By Annette M. Boyle
LAS VEGAS, NV — Of the 30 finalists in this year’s Next Generation Pharmacist awards, 30% worked in military or public health pharmacies, the strongest representation seen in the awards program.
Even more telling, uniformed pharmacists or technicians won half of the categories, awarded in Las Vegas, NV, concurrent with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Total Store Expo.
For Army Lt. Col. Debra Cosby, PharmD, a judge in this year’s program and last year’s Military Pharmacist of the Year, the results simply made sense.
“The accomplishments of military pharmacists reach beyond their facility and tend to serve the nation as a whole. Some of their achievements have broader implications by the fact that they can affect the entire Department of Defense health system,” she told U.S. Medicine.
The Next Generation program, sponsored by Pharmacy Times and Parata Systems, received 420 nominations from 45 states. Three finalists were named in each of 10 categories: civic leader of the year, entrepreneur of the year, future pharmacist of the year, lifetime achievement, military pharmacist of the year, patient care provider of the year, rising star of the year, specialty pharmacist of the year, technician of the year and technology innovator of the year.
The uniformed winners included:
- Military Pharmacist of the Year: Lt. Col. Leslie Gibbs Walthall, PharmD, U.S.Army Service lead for the Joint Service Pharmacy Technician training program at the Medical Education and Training Center in San Antonio, TX;
- Rising Star of the Year: Lt. Cmdr. Randy Steers, PharmD, USPHS, assistant chief of pharmacy-inpatient manager, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Talihina, OK;
- Innovator of the Year: Cmdr. Marc Young, PharmD, director of project management, Navy Medicine Information Systems Support Activity, San Antonio, TX;
- Technician of the Year: HM1 Angela Calalo, a hospital corpsman at the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam Pharmacy, Guam;
- Lifetime Achievement: Army Col. William Pickard, RPh, Campbell University College of Pharmacy and Health Services, Buies Creek, NC.
The winners were selected by an independent panel of judges and embody “the highest standards of patient care, management and operations, while demonstrating an uncompromising vision for the pharmacy industry,” according to Pharmacy Times, a clinically-based, monthly journal for pharmacists.
Pharmacists in the federal system must “balance multiple priorities and responsibilities,” said Cosby, “and most have a pretty high degree of job satisfaction; otherwise they wouldn’t stick around. People who have great job satisfaction typically perform better.”
Cosby’s assessment rings true for Rising Star Lt. Cmdr. Randy Steers of the U.S, Public Health Service. Steers did his pharmacy residency through the Indian Health Service at the Choctaw Nation, then returned after receiving his commission in the USPHS.
“The flexibility and responsibility that the federal government gives pharmacists, across all branches, is far greater than we would have in the retail world, and the clinical aspect is a real draw for me.”
Among other accomplishments, Steers created a collaborative vancomycin clinic in which providers order a consult and then leave the initial dose and ongoing monitoring to pharmacists, which benefitted all parties.
“The program allows me to use all my skills and frees up time for physicians to do diagnostic work,” he pointed out. “We monitor these medications every day for multiple patients and know what to expect and how to adjust.”
Cosby also noted that many of the winners had “practiced the profession of pharmacy in often austere and potentially dangerous environments.”
Military Pharmacist of the Year Lt. Col. Leslie Gibbs Walthall certainly has. Walthall started her military career as a medical specialist in the Army Reserve and rose to sergeant before entering active service following Sept. 11, 2001. On her first deployment, her combat support hospital deployed twice to Kosovo and once to Iraq, leaving her the only remaining pharmacist for four months covering 10 clinics and 25,000 beneficiaries over a 300-mile radius.
During that time, “I trained reserve pharmacy technicians who were backfilling, many of whom hadn’t touched pharmacy work since advanced basic training,” she said. Walthall also instituted more than $1.5 million in performance improvement initiatives.
She was awarded the Bronze Star for her work as the only pharmacist in a Level 3 combat support hospital in Iraq where she “cared for patients with diseases I thought I’d never see.” She developed a list of vital antidotes and positioned them throughout Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq.
“I love being an Army pharmacist. In any disaster, we’re the first to respond. I’m able to do humanitarian missions around the world and serve my country. Most notably in Iraq, I was deployed with the most amazing team in the world and we saved hundreds of lives. That’s what you train for, saving lives,” Walthall said.
Innovator of the Year Cmdr. Marc Young launched the first outpatient telepharmacy program in the Navy and the first online report tool for emergency response medications worth more than $3 billion. The American Society of Health Systems Pharmacists recognized his achievement in developing an app that enables beneficiaries to obtain new prescriptions and refills through their mobile devices. He also has received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medals.
HM1 Angela Calalo keeps her focus on improving patient care. Her involvement in a Lean Six Sigma project cut patient waits by 55% while saving $17,000 and reducing staff time by 952 hours. Her oversight of a remodeling of the Guam Pharmacy customer service department earned the department the 2012 Outstanding Customer Service award. She is now implementing standard operating procedures for outpatient, inpatient, telepharmacy and administration in 50 Navy pharmacy facilities.
Col. William Pickard spent 37 years breaking new ground for pharmacists. As a pharmacy resident, he coordinated clinical trials for HIV and cancer treatments and was the first clinical pharmacist hired at Duke University in Durham, NC.
“He provided a foundation for other pharmacists to follow his pathfinder efforts to show the value of a pharmacist in direct patient care as an advisor to physicians as well as patients on medication therapy,” according to his nomination.
After joining the Army Reserves in 1983, he served as the chief pharmacist of a 400-bed hospital in Saudi Arabia and in 2001 established military pharmacies as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Pickard retired in 2012 but continues to provide leadership in the profession as chairman of the Campbell College of Pharmacy’s Department of Clinical Research in Buies, NC.