APhA Institute addresses addiction in powerful experience for attendees

More than 425 student pharmacists and pharmacists participated in this year’s Institute

The annual APhA Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies was held in Salt Lake City on June 1–4. More than 425 student pharmacists and pharmacists—comprising Institute newcomers, 20-plus year attendees with the honorary title of “dinosaurs,” Institute Ambassadors, scholarship recipients, individuals in recovery, those who wanted to learn more about the disease of addiction, and every participant in between—opened their hearts and minds throughout 4 days of programming.

The Institute is powerful in its intimacy, with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings to supplement clinically driven sessions and the beloved hike from Sage Point Quad. This environment allows attendees to become more comfortable with addressing addiction as a practitioner or in personal situations.

“The very personal nature of some of the ‘sharing’ may be uncomfortable,” said Debra Wood, RPh, experiential education coordinator at Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy at Texas A&M University. “I try to apply the same skills and nonjudgmental attitude to my work and personal life.”

As a new practitioner ambassador, Stephanie Garza, PharmD, emphasized the feeling of returning to strong relationships with new and returning faces at the Institute. She is an outpatient clinical pharmacist at the Veterans Affairs Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System and relief pharmacist at H-E-B Pharmacy.

For third-year student pharmacist Matthew Noble, recipient of a 2017 APhA Foundation Ronald L. Williams Memorial Fund Scholarship, Lisa Molbert’s “Bridging the Gap: The Role of Family Dynamics” presentation hit home. “It was almost a relief to hear that other people go through [the experience of having a family member in recovery], too,” he said.

APhA launched the inaugural session of the APhA Institute in June 2015, carrying the message forward from The University of Utah School on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, which was conducted in 1951–2014.

One practitioner began his Utah School journey in 1988 and has been advocating for student pharmacist and faculty participation in this “life-changing” experience ever since. George Downs, PharmD, professor and dean emeritus at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, reflected on personal experiences with two students that changed his view about addiction. “This isn’t a bad attitude,” he said. “It’s a disease.”

The 2018 APhA Institute will be held on May 30–June 3 in Salt Lake City. 

For those who are unsure about applying to attend the Institute, Garza wants to put these doubts to rest. “If you have any reservations, just go. Go with an open heart,” she said. “Learn not only about patients in recovery, but also about yourself as a human.”