Reaching The APEX: American Pharmacies Annual Meeting Showcases the Importance of Community


Chuck Waters, vice president of marketing, communications, and data strategy at American Pharmacies, shared why collaboration is so important for the company’s annual APEX event.

There are few things as important as a live event to turn a client from an online acquaintance to a colleague you can connect with face-to-face. Drug Topics was recently joined by Chuck Waters, vice president of marketing, communications, and data strategy for American Pharmacies, to talk about APEX, the organization’s annual event, which aims to cultivate a sense of community and shrink the massive pharmacy world down to a community where collaboration is encouraged.

At a high level, Waters sees APEX as a chance to show the work American Pharmacies does on a daily basis to individuals who otherwise wouldn’t get to see it. “It's our signature event of the year,” Waters said. “We consider it a major showcase of our value proposition. It's an opportunity to bring people together from across the country, show them what American pharmacies has to offer, as well as provide a lot of useful resources and information to our members, and hopefully help them have a very good time.”

But before those folks can have a good time at the conference, they have to be drawn to the conference, Waters said. And that’s why a name change was crucial.

“We used to call our meeting the shareholder retreat, which was good enough but didn't really convey the best-in-class type of image that we were looking for,” Waters explained. “So, we came up with a name that was very close to the acronym for American Pharmacies: APRx. We came up with the name APEX because it means the peak– the pinnacle­– of something, and we wanted our conference to be best in class. That's what we aspire to every year, so we wanted a name that reflected that.”

American Pharmacies hopes that APEX accomplishes a few different goals, Waters said, starting with forming a sense of real community within the industry. “The first goal is to bring people from across the country together for opportunities to network and collaborate.”

That collaboration has grown exponentially each year as APEX continues to expand. “Our members come from a variety of different states. We have 16 states represented this year from Arizona to New York, from California to Florida,” Waters said. “I think we have our first ever guest from Utah [this year].” Several years ago, attendance was largely comprised of attendees from Texas (American Pharmacies is a Texas-based organization). “But as we've grown to 38 states nationally and over 700 pharmacies, we're starting to pull in people from across the country, which creates incredible opportunities for networking, for making new friends, and for collaborating.”

With that expanded growth comes opportunities to expand the conference. When APEX was a smaller conference, choosing a location was easy. “San Antonio is where the conference was being held when I first came on board [at American Pharmacies] in 2011,” Waters said, “and that's where it's been most years.” But now, Waters and American Pharmacies are exploring all options. “We are still, even with our pronounced national growth, a very Texas centric organization; [approximately] 36% of our members are from Texas,” he said, adding that the state represents the highest concentration of American Pharmacies members. “[We’re looking at] perhaps having smaller conferences at different places around the around the country, events that might be 1 day, or 1 and a half days, that we could bring to smaller areas where people don't have as much of a challenge as trying to drive a long distance or flying to Texas. It is entirely possible that the conference might move out of state, or that we might move smaller versions of our conference out of state.”

Waters also discussed how American Pharmacies—aside from helping independent pharmacies achieve their goals on the business side—wants each member and guest at APEX to feel a “sense of belonging” and be a part of a community in an industry where solidarity and community are so important. “We really value you as human beings,” he said of American Pharmacies members.

Waters also made the distinction between being “self-focused” and being “others-focused,” explaining how empathy for others is a key tenet of how the American Pharmacies operates. In a profession where the end goal is to help others and improve the health of those around us, having the backs of other individuals who want to do the same is paramount.

In the end, Waters hopes that what members and prospective members alike takeaway from APEX each year is a sense of community and a feeling that American Pharmacies has their backs. And so, from the name to the location and how the event is run, Waters emphasized that the goal of American Pharmacies is to make sure that every aspect of APEX is tailored for the individuals who keep the pharmacy world running.

“We want [our members] to understand that we are here for them; that everything that we do—whether it's at our annual conference or [our] day to day work—is for them, because of our total commitment to the success of independent pharmacy and to their individual success as members of our organization,” he said. “We want them to see that total commitment."

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