Balassone Lecturer Brings Lessons From Pluto
Marilyn K. Speedie, PhD, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and a former professor and department chair at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy is guest speaker at the recent 2006 Francis S. Balassone Memorial Lecture.
By Jeff Raymond
December 12, 2006
A group of astronomers voted last August to drop Pluto from the ranks of planets. Just like that, a celestial body that people had accepted as an integral part of our solar system lost its relevance among its peers, and it has scarcely been missed.
The pharmacy profession needs to take a lesson from Pluto before it loses its place among the health care professions, said Marilyn K. Speedie, PhD, dean of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and a former professor and department chair at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. Speedie offered her own prescription to strengthen the profession at the 2006 Francis S. Balassone Memorial Lecture, held Nov. 14, at the School of Pharmacy.
Speedie said pharmacists need to not just meet the growing need to fill prescriptions and counsel patients but to help guide the needed reforms to the country’s health care system. “If we don’t meet the need,” she said, “somebody else probably will.”
The general public doesn’t know enough about the profession, said Speedie. Pharmacists are seen mostly behind drug store counters, where the fees for dispensing drugs don’t cover the costs of having a pharmacist. The public doesn’t see pharmacists in hospitals, and doesn’t know that it takes four years of study after completing an undergraduate degree to become a qualified pharmacist.
But there are opportunities to bolster the profession, she added. For one, pharmacists can play a key role in reforms to make health care delivery focus more on patients instead of making patients conform to the health care system. Pharmacists also can help lead, when needed, teams of health care professionals to work with patients, and they can be at the forefront of efforts to reduce the risk of adverse drug events, in which patients can become sickened or killed by reactions to their medications.
By expanding educational opportunities among the health professions and assessing the outcomes of different models of health care delivery, Speedie said, the pharmacy profession can avoid going the way of Pluto. She urged the dozens of faculty and students at the lecture to bolster the stature of the profession, graduate more pharmacists, and provide more continuing education opportunities to those already in the profession. She even suggested a public relations offensive so that people learn more about the profession and come to choose a particular pharmacist much like they choose a physician.
The School of Pharmacy’s Dean David A. Knapp, PhD, has estimated the supply of pharmacists to be nearly 40 percent short of the 417,000 pharmacists that will be needed by 2020. But the good news about the worsening shortage is it gives those in the profession a real chance to be leaders and to drive change in health care delivery, Speedie said. And by leading, she said, pharmacists can put in practice the lessons learned from Pluto.