ASHP InterSections ASHP InterSections

August 26, 2021

Johnnie L. Early II and Peter H. Vlasses Named Honorary Members of ASHP

Dr. Johnnie L. Early II, R.Ph., Ph.D., FNPhA

TWO PHARMACY LEADERS WITH A PASSION for education have been presented with Honorary Membership Awards by the ASHP Board of Directors.

The awards, which recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to pharmacy practice, were given to Johnnie L. Early II, R.Ph., Ph.D., FNPhA, dean of Florida A&M University College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Institute of Public Health, in Tallahassee, and to Peter H. Vlasses, Pharm.D., D.Sc. (Hon.), FCCP, executive director emeritus of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) in Chicago. Both were elected for life by unanimous vote.

A lifetime of pharmacy leadership

Dr. Early was recognized for his nearly four decades of pharmacy education and his dedication to expanding opportunities for youth from various racial and ethnic backgrounds to explore careers in pharmacy practice and the pharmaceutical sciences. A charter member of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA), Dr. Early has worked tirelessly to recruit diverse students and create more diverse workforces at the several universities he has worked for. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his contributions to pharmacy, including the 2018 ASHP-ABHP Joint Leadership Award, the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Purdue University chapter of the SNPhA, the National Pharmaceutical Association’s Chauncey I. Copper Award, and the ABHP Wendell T. Hill Award. He also was among the first to be honored as a Fellow of the National Pharmaceutical Association.

Dr. Early “is a distinguished educator and visionary leader in pharmacy,” ASHP said a formal announcement. “He has been instrumental in addressing racial disparities in healthcare, expanding opportunities for BIPOC youth to explore careers in pharmacy practice and the pharmaceutical sciences, and developing a more diverse and culturally competent healthcare workforce.”

Home grown brew    

Growing up, Dr. Early said he always had an interest in science and science fiction. But his first memory of being impressed by pharmacology was around age 5. He was sick, and laying in his bed, when his maternal grandmother came to the house and asked what was wrong. She felt his forehead, then went to the kitchen and rummaged through the knife drawer. The sound piqued Dr. Early’s curiosity (“The first thing I thought was surgery,” he laughed). Instead, his grandmother went out to the front yard, cut some leaves off a plant, and brewed him a warm, bitter tea to drink. Within 30 minutes or so, he felt better.

Years later, Dr. Early considered a variety of careers in the health sciences. As an undergraduate biology major at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, he was one of several students recruited directly by the dean of Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, Dr. Oliver Littlejohn. The day he started pharmacy school he was also invited to be interviewed for medical school.  He explored public health and took the Dental Aptitude test where he was asked to carve a piece of chalk. Despite his dexterity, the chalk broke, and his career in pharmacy began. After graduating from Mercer, Dr. Early went on to receive his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in pharmacology/toxicity from Purdue University.

A dedication to academics

Dr. Early has had a long academic career, holding several positions at Florida A&M including program director of the Minority Biomedical Research Support Program, assistant dean for research, and dean. He then served as dean and professor for the Medical University of South Carolina and for the University of Toledo, in Ohio, before returning to Florida A&M in 2018 for his current role.

Inspired by the dean who recruited him to pharmacy school, Dr. Early has made a point of recruiting potential trainees in person when possible. Over the past two decades, he has established programs at the University of Toledo and at Florida A&M through which minority high school students spend a few days on campus learning more about pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences careers. Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the course was shortened and put online, but students still got some hands-on experience, including making capsules.

“I’m a guy who likes to work,” he said. “And I’m always trying to figure out how to make my people and programs better. Every time somebody gets hired with us, and then is promoted and moves on to higher positions, I see that not as a loss but as an applause for the program.”

Grateful and humbled          

Dr. Early, who started attending ASHP meetings when he first became dean of Florida A&M in 1987, said he was floored to receive a call from ASHP CEO Paul Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon), FASHP, letting him know of the honorary membership award. “It was not in my thinking that that kind of award would be anything that would come my way,” he said. He thanked Dr. Abramowitz on the phone and, in his signature style, later in a handwritten note. “It’s a most significant award, and something that I’m ever so grateful for.”

Longtime pharmacy education leader

Dr. Vlasses was honored for his nearly 45 years in the pharmacy profession. During his 20-year tenure at ACPE, he oversaw the accreditation of the professional degree program in pharmacy; strengthened continuing professional education and development for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians; and championed interprofessional collaboration in education and accreditation. He also led the establishment of the ACPE International Services Program and supported its reach to improve pharmacy education and training worldwide.

