Newsmakers and Game-Changers
The role of pharmacists has grown over time, and now pharmacists are communicators, educators, innovators and consultants. Pharmacy game-changers and newsmakers make invaluable contributions to the field, including providing medical care to people in rural areas and countries plagued by epidemics and natural disasters; developing more effective vaccines; and founding organizations that help those working in health care. Here are a few profiles of notable pharmacists from non-profit organizations, universities, research organizations and the United States Armed Forces, who are making a difference today.
Janice Lee is a pharmacist committed to bringing quality medical care to people in crisis through her volunteer work for Doctors without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). MSF is an international organization that provides emergency relief to over 70 countries around the world plagued by armed conflict, epidemics and natural and man-made disasters. These countries often have little or no access to health care. After working as a pharmacist on projects in Liberia and Zimbabwe, Janice joined MSF’s Access Campaign, which works to improve access to life-saving and life prolonging medicines, diagnostic tests and vaccines for patients and to develop new ones. One of her main roles involves finding potential new sources for drugs that could be of use to MSF’s work treating patients in developing countries. She also works closely alongside medical teams and pharmaceutical companies to help heighten industry awareness surrounding the needs of patients in developing countries, and in particular, their dependence on generic drugs. As she explains in a recent interview with MSF, the existence of affordable generic drugs is essential to improving health care in poor countries.
For more information about MSF, please visit: www.msf.org.
For more information about MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, please visit: http://www.msfaccess.org/.
Even before becoming a licensed pharmacist, Kyle Burcher worked to improve the quality of pharmaceutical health care on the local and national levels. While studying at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, he actively participated as a member of the school’s chapter of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP). Through APhA-ASP, Kyle volunteered at a multicultural health fair where he and 50 other pharmacy students provided health care information and administered free screenings for chronic illnesses. Seeing that many of the individuals eligible for this free service were part of the surrounding community’s Hispanic population, he approached the university’s Spanish Club and asked its members to volunteer as translators. His initiative to provide Spanish language translation enabled over 350 patients to utilize the service, exemplifying Kyle’s commitment to improving pharmacist-patient communication.
On a national level, Kyle advocates for changes in national legislation to improve health care pharmacy. For example, in 2010 he organized a campaign that encouraged other pharmacy students to write to their Congressional Representatives about America’s health care needs. In 2011, Kyle participated in the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Rx Impact Day in Washington, D.C. During his visit, he met with Congressional members to discuss laws that could benefit both pharmacists and patients. Kyle’s hard work reflects his belief that pharmacists have an obligation to serve, educate and protect their communities.
Lieutenant Col. Gwendolyn Thompson
Lieutenant Col. Gwendolyn Thompson has served as a pharmacist in the United States Army for over 20 years. She began her career as a pharmacy technician for the armed services, after which she returned to school to earn her Doctorate of Pharmacy. Gwendolyn now serves as the Chief of the Pharmacy at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, which provides medical services to more than 145,000 patients and fills 4,500 prescriptions a day. Gwendolyn has been called upon for her pharmaceutical knowledge by army pharmacies across the U.S., as well as in foreign countries, such as Germany and Iraq.
During her career, Gwendolyn founded the first-ever pharmacist-run clinic specializing in disease state management, including asthma, diabetes, and hypertension, among many others. She also received the first Army Pharmacy Student Grant, which allowed her to conduct an extensive study of military medical clinics to identify the most effective pharmacy practices and challenges faced by the clinics. Gwendolyn’s work as a pharmacy consultant to the Office of the Surgeon General’s Pain Management Task Force helped establish Integrative Pain Centers in various military medical centers. These centers use holistic approaches in conjunction with cutting-edge technology to provide comfort to soldiers and other patients dealing with lasting pain.
Like many other professionals in pharmacy, Thompson was drawn to the field by the idea of being able to help patients and provide health care support to treat medical conditions. Despite all of her accomplishments and awards, Gwendolyn has stated that her most rewarding experience to date was working at the Army’s largest combat hospital in Iraq, where she served patients fighting on the front line. In addition to caring for American soldiers, her interactions with Iraqi counterparts allowed her to share information about new medical developments and how to help wounded individuals. Due to her achievements in this specialized field of pharmacy, Gwendolyn was selected as one of three finalists for the 2011 Next Generation Pharmacist Award: Military Pharmacist of the Year. The awards program created this special category in 2011 to recognize military pharmacists who must deal with unique challenges in their field of health care.