APhA2018: Alleviating suffering, focusing on relationships in health care

Palliative care expert Miller delivers keynote at Opening General Session  

Empathy is part of health care, and bedside manner is essential, said keynote speaker B.J. Miller, MD, in a soulful, mind-expanding presentation to attendees at the Opening General Session of the 2018 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition in Nashville today.

“Aren’t you involved in alleviating people’s suffering? Isn’t that why we all went into the health care field?” Miller said.

An expert on palliative and end-of-life care, Miller is assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “Why is our health care system the way it is?” he asked. He described the evolution of modern health care from disease-centered to person-oriented to relationship-centered. Community pharmacists and family practice doctors are exemplars of providers who know whom they’re treating.

“Focus on the relationship,” he said.

Quality of life is more important than health, Miller believes. A person can have perfect blood pressure, LDL, and no depression, but still be “a walking zombie.” And a bigger goal than “curing” is “healing.” While providers can’t always cure the patient, they can always be healing, even if that means simply being kind.

“Pharmacists are dramatically underrepresented and over-reduced” to a dispensing role, Miller said, noting a huge gap between “this lack of appreciation” and the profession’s potential.

He noted that his “greatest work has been with a team,” that his favorite teams have had a pharmacist on them, and that his current team has a student pharmacist.

APhA President Nancy A. Alvarez, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA, said, “Caring for patients with pain requires knowledge and courage.” She said that now more than ever, pharmacists are needed in their communities to help these patients understand the risks and benefits of all medications used to treat acute and chronic pain and optimize their care.

Alvarez noted that the federal provider status legislation [the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (S. 109/H.R. 592)] is supported by a majority of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. “While we have the votes for the legislation to move forward, timing is everything in Congress,” she said. “Keep sending strong messages” to Members of Congress.

Alvarez noted that she is the first APhA President of Mexican descent, and that all three current Presidential officers are women. “It’s a remarkable moment, one that represents the array of faces I see in the audience today,” she said.

The Opening General Session began with a color guard from Vanderbilt University presenting the colors and the singing of the national anthem by LTC Jeff Neigh, PharmD, MBA, MHA, BCPS, U.S. Army.

Mark Walberg, the host of “Antiques Roadshow,” was back as emcee for the APhA General Session. Alvarez joined Walberg, and then introduced the APhA Board of Trustees. They led the audience in raising their right hands and reciting the Oath of a Pharmacist.  

APhA Award recipients were recognized. APhA Trustee and 2013 Remington Honor Medal recipient Dennis K. Helling, PharmD, ScD (Hon), FCCP, FASHP, FAPhA, presented the 2018 Remington Honor Medal to Harold K. Godwin, BSPharm, MS, RPh, FASHP, FAPHA.

Godwin identified key changes in pharmacy over his career as the switch to all PharmD graduates of pharmacy school, becoming a patient care provider, and more women in pharmacy—at which a big cheer went up from the audience. But what he’d like to see in the future is a portable electronic health record shared with the pharmacist.

For the APhA Academies, the Daniel B. Smith Practice Excellence Award, administered by the APhA Academy of Pharmacy Practice & Management, went to Bella Mehta, PharmD, FAPhA. The APhA Academy of Pharmaceutical Research & Science’s Takeru Higuchi Research Prize went to Gordon Amidon, BSPharm, MA, PhD. The APhA Academy of Student Pharmacists Outstanding Chapter Advisor Award went to Valerie L. Ruehter, PharmD. The 2018 APhA Fellows for the practice and science Academies were also introduced.

The Hugo H. Schaefer Award was presented to Robert L. Alesiani, PharmD, BCGP. Lucinda L. Maine, PhD, FAPhA, received the Gloria Niemeyer Francke Leadership Mentor Award. The H.A.B. Dunning Award went to the Community Pharmacy Foundation.