By Dr. Daniel A. Hussar, the Remington Professor of Pharmacy at University of the Sciences' Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. He serves as the author and editor of The Pharmacist Activist newsletter (http://www.pharmacistactivist.com) from which this editorial was taken.
Congratulations to the Pharmacy Class of 2013!
Choosing pharmacy as a career was the fourth best decision I ever made. Now before you wonder why this decision wasn't higher than fourth best, you need to know my other best decisions - my faith as a Christian, marrying my wife Suzanne (also a pharmacist), and our opportunity to have children. It is in this context that I also consider my choice of pharmacy as a career to be an excellent decision.
During most of my experience in pharmacy, employment opportunities for pharmacists and student pharmacists have been readily available. However, the "job market" for pharmacists has tightened considerably during the last several years in many parts of the country. Many 2013 pharmacy graduates have not yet identified a full-time employment opportunity. Some within the profession of pharmacy are pessimistic about the factors that have caused this situation and anticipate that circumstances will not improve and could worsen in the foreseeable future. I recognize the validity of certain of these concerns and have or will address them in other editorials. However, I believe that the potential exists for pharmacists to assume expanded responsibilities for the provision of medications and related services, and wish to be optimistic that our profession will be successful in developing these opportunities, notwithstanding the challenges that exist.
There have been occasions in which I have heard pharmacists remark that they would not encourage their children to study pharmacy. I am saddened by such comments that usually result from a stressful and unfulfilling employment experience. I would have been very pleased if all three of our sons would have studied pharmacy. One did, but I am also thankful that the other two made career choices that were a better match for their abilities and interests.
With the current and future uncertainties regarding employment opportunities for pharmacists, I am asked with increasing frequency whether I still highly recommend pharmacy as a career choice to young people who are making these decisions. My response is an emphatic YES!
The profession of pharmacy provides a wide range of opportunities in practice, scientific, and administrative responsibilities. A pharmacy education provides a strong foundation that prepares one to assume diverse responsibilities not only within pharmacy, but also blended with other disciplines such as public health, medicine, law, and management.
Improving drug-therapy outcomes
In my long-term experience, there has never been a greater need than exists now for the expertise and services that pharmacists are in a position to provide. The elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population and it is the elderly who use more medications than anyone else. These medications are increasingly complex, and greater expertise and time are needed to assure that patients understand how to use their medications as effectively and safely as possible.
The frequency of drug-related problems such as medication errors, adverse events, drug interactions, and nonadherence, and their resultant harm and costs, must be greatly reduced. Pharmacists have the expertise and strategic position in providing medications and the appropriate counseling and monitoring to assume a leadership role in preventing drug-related problems. While important questions exist regarding the roles of pharmacists and other health professionals and the strategies to be developed, there is no question regarding the magnitude and importance of the need to effectively address the unacceptable situation that currently exists.
Opportunity surrounds us as individual pharmacists and as a profession. Yes, there are formidable challenges in developing a "system" in which our expertise and commitment are utilized most effectively on behalf of individual patients and society, in attaining recognition of the value of our services and appropriate compensation, and in increasing the availability of positions that are fulfilling and motivating professional experiences. The overarching challenge is to turn the opportunity into reality. This requires the progressive involvement of our professional associations on behalf of the profession of pharmacy. However, it also requires the commitment of pharmacists as individuals to be members and active participants in our professional associations, to maintain their professionalism and motivation, to be dissatisfied with the status quo, to embrace opportunity, innovation, and entrepreneurism, and to volunteer some of our time for the benefit of others.
If I was making the decision today, would Pharmacy be my career choice again? Absolutely, without hesitation! And I would enthusiastically recommend this choice for the young people who are making career decisions now. The opportunities transcend the challenges!
The class of 2013
I have the privilege of serving as a teacher at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. I prefer the term "teacher" to "faculty member" as I feel that it better captures what I hope has been the experience of my students in learning not only from the course information I share with them but also from my experiences, perspectives, and enthusiasm. I am grateful for what I learn from them.
As we approach the celebration of the graduation of the Class of 2013, I pay tribute to the accomplishments of our new graduates. I have full confidence that they will provide the commitment and leadership that will serve our profession and society well. I know that my colleagues in all of our colleges of pharmacy share my pride and enthusiasm in anticipating how our new graduates will move our profession forward.
Congratulations to the Pharmacy Class of 2013!