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June 9, 2021

Pharmacy Mentor Helps Black Student Pharmacists and Practitioners Reach Their Potential

Joshua Blackwell, Pharm.D., M.S., volunteers his time to help those in his community.

THE ROAD TOWARD GREATER DIVERSITY, inclusion, and equity is long, but Joshua Blackwell, Pharm.D., M.S., clinical pharmacy manager for ambulatory services at UT Southwestern Medical Center, is committed to seeing it through as best as he can.

Helping the Underrepresented

Dr. Blackwell has spent the better part of the last decade helping underserved pharmacists move up in their careers. In 2013, during his pharmacy studies, he took on leadership positions at the Student National Pharmacy Association (SNPhA), an organization dedicated to serving the underserved. Dr. Blackwell started off as his chapter’s president but quickly rose to oversee all SNPhA chapters in the Midwest and ultimately became National President.

“I had the honor of helping the organization home in on their mission by creating innovative programs and opportunities to serve and strengthen communities,” said Dr. Blackwell, an ASHP member since 2011.

One initiative he worked on was the Prescription for Service competition, a collaboration with Walmart and Sam’s Club, which provides scholarships to pharmacy students based on projects they develop to help the underserved in their community.

“I’ll never forget the winners of the very first competition, in 2013,” Dr. Blackwell said. That project was done by pharmacy students at Howard University and led to a partnership between the University and the Capitol City Pharmacy Medical Reserves Corps, in which the school manages outreach efforts to local student organizations, including wellness fairs and scholarship opportunities. Another winning project Dr. Blackwell is particularly proud of was developed by pharmacy students at Texas A&M University and included a cleanup of a community park and a mural painted on a nearby basketball court to help promote equity and inclusion.

Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy

Joshua Blackwell, Pharm.D., M.S.

After strengthening his leadership chops at SNPhA, Dr. Blackwell co-founded the Pharmacy Initiative Leaders (PILs), a nonprofit organization aimed at empowering underrepresented individuals and “helping them, through authentic support and connection, succeed at every stage of their pharmacy journey,” he said.

“A key to the organization’s success has been creating a culture of community and going out and really cultivating and amplifying people’s strengths, particularly those who may not have an advanced education or the greatest financial resources,” said Dr. Blackwell.

Recently, he and his colleagues at PILs addressed vaccine hesitancy in Black communities through a webinar open to the public.

“When I got the COVID-19 vaccine myself, I had reactions from family ranging from, ‘I’m so happy for you, how’re you feeling?’ to, ‘Are they trying to kill you with the vaccine?’” Dr. Blackwell said, pointing to the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study as an event that spawned suspicion in Black communities regarding the motives of healthcare institutions and public health campaigns.

While historical suspicions are understandable, “People who hold on to fears based on news and social media find it hard to see the positive impact COVID-19 vaccination can have on the community,” Dr. Blackwell said.

To mitigate the impact of these fears, he and his co-presenters explained how COVID-19 vaccines