The President's Message - Inaugural Address

by Tom Westerkamp, ICHP President
November 14, 2012

I am sincerely humbled standing before you today. Being a member of ICHP for more than 30 years, I never envisioned myself as President. I am more of a "tell-me-what-to-do-and-I-will-do-it" kind of guy. But a funny thing happened while volunteering on various committees and getting involved with the organization over the years – I realized that the leaders of ICHP are regular folks like me, and that all you need to do to help lead a team is to have a commitment to help others, and a willingness to step up and say yes. Simply put, all you need is to care.

And we, as pharmacists and students and technicians, do what we do every day because I believe most of us have an inherent desire to help others. That is why I chose Pharmacy as a career, and I suspect I am not the only one in this room to feel the same way. That is why I feel strongly about the theme for this year that I will share with you shortly.

Many of you may be asking, "Who is this guy?" Here is some background:

I graduated from the University of Illinois.

I started in a large suburban community-hospital, and then practiced in a university affiliated critical care satellite with daily rounds as an active member on the code blue team.

I obtained a business degree and went into management.

After six years as an Assistant Director and Director, I went to the "dark side" of industry in 1991.

I have used my pharmacy background in marketing and business development, providing insights on key business decisions and new products being developed.

Now I work in Medical Affairs, answering questions from clinicians, and reviewing advertising and promotional materials for accuracy and fair balance.

Importance of the Organization

Robert Redford, the actor, once said, "Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together." One of the values of the organization is its rich, diverse membership. ICHP has members from different practice settings (hospital, ambulatory care, home care, mail order, academia, industry and others). I believe that input from these experienced, diverse members from various practice settings is important to fully grasp today’s complex issues and is critical in guiding ICHP decision-making. We need your input on issues.

Current Issues

Andy Stanley was quoted, "Direction, not intention, determines destination." There are changes coming in healthcare: Healthcare Reform/National Health Insurance, the Pharmacy Practice Model Initiative (PPMI), reimbursement for clinical services, certification, new legislation, the expanding roles of technicians in solidifying the distribution process and new technologies driving automation and robotics. Now, more than ever, we need an organization that can help provide insights and clarity around key issues that are constantly coming up, to give direction and to guide the organization, and to be a voice in Springfield and in Washington on issues that impact OUR profession.

Having the right intention is simply not good enough. Those of us that have been members of ICHP know the value it provides; ICHP provides the direction that will determine our destination. Either we get involved and work together to help effect the changes needed, or we sit back passively, let someone else do it, and let change come and roll over us like a wave. I know most people here today are members, but if anyone is not, I urge you to consider joining our ranks, to make our organization stronger, to help us do even more to help improve the practice of Pharmacy in Illinois.

Theme for the Coming Year

Caring for your patients, caring for your colleagues, and caring for the profession. Caring for others is important to me, and hopefully to you. Not only in your personal life, but in your professional life as well. Dr. Henri Manasse recently said "Central to our profession is caring about, not just providing services to, our patients. We must have concern for our patients."

Many of us chose pharmacy because we like to help others. We care about our patients. When I rounded with the medical staff in the ICU and spoke to patients and their families, I could not help but to be drawn into their lives, to feel their anxiety and pain, to empathize with what they were going through, and I think that caring helped me be a better pharmacist. It helped me be better prepared for rounds every day, and to be more thorough. I think that caring for co-workers helps technicians do a better job also, when they see the value of their efforts, and that undoubtedly helps pharmacists do a better job.

Caring for patients is what it is all about. We don’t work in a factory where a mistake is simply swept aside into the discard pile. We work in healthcare… that’s health CARE. We care, but do we always remember that? We all get so busy that sometimes we forget. Sometimes we need a reminder.

I would like to share a story about a few clinicians at Lutheran General Hospital. Joe was an elderly, lonely old man with a long and complicated medical history including arthritis, lung cancer, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and depression. He was isolated, with no friends or family, and came to the hospital by bus every week for therapy. He was befriended by the staff, and after several months several employees decided to cheer him up by bringing pizza and a movie to his small apartment. He was so excited.

During the movie he began to cough, the coughing got louder, persistent and painful. Joe started coughing up blood that would not stop. The team called 911, and Joe lost consciousness. The bleeding got worse. The paramedics arrived, and escorted the employees to the lobby while they worked on Joe. Despite their valiant efforts, Joe died. Those employees were devastated.

How powerful a testimony to caring. Those employees spent an afternoon on their own time with Joe. Joe was not alone when he died, and he felt the power of caring that day.

Dr. Leo Buscalia once said, "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

A Call to Action

I do not have an aggressive personality. I do not strong-arm people to join a cause or help out on projects. I am not an "in-your-face" kind-of-guy. I don’t always know the right answer. But after my many years of involvement with ICHP, I do know one thing: this organization is solid, the office staff is outstanding, its leadership is strong, its members are diverse, its role in helping to provide direction for the practice of pharmacy here in Illinois, is critical. Guess what? We are doing something right. We are approaching the 50th anniversary of ICHP. We have a 49 year track record of providing direction, support and leadership to pharmacists and technicians in this state. That is something we should all be proud of. But we are missing something. We are missing you.

For those members that are, or have been active on committees, I offer you my sincere thanks for your efforts. To those members that have not been involved, I extend a warm invitation to consider getting involved and helping me, and helping us, steer the boat. Participate on some committee. Offer to help out at a meeting. It is easy. Anyone can do it. I need, ICHP needs, your input and insights on issues.

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those employees at Lutheran General who took care of Grandpa Joe were honorable. They were compassionate. They made a difference.

Please join me this year and get involved, be useful, be honorable, be compassionate, CARE, get involved with your patients, and get involved with ICHP. Make a difference. ICHP cares. I hope you do as well. Thank you.

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