Dr. Peter H. Vlasses, Pharm.D., D.Sc. (Hon.), FCCP

In 2014, Dr. Vlasses joined forces with ASHP to create the Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission (PTAC) to assure and advance the quality of pharmacy technician education and training programs. He has received numerous honors including the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s Board of Directors Distinguished Service Award and the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education Pioneer Award.

“Dr. Vlasses is a prominent leader in pharmacy who was a significant ASHP partner in developing the ASHP/ACPE national accreditation standards for pharmacy technician education and training programs,” ASHP said a formal announcement. “His vision, commitment, and collaborative leadership have helped strengthen the foundation of excellence in accreditation of the education of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the United States and around the world.”

A desire to change the world

Dr. Vlasses’ parents were Greek immigrants. As the older of two sons, he was expected to take over the family’s restaurant/bar and liquor store in Camden, N.J. This was in the 1960s, when young people were talking about changing the world and working to serve others. Dr. Vlasses said he didn’t see the liquor store/bar part of the business as helping, so he reluctantly approached his father and asked about pursuing college and a profession.

Instead of being upset, his father talked through three career choices with him. They ruled out medicine because Dr. Vlasses was squeamish around blood. They ruled out law because as a native Greek speaker, he had some challenges with English. But a family friend was a pharmacist with his own store. After a visit, Dr. Vlasses chose to study pharmacy, enrolling at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science. He attended his first ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting as a student in 1970, when pharmacy education was starting to change. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, Dr. Vlasses completed a one-year hospital pharmacy residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and then completed his Pharm.D. education at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science.

Passion for research and academia

Dr. Vlasses then spent many years in academia, working for Ohio State, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, and Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He got involved in research and was elected president of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy. At the time, there was some controversy over whether pharmacists could be clinical investigators on research trials. He wrote to the Food and Drug Administration to inquire if that was permitted; the agency said it was.

“A lot of people subsequently told me that letter helped them do research and get funding,” he said. “That was something I always valued that I contributed to the profession.”

During that time, Dr. Vlasses also became more involved with professional organizations including ASHP, serving on the Council on Therapeutics and on the Research and Education Foundation and Awards program, before moving to ACPE in 1999. Not only did he help develop PTAC seeing that pharmacy technicians needed better training, but when he joined the organization, he worked to improve accredited continuing education standards for continuing education for pharmacy technicians.  providers in pharmacy who were also committed to interprofessional continuing education.

Interprofessional collaboration

“When I joined ACPE, I saw medical professionals learning in silos—doctors in medical school, nurses in nursing school, etc.,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of interactions to say we’re on the same team, we should learn and practice together, and everybody should contribute at the top of their license.”

Dr. Vlasses worked to change the accreditation standards for pharmacy degree programs so students were “team ready” at graduation, with education in the classroom, clinical experience, and exposed to interprofessional education in practice. Similarly, he worked with accreditor colleagues from other health professions to improve accredited continuing education standards to facilitate team-based continuing education, “planned by the team and for the team.” He initially developed joint CE accreditation standards for pharmacy, nursing and medicine. That has since grown to include acceptance by accreditors for CE accreditors for athletic trainers, dentists, dietitians, optometrists, physician assistants, psychologists, and social workers. Any combination of those trainees can learn together and receive CE credit in their professional as well as interprofessional CE credit.

Living the American dream  

Dr. Vlasses retired in 2019. He said when he received the call from Dr. Abramowitz about the honorary membership award, “I was very much honored that ASHP and the board would see me in that light, and valued the contributions I have made as a member of the organization and as a pharmacist. Starting out as a son of a Greek immigrant and the first college graduate in my family to being able to be recognized by a number of pharmacy organizations and ASHP was in many cases the American dream for me.”

 

By Karen Blum

 

April 3, 2018

For Pharmacy Technician Krystal Green, the Sky’s the Limit

This is the first in a series of articles featuring ASHP’s pharmacy technician members and their valuable contributions to the profession. Check out ASHP’s new Pharmacy Technician Forum for more information about efforts to elevate and advance the pharmacy technician workforce, as well as ways for pharmacy technicians to become more involved in ASHP.

Krystal Green, CPh.T., M.B.A., explains how to hold a needle syringe unit to Kelsey McCulloch, a pharmacy technician student.

KRYSTAL GREEN, CPh.T., M.B.A., is not one to shy away from a challenge. In 2015, she set out to do nothing less than build the Piedmont Virginia Community College pharmacy technician program, located in Charlottesville. With only two other ASHP-accredited pharmacy technician programs in the state at the time, Green’s efforts filled an important need for robust technician training.

Standardized, high-level pharmacy technician training is critical to ensuring patient safety, since medication preparation is one of the highest-risk components of the medication-use process, according to an editorial published last year in AJHP. With highly qualified pharmacy technicians overseeing many aspects of the medication-use process, pharmacists can focus more of their time on providing direct patient care services.

Accredited Training Programs

More than 250 formal technician training programs are currently accredited by ASHP/ACPE (Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education). “Accredited programs give future pharmacy technicians the opportunity to learn and practice hands-on skills that are vital to the position,” said Green. “The lab courses and the clinical rotation give students a chance to work through new technician jitters. After they complete the program, I believe graduates enter their new positions ready to work with confidence.”

Creating the Piedmont Virginia Community College pharmacy technician program was not Green’s first foray into building an accredited technician training program. In 2013, she helped gain accreditation for the Virginia College pharmacy technician program in Richmond. Prior to establishing the two programs, Green had practiced as a technician in a variety of settings, ranging from a Walgreens in Richmond to the Cardinal Health nuclear pharmacy in Richmond to the inpatient IV compounding room at CJW Medical Center’s Chippenham Campus. “I loved being in the IV room because it allowed me to use all of my skills,” she said. “I loved the calculations and creating special dilutions.”

Success with Students

Green currently serves as the director of the Piedmont training program. Perhaps part of the reason that Green has settled into this position is that the role allows her to nurture others. “I treat my students as I would my children,” said Green, who is currently the only instructor but hopes to grow the program and recruit one more colleague. “I absolutely love passing on my knowledge to help shape them into pharmacy technicians who have patients at the center of what they do. To see the students become professionals and enjoy their work is priceless.”

Green and McCulloch practice transferring tablets from the tray to the dram.

In addition to teaching technical skills such as medication distribution, dispensing, pharmacy calculations, sterile and nonsterile compounding, and processing insurance claims, Green emphasizes professionalism and treating each patient with respect. “When people come into the pharmacy, we don’t know what they’re going through. We can make at least five minutes of their day less stressful through a warm welcome, by being helpful and polite, and having empathy,” she said

Imparting a well-rounded body of knowledge to the 17 students who have gone through her program has paid off, with a 90% pass rate on the technician certification exams and full employment following graduation. With 17 unfilled technician positions in the Charlottesville area at Green’s last count, the six students currently enrolled in the program will be in high demand once they complete their studies.

“The word has gotten out that our graduates are very well prepared to work as pharmacy technicians, and pharmacies are coming to us to recruit them,” Green beamed, noting that, among other successes, one graduate now contributes to the University of Virginia’s meds-to-beds program and practices in a clinical environment. Another graduate was hired into the IV room setting straight out of the program — an achievement Green said typically requires at least a year of post-certification work. “I am extremely proud of my students,” said Green.

ASHP Membership

Krystal Green, CPh.T., M.B.A.

As an ASHP member since 2011, Green made use of the organization’s resources during her program accreditation process. She also finds sessions at the Midyear Clinical Meetings geared toward pharmacy technicians to be a wellspring of ideas for lectures and lab exercises. The Midyear Clinical Meeting offers her a way to become familiar with the structure of other academic programs. “Exhibit hall vendors give me an idea of what can be done in the lab and what the latest technology is, which helps me prepare students for what’s coming up ahead,” said Green.

Green is also involved with the Virginia Society of Health-System Pharmacists (VSHP), which named her Pharmacy Technician of the Year in 2013 for her role in gaining accreditation for the Virginia College program. “Through VSHP, I’ve found opportunities to network with other pharmacy technicians,” she said, adding that she is hoping to work with VSHP to deepen the organization’s engagement with pharmacy technicians.

Life at Home

Outside of work, Green enjoys spending time with her 11-year-old “four-legged child,” Mena, a Miniature Pinscher. “She loves riding in the car, and often when I’m leaving for work, she’ll run out and sit by the car tire,” Green said.

She also enjoys traveling, most recently to Cuba, and is planning to visit Thailand and Greece in the near future. “I love a good beach,” she said. “Give me blue water, hot weather, some nice scenery, and good food, and I’m happy.”

Future of Pharmacy Technicians

ASHP has supported the advancement of technician roles for decades and recently launched the Pharmacy Technician Forum. It will provide tools, education, and other resources to help pharmacy technicians expand their practice. “I think the forum is going to solidify the importance of pharmacy technician roles in all pharmacy settings and propel technicians into even more advanced roles,” said Green.

When asked to peer into her crystal ball and forecast the future of pharmacy technicians, Green said she thinks they may take on additional clinical roles in the future, including advanced medication therapy management tasks. “Pharmacy technicians are more than capable of assuming a lot of responsibility,” she said. “The sky’s the limit.”

 

By David Wild

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