US Air Force Pharmacy

USM_02-11_AFpharm.jpgThe Pharmacy Consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General advises Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) leadership and staff regarding pharmacy related issues. In my additional role as the Associate Corps Chief for Pharmacy, I serve on various selection boards and make recommendations to the Air Force Personnel Center on officer utilization and pharmacist assignments; continuously monitor pharmacy officer career development; and serve as a mentor, advisor, and consultant to all ranks of Air Force pharmacists.

My responsibilities include assisting with career progression, including officer participation in professional military education and identification of education requirements, and providing input to AFMS leadership for annual training through the Health Professions Educational Requirements Board. In addition, I encourage participation in Air Force-sponsored graduate training programs to meet future Air Force pharmacy training needs.

My comments will focus on Air Force pharmacy, but many of the issues discussed also affect our partner federal pharmacy organizations. Federal pharmacy and Air Force pharmacy have much to be proud of, but like any large and complex organization, there are many challenges to address, both large and small.

Federal pharmacy has recently achieved some significant milestones, and the Air Force has likewise made major strides in training, administration, and resource management. Examples include the Guidance Memorandum on Medications for Deploying Members, which removed the 180-day restriction on medication quantities for deployers; contributions to recent Notices to Airmen regarding alerts involving heparin and NuvaRing® use; successful addition of the “USAF Edward Zastawny Clinical Pharmacist of the Year” award to the Air Force annual awards program recognizing clinical excellence; changes to the Pharmacy of the Year award, which now allows separate awards for small, medium, and large facilities; and improvements to the pharmaceutical purchasing process and oversight, ensuring we continue to provide the medications needed by our beneficiaries at the least required cost to the taxpayer.

Air Force pharmacy made significant gains in the number of scholarships available in the AF Health Professions Scholarship Program for fiscal year 2011. This increase included the first-ever awarding of three-year scholarships for pharmacy school attendance, which will significantly strengthen the future Air Force pharmacy officer pipeline.

These new Air Force pharmacists will benefit greatly from our reinvigorated mentorship program which pairs them with experienced active duty members to provide guidance as they embark upon their Air Force careers. In addition, the number of total pharmacists authorized, including military and civilian positions, has been successfully increased for fiscal year 2012.

While Air Force pharmacy has enjoyed many successes, there are still many challenges and opportunities on the horizon. A major issue to be tackled in concert with our sister services of Army and Navy pharmacy are providing electronic prescribing avenues for all TRICARE providers regardless of their practice location. Currently nearly all prescriptions written by our in-house providers are transmitted electronically to the pharmacy. Expanding this capability to all TRICARE providers is a top priority. Other opportunities on the agenda include the implementation of telepharmacy, improved and better-focused pharmacy readiness training, and sustainment of recruiting and retention successes. Finally, a new Air Force pharmacy staffing model is being developed which will better encompass the expanding roles and duties of pharmacists in both primary care and pharmacist-run outpatient clinics.

As the practice environment of pharmacy continues to evolve, continued success will depend on strong collaboration with our federal partners, using deliberate planning and cooperation to manage the inevitable challenges to come. Together we will continue to keep Air Force and federal pharmacy on the cutting edge of pharmacy practice and innovation.

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