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by Jennifer Arnoldi, PharmD, BCPS Clinical Associate Professor, SIUE School of Pharmacy President of ICHP
Thank you for taking a moment out of your busy day to enjoy this edition of KeePosted™. I wish I was addressing you live at our Annual Meeting, but I appreciate the opportunity to connect with you here. Each year, the incoming President of ICHP identifies a theme to signify their presidential year; I have struggled in making my decision. What words of inspiration or optimistic slogan should I choose to encompass what I hope we accomplish this year as an organization, during one of the most challenging years in recent memory?
The COVID-19 pandemic has racked our world in unimaginable ways. There is no moving forward without acknowledging that, in many ways, we are forever changed. When I first saw news of the virus in Wuhan, never did I imagine that we would all spend the next days, weeks, and months worrying about access to masks, hand sanitizer, and bleach wipes. I didn’t suspect that we would shelter in place, work from home when possible, and limit our contact with the outside world. I couldn’t fathom a world in which I wouldn’t see my parents, my niece and nephew, or many of my friends for months on end except for on a screen.
I could in no way imagine the way this pandemic would rock the world of health system pharmacy. In some areas of the state, it seemed that combating the virus was all-consuming, taking with it hard-to-find PPE, staff morale, and ultimately, some of our patients’ lives. In other parts of the state that were less affected by the virus, voluntary suspension of non-emergent procedures and admissions brought pharmacy departments to their knees, requiring voluntary or involuntary furloughs and in some cases, layoffs. Our students’ educational experiences were disrupted, abruptly transitioned to virtual learning for both classroom and on-the-ground training. Our graduates faced one of the most exciting days of their lives in a way that they had never imagined: virtually and socially distanced. Would they be able to take their board exams? When would student loans started coming up for repayment?
As a dedicated book worm, I felt the struggles we have been facing seem like they are something conjured up in science fiction or a dystopian tale. I come by my love of books honestly. Growing up, my very patient father read The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien to my brother and I, a little bit each night. I only found out as an adult that those books contained many songs, as my dad was sure to skip over those while he read. Even for his children, the man could only go so far. Why do I bring this up? During the past few months, I kept coming back to a quote from The Two Towers. In it, Sam is offering words of encouragement to his best friend during a mission that challenges them in every sense of the word. Despite their difficulties, Sam says, “Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.”1
Just like Sam, I can see the glimmers of light amidst the shadows. At every stage of these challenges, despite the sometimes-overwhelming feelings of fear, anxiety, and exhaustion, I have seen hope and humanity at every opportunity. We have banded together in ways that we didn’t think possible until we were forced into it. We have leveraged the use of technology to connect, communicate, and create. When the world ran out of hand sanitizer, we compounded it. When we didn’t have masks, we made them. We pulled together and found out what it really meant to be a pharmacy family.
As an organization, ICHP was there for us as a bridge to connect us to one another. We continued the important work of meeting in our regular Divisions and Networks. While we were not able to meet for the Spring Meeting, the Division of Educational Affairs and ICHP staff worked diligently to bring us a virtual Annual Meeting. The Diversity in Pharmacy series has offered us the opportunity to amplify the voices of our BIPOC members and colleagues, connecting us with their stories and experiences. The sense of connectedness and community that we have been able to maintain is something that I hope we don’t lose sight of as the darkness passes and the sun shines out the clearer. With that in mind, I selected the theme of “Building Bridges” and hope that we can highlight all the ways we can connect, unite, and extend the impact of our profession into the world. I hope that we can all build bridges together.
And if you decide to read The Lord of the Rings, don’t skip the songs. It’ll help you live in that world just a little while longer. ■
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Two Towers. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994. Print.