Leal addressed APhA conference attendees at the opening general session.
In her 2021 inaugural address as the 166th president of the American Pharmacy Association (APhA), Sandra Leal, MD, MPH, FAPhA, CDCES, asked her audience to use their voices to speak and to act. In her final address at the APhA 2022 Annual Meeting and Exposition, Leal acknowledged the tireless work of the pharmacists who have done just that.
“Our teams are stressed and stretched,” said Leal. “Workforce shortages exist across the country and across all practice settings. We are dealing with a crisis…where advocacy efforts can seem insufficiently responsive to the demands of pharmacy practice.”
As pharmacists have faced professional challenges ranging from vaccine misinformation, doubt, and mistrust to rapid changes in practice guidelines, they have remained “committed to serving [their] patients and communities,” said Leal.
One aspect of this commitment is advocacy, said Leal, adding that “It’s time that we double down to listen, to see, to act, and especially to have heart…Advocacy never stops; there’s always work to do to make things better.”
Although pharmacists have gone above and beyond over the course of the pandemic, too many voices have been lost or fallen further behind as pressures on the profession have increased—a pressure that Leal acknowledged is unsustainable. And what happens when the current COVID-19 crisis ends?
“The federal government has opened its eyes to what pharmacists can contribute, and has realized that they can count on us,” she said. “However, they can’t take that for granted. We need permanent authority and sustainability for the services we provide,” she added, to a round of applause from the audience.
The value of the pharmacist must be recognized, she continued, allowing those in the profession to effectively deliver much-needed health care and provide access as part of the public health infrastructure.
Leal ended her address on a high note, sharing that serving as APhA president has been one of the greatest honors of her life. “My advocacy does not stop here,” she added. “I will continue to use my voice to speak up for you, our patients, and our profession. Together, we will continue to be a collective voice for the changes needed to improve care throughout communities and the well-being of our team members.”
Leal is succeeded by incoming APhA president Theresa P. Tolle, BPharm, FAPhA, owner of Bay Street Pharmacy in Sebastian, Florida.