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Summit Brings National Pharmacy, Public Health Leaders Together at the School of Pharmacy

Attendees included officials at the state and federal level.

Rachel Levine greets Dean Natalie Eddington as Kinbo Lee watches.

By Andrew Tie
April 26, 2023

The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy hosted a conference of top health care leaders to discuss the role of pharmacists in solving the nation’s biggest public health crises.

Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, professor in the Department of Practice, Sciences, and Health Outcomes Research and associate dean for student affairs, organized the “Pharmacy-Public Health Summit” at Pharmacy Hall on April 14 along with Joshua Sharfstein, MD, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and former secretary of the Maryland Department of Health.

“Despite the enormous health challenges facing our country, there has been no national agenda to systematically empower pharmacists to contribute to public health,” said Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FAAPS, FCP, dean and professor of the School of Pharmacy, in her opening remarks. “Today’s summit focuses on broadening even further the partnership between pharmacy and public health and explores new opportunities for pharmacists to develop services in support of improving public health.”

Pharmacists played an essential role during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing vaccinations and serving as the most accessible health care providers in tens of thousands of communities. After seeing pharmacists step up during that crisis, Layson-Wolf and Sharfstein wanted to convene leaders to consider opportunities for expanded pharmacist roles in the future.

“This summit was a conversation to keep the momentum going between pharmacy and public health,” said Layson-Wolf. “We had a variety of experts in different areas such as hypertension, HIV, test to treat, reproductive health, and opioid use disorder who presented on how pharmacists can be involved in prevention and treatment.”

Public Health Leaders in Attendance

The summit attracted representatives from a variety of sectors, including federal and state government, academia, industry, and non-profits.

Rachel L. Levine, MD, admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) and assistant secretary for health at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), spoke about how pharmacists impact health equity, a major focus of HHS, in areas such as HIV, immunizations, reproductive rights, and the opioid crisis.

Two UMSOP alumni, who are both in the PHSCC and on Levine’s staff, attended the summit: Kathy Oh, PharmD ‘01, RPh, captain and acting chief of staff, whose daughter, Sara, is a first-year student pharmacist at UMSOP, and Kinbo Lee, PharmD ’15, MHS, lieutenant commander and special assistant.

Laura Herrera Scott, MD, MPH, the current secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, also attended and spoke on the public health and pharmacy intersection at the state level. Herrera Scott noted the innovative programs at the School such as the graduate program in palliative care.

“We had government leaders from multiple agencies at the state and federal level, industry organizations and leading pharmacy companies, and people from major public health organizations in attendance,” Sharfstein said. “This is a great opportunity for public health and pharmacy to talk about what we can do together.”

During the summit, attendees participated in breakout groups and discussed ways for pharmacy to support public health. Attendees worked together to update a background document to reflect the current state of the various topics and opportunities, and the summit coordinators are planning for further summits to continue the conversation.

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