Fred Mayer, RPh, MPH, Drug Topics’ longtime editorial advisor and CEO of Pharmacy Planning Service Inc., is known to most everyone in pharmacy as both an advocate for the profession and, through the years, as a champion of many public health causes, including The Great American Smokeout, National Condom Week, and the Medication Take Back Day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). While some people might think of retirement at Mayer’s age — he’s 84 — he is just getting started.
DT: You are a working pharmacist. Why is that important to you?
Mayer: If you're going to lead pharmacy into the future, I think it's very, very important to have a firsthand awareness and understanding of how the profession works, its problems and issues, in order to solve our many, many problems.
DT: What are the greatest challenges facing pharmacy?
Mayer: Leadership. Like Moses, we need to get out of the desert of counting, pouring, and typing to better utilization of pharmacists' education and skills to improve patient care. In order to do this, we must document successes that pharmacists have had — such as the fact that last year, pharmacists immunized 42% of all U.S. citizens for the flu. We must also recognize the successes of pharmacists all over the United States who are changing and reforming the pharmacy practice acts in their states.
DT: Why has it been so important to you to lead and participate in causes such as the Great American Smokeout and DEA's Take Back Day?
Mayer: I have found that the No. 1 problem in the pharmacy profession is lack of a take-charge attitude. Most pharmacists are introverted, not outspoken. We need to be more like nurses in our thinking and attitudes and ability to think outside the box. What makes nurses so effective is that they are organized as unified healthcare professionals. My No. 1 priority would be to unify all pharmacy organizations so they could speak with a single voice.
DT: Out of all the causes you have been involved in, which ones have made the most impact on public health and/or pharmacy? What are your greatest career accomplishments?
1. Being a father of public health pharmacy in the U.S.A.
2. Instigating the Great American Smokeout; 50 million Americans stopped smoking through this simple campaign.
3. Safety caps on prescription vials: The lives of 7,230 kids have been saved each year through Poison Prevention Month.
4. Increased awareness of reproductive health and reduction of unplanned pregnancies, especially teen pregnancy in the U.S.
5. Reduction of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), condom awareness campaigns, sex education in the schools, and working with Planned Parenthood and PTAs in school districts.
DT: Why have PPSI’s campaigns been so successful?
Mayer: The reason we have been so successful is that we get our message out to the public through the consumer networks of our 6.4 million-strong organizations California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) and Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), as well as the press we have received over the past 50 years through Drug Topics magazine. We could not motivate, educate, and communicate our 55 public health campaigns without their great assistance.
DT: Do you love pharmacy as much as when you first started?
Mayer: Yes. I love it more than I did 60 years ago, when I first graduated from UCSF, the No. 1 school of pharmacy in the country. One of the things they taught us at UCSF — and at UC Berkeley, where I obtained my Masters of Public Health in 1970 — was to think outside the box. It's time for pharmacists to think outside the box. With a shortage of 16,000 physicians in the U.S., there is no better time than now to go out and practice public health pharmacy.