Board Profile: Avery Spunt, ICHP President

by Rochelle Rubin, Pharm.D. and Huzefa Master, Pharm.D., BCPS
September 12, 2008

Professor Avery Spunt, RPh, Med, FASHP is currently Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Director of Experiential Education at Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy. He graduated from the University of Illinois, College of Pharmacy (UIC) and entered the Marines shortly after graduation. When he got out of the Marines, he considered two career choices: hospital pharmacy practice or law enforcement. Since Professor Spunt did not get the  law enforcement job he desired, fate landed him in the hospital pharmacy position and a rewarding career began.

He started at the University of Illinois Research and Education Hospital (R&E Hospital) as a staff pharmacist. When Richard Hutchinson joined the hospital as the new Director of Pharmacy, clinical pharmacy was born in Illinois and Avery’s career changed. Dr. Hutchinson was a Michigan trained Pharm.D. who brought in other Doctors of Pharmacy with clinical training to R&E Hospital. For an entire year, Avery worked the evening shift in a satellite pharmacy, which “felt like a residency”. His achievements at the hospital included establishing the unit dose system for patients and eventually developing his own neurology and neurosurgery service with Dr. Garvin and Dr. Sugar, two very influential physicians in Avery’s life. He was able to reduce medication errors through this service which validated the need for a pharmacist on the service and resulted in Avery’s service in this capacity for the next 12 years.

Later Professor Spunt pursued a Master’s degree in Education and took on more significant roles within the College of Pharmacy. In 1991 he was appointed the Assistant Head of Pharmacy Practice at UIC. Finally, after 31 years of service at the UIC, he took his retirement because “it provided an outlet to explore other opportunities”.

The first opportunity he embarked upon was at the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) where he oversaw the NAPLEX, MPJE, FPGEC exams, and Continuing Professional Development as the Competency Assessment Director, or the “testing director” as he fondly refers to it. Professor Spunt loved the job, but he wanted to teach and have the opportunity to speak out on issues in pharmacy. As an employee of a national organization he couldn’t express his views on Illinois pharmacy. When an opportunity at Midwestern University, Chicago College of Pharmacy became available, he applied for and accepted the position as the Assistant Dean and Director of Experiential Education; he was later promoted to the Associate Dean position he currently holds. Avery stated that he has been blessed with great bosses/supervisors/colleagues and worked with the brightest and best in pharmacy throughout his career.

Professor Spunt’s desire to get involved with ICHP began when he met many role models in institutional pharmacy and higher education at local meetings. He met so many great leaders that he wanted to be a part of the positive changes in pharmacy that were happening at that time. Avery’s greatest mentor in his career was Larry Boh from the University of Wisconsin, who he praises for his contemporary mind and describes as a brilliant clinician and educator. Throughout his career, ICHP and his mentors gave Avery the idea that any person could change the world. As he developed in his own career, he wanted to be that role model in the classroom and organizations. Avery would love to see current younger and midlevel practitioners who are members of ICHP get more involved to continue to change the profession for the better.

Outside of his career, Avery loves watching sports live and on television, but he asks that you do not ask him a lot of trivia questions because he doesn’t necessarily memorize the statistics. He supports his teams, mainly the Chicago White Sox, Bears, and Bulls, and is proud to say that he was able to watch the Bulls in the big run for championships. He is also an avid photographer. In fact, he did press photography during pharmacy school and after graduation, and his work has been published in many newspapers and magazines.

Professor Spunt has had a long and distinguished career in pharmacy. His vision for the future of pharmacy includes a profession where every pharmacy graduate starts as a true basic pharmacy clinician, then can pursue additional training in marketing or research, for example, to achieve his own career goals. He believes that there should be consistency for every interaction between a patient and a pharmacist. For example, he hopes that one day every pharmacist will interview all patients to establish their past medical history and current medication regimen at each interaction. He also believes that pharmacists should not have to explain what they do; the world should know what to expect when seeing a pharmacist. Ultimately, this will only happen if the profession adopts standards of care to which all pharmacy practitioners adhere. With all the changes in the pharmacy profession that Avery has witnessed in his career, his vision seems attainable.

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