s graduates? We succeeded and set the precedent for future classes until the emergence of the PharmD. That was a defining moment for me and my level of involvement.
SPM: Kelli Jo, what are student pharmacists concerned about today?
KJW: Student pharmacists today are concerned about finding enough hours in the day to manage all our responsibilities and desires. We strive to achieve excellence in the classroom while also pursuing leadership opportunities, volunteer and service experiences, and professional development. Along with that, student pharmacists may also seek out a job (or two, or three!) to help pay for school and apply their classroom knowledge in a pharmacy practice setting. Finding time to take a break or spend time with friends and family can be a challenge. However, it is comforting to know that we are all in this together and we are that much closer to being pharmacists.
SPM: How would you describe the impact that student pharmacists make on the profession and our communities?
TM: Student pharmacists’ impact is growing daily, as our population ages, technology advances, and treatments and cures become more complex. This generation of student pharmacists being trained interprofessionally is a generational game change. This experience carries through into practice for all members of the health care team, where it becomes harder to fathom not having a pharmacist on the team. That impact is tiny today compared with our achievable dreams for pharmacy’s future.
KJW: When student pharmacists reflect on participating in their first screening and realize how influential they can be on an individual’s health, they realize the power of being involved in APhA–ASP. Student pharmacists continue to inspire each other and current pharmacists when it comes to how much we can positively influence our communities with patient care and service opportunities. We also have the means to express our priorities through our policy process; that impact lasts long after we graduate.
SPM: That’s great. So how would you both describe APhA–ASP, using only one word?
TM: I will use two words: The future!
SPM: Continuing with that theme, the final question is, what does the future hold for APhA–ASP over the next 50 years?
TM: In the face of workforce disruption, rising standards, increased complexity and specialization, pharmacists will need to stay nimble to be relevant in each current and new practice setting. That resiliency is exactly what APhA–ASP is built to promote. As an organization, we can’t stop the proliferation of organizations focused on a specific practice area, nor should we. Instead, we can flourish as the place where student pharmacists gain perspectives on multiple practice areas, advocacy, innovative practices, new careers, leadership, and service as they build a diverse network of colleagues that will last a lifetime. If we didn’t exist, we would need to be invented to stoke the leadership pipeline.
Fifty years is a long time! But there’s no question in my mind that demand for pharmacists will grow dramatically as medicine gets more personal.
KJW: The future of APhA–ASP includes ground-breaking leaders, inventive patient care and service projects, and policy reflective of passionate student pharmacists to shape the future of pharmacy. As the role of the pharmacist expands, so do the opportunities that student pharmacists have. I dare not define what APhA–ASP will look like in 50 years, as to not set premature limitations for what student pharmacists will be able to accomplish. The only guarantee that I can make is that we will continue to flourish as we begin a lifetime of learning and service.