Craving Connection, Pharmacists Celebrate a Return to In-Person Events

The move back to live meetings has energized AAP’s staff and members.

Transformation was top of mind at the 2022 American Associated Pharmacies (AAP) Annual Conference, where industry leaders, pharmacy owners, and AAP staff came together to celebrate their first annual meeting—live and in-person—since 2019.

“The AAP Annual Conference, it’s a very intimate thing to me,” David Dingman, RPh, AAP Chairman of the Board, told Drug Topics®. “I’m excited to showcase what the executive staff and the board have come up with for the year. I’m excited to see our members; I get much more out of [the meeting] than I can ever bring, just talking to the other owners and operators and learning what they’re doing.”

According to Dingman, both speakers and attendees alike were engaged and high-energy. “It was exciting [and] uplifting. I get fired up listening to our members get fired up,” he explained. “They’re like, ‘You guys found a fantastic solution to this problem.’”

Collaboration is a core value built into the organization’s DNA as a member-owned cooperative with nearly 2500 independent pharmacy members. This spirit of collaboration and cooperation to improve the independent pharmacy space drives home the importance of live events for a group like AAP.

“The move back to having our annual in-person conference is energizing for all of us at AAP,” said Ginny Langbehn, marketing and corporate communications director at AAP. “We used the 2-year hiatus as an opportunity to rebuild and rethink this event in order to bring the most value to every attendee.”

“The energy in the room this year was so uplifting. We heard that from many attendees, and our staff experienced it as well,” she added. “There’s just something special about being face-to-face, and we look forward to next year in New Orleans!”

AAP isn’t alone in their return to live events: Other industry conferences are also moving forward with live events in 2022, having found virtual events both limiting and lacking. But at this year’s AAP Annual Meeting, attendees truly felt that they were a part of something special. One pharmacist described the meeting as a “home run,” while another mentioned the feeling of accomplishment in the room compared with other pharmacy conferences in years past.

Although everyone working in health care was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists were hit particularly hard. While many physician’s offices closed and transitioned to virtual care, pharmacies remained open, providing their communities with uninterrupted access to critical services—all while navigating an expanded scope of practice, new billing challenges, and constantly shifting safety guidelines. On top of that, CDC data indicate that as of June 8, pharmacies have administered more than 254.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.1

Pharmacist burnout also skyrocketed during this period, changing the way many pharmacists worked.

Tracie Heyrman, Vice President of Operations at AAP, also shared her perspectives on the importance of these in-person events.

Drug Topics®: Can you talk about why “transformation” was chosen as the theme of this year’s AAP meeting?

Tracie Heyrman: COVID-19 impacted our entire world, but it impacted health care workers more than most. It's been a tough couple of years for pharmacies—and for independent pharmacies in particular. Our AAP member pharmacies really stepped up to the plate and transformed their businesses; they started delivering medications and figured out how to handle testing and vaccinations, all while short-staffed and trying to stay healthy themselves. We wanted to celebrate those who have embraced the change, and arm those who haven't with the right tools and mindset to take on the challenge.

After 2 and a half years of virtual or cancelled events, people are looking forward to getting back to in-person conferences. What were your main goals for the event?

Our main goal was to deliver a program that would leave our pharmacists feeling energized about their business, the independent pharmacy industry, and their relationship with AAP. We also had a goal of providing actionable takeaways for attendees to bring home and implement in their pharmacies.

What did your team do to ensure that the event would be full of opportunities to connect and create community with their pharmacy peers?

We worked hard to ensure those opportunities through a combination of AAP-led sessions and sessions led by business speakers; ample social, networking, and workshop opportunities; and time spent with vendors.

How was the energy at this year’s meeting different from annual conferences in years past?

Attendees, staff, and exhibitors alike were so grateful to meet face-to-face. The vibe was extremely positive and energetic; there seemed to be a renewed appreciation for the benefits of gathering together.

Did you find that the attendees were more open to engaging with the presenters and sessions due to excitement about being live and in-person for the first time since 2019?

Absolutely! Everyone was eager to share—and hear—stories of transformation and how we can capitalize on the momentum and continue to reshape the practice of pharmacy.

Do you have any tips for pharmacists who are looking to create connection and community in their daily practice?

If we have learned anything from the experience of the past 2 years, it’s that we’re all in this together. Simply taking a few minutes to ask someone how they are really doing, and then listening to their response, can work wonders. Emotional and physical health are so connected.

Reference

  1. The federal retail pharmacy program for COVID-19 vaccination. CDC. Reviewed June 9, 2022. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/retail-pharmacy-program/index.html