Directly Speaking - It's been a great trip so far!

by Scott A. Meyers, Executive Vice President
June 4, 2014

An email in jest from a good friend took me down a rabbit hole and got me thinking about what my life would have been without ICHP. It’s been 22 years in May, since I became ICHP’s first Executive Director and now Executive Vice President. Twenty-two years is no special milestone to celebrate but whenever May 10th rolls around, I tend to reflect a little. And because I’ve been writing ten “Directly Speaking” columns a year for now 22 years, sometimes I get a little blocked for a topic. So my reflections have helped break this month’s block for me and you!

Rather than talk about all the specifics of my 22 years (because I really want you all to continue reading this column after this issue), I’ll see if I can use the space to demonstrate how ICHP can support, alter or impact your lives. And I certainly don’t intend to encourage you all to prepare to take over my job in the future, although I would say that any pharmacist who has an interest in this type of position should consider what it might take to prepare for something like this. I’m guessing there might be one or two of you out there.

ICHP gives any member who seeks it, the opportunity to learn at a variety of levels. Of course there’s always been continuing pharmacy education (CPE). In 1977 when I first joined ICHP, the most available CPE opportunities were the pharmaceutical industry sponsored educational events. Most included a dinner at a nice restaurant, and I fondly think of those days as the “Supper Club Days”. Those have been gone now for many years and while I think everyone from my generation misses those wonderful meals, any of us that are truly honest also will say that the education was suspect if not completely biased in many cases. Today, ICHP offers the Champion Webinars every other month. These live and online programs provide 30 minutes of CPE credit on the hot topics of the day, presented by experts in the field, and you don’t even have to leave work! Granted, there are no meals but with a sack lunch or snack of your choice, you can always pretend you’re enjoying fine dining while you do obtain great CPE credit!

But these Champion Webinars, the “Supper Club Meetings” of today, offer you another opportunity. Once the program ends, you can discuss with colleagues what you believe the value or impact of the program might have at your institution. It’s a chance to get to know the practice side of your colleagues a little better and hopefully improve care for your patients.

In 1977, I didn’t get involved with ICHP’s statewide meeting, the Annual Meeting, but after a few years, I became an officer of the Rock Valley Society of Hospital Pharmacists and found myself attending the Annual Meeting as a Rock Valley delegate to the House. That single step of becoming an affiliate officer and a delegate to ICHP’s House opened two doors. The networking I had come to enjoy at the local CPE programs expanded immediately when I travelled to the statewide meeting. I met pharmacists (sorry technicians and students rarely attended our meetings back then) from all over the State. I remember sitting at a back table at my first Annual Meeting banquet in 1982. That luncheon featured William E. Smith, the 1982 Whitney Award Recipient, and as I sat and ate my meal, listening to Bill present, I thought to myself, “Someday I want to know the people at the head table!” Little did I know that eventually, I would be the one that decides who gets to sit at the head table, or even if there is a head table! Long story short, I know, “too late”, the mere fact that I was able to venture forth from Rockford to attend that meeting in Rosemont, opened up another level of networking and friendships that I never really thought I would have. Perhaps society has progressed enough these days with technology that individuals can network without leaving home, but I still find that the face-to-face opportunities create stronger relationships that often lead to friendships and a willingness to share whenever and wherever help is needed to improve practice.

In 1985, Illinois sought to join most other States in requiring CE for pharmacists’ relicensure.  Being an altruist (at the time) and knowing what kind of CPE programming was currently available, I convinced the Rock Valley Society to take a position opposing mandatory continuing education for pharmacist relicensure. Our delegation took that position to the ICHP House of Delegates, and with the oratory help of Past President Harland Lee, the House narrowly approved a position opposing mandatory CE. This was a great accomplishment; however, ICHP did not have a lobbyist in Springfield, and there was already a bill rolling through the General Assembly. A few weeks later, as a member of the ICHP Board of Directors, I personally took the fight to Springfield with an on the road before dawn drive, not knowing what to do or with whom to speak. IPhA fully supported the bill, and their lobbyist was absolutely no help. Eventually, I found the clerk of the Senate Professional Regulations Committee, completed a witness slip and waited to testify before the committee. The bill was called, and the witness slips were read, without calling a single witness, the bill was passed out of Committee and my day seemed to be a waste. I signaled the clerk and said I wanted to speak. The Chair allowed me to provide a couple of minutes of why CE would not make bad pharmacists any better, and then he moved to another bill. At that point, I vowed to learn more and advocate more for pharmacy in the future. I don’t think I envisioned becoming the registered lobbyist I am today.  

Again a long story, but back then we had no “Legislative Day”. We had no “Leg Day 101”.  We didn’t have a lobbyist on contract let alone the two we have today. (I’m counting myself and Jim Owen, the guy that does the real work for us in Springfield!). ICHP has a strong Government Affairs Divisions led by Frank Kokaisl and members from all practice settings.  We are in a much better position today with both the General Assembly, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and the Board of Pharmacy than we have ever been. If a member wants to become politically active either as an advocate or a candidate, ICHP has the resources to provide training and guidance through the process. It would be fun to help a fellow pharmacist break back into the General Assembly!

Finally, back in the late 1980s, I was invited to attend ICHP’s first Leadership Retreat. It took place at the Marriott Lincolnshire, not necessarily what I think of as a retreat center, but it brought together the Board of Directors and select past presidents to plan ICHP’s future. During that retreat and subsequent retreats, leadership training was incorporated into the agenda and many of my early lessons in leadership came from those retreats. Today, ICHP conducts our Leadership Retreat annually in November. It begins on a Friday at lunch and ends Saturday afternoon around 3:00 PM. We provide leadership training at every retreat. Last year, the book Decisive written by Chip and Dan Heath was reviewed. The book described how most individuals make decisions and how anyone can use the book’s principles to make better decisions in the future. We now invite the Board, past presidents, and our most active volunteers. ICHP covers all the meeting costs including food and lodging. We no longer use properties like the Marriott Lincolnshire but focus more on rural retreat centers throughout the state.

These are just some of the memories that were rekindled this morning. And once I reflected, I saw how each of you can use what ICHP offers to improve your practice, build your network, and further your careers. I doubt anyone would choose to take the path I took but each you may have a specific path that you could use a little guidance moving down. ICHP’s active volunteers, members and staff can help you on your journey if you merely ask. The organization has a lot to give and a lot to gain by the involvement of each and every one of our members. As you can see for me, “It’s been a great trip, so far!”

The News Article appears in the following categories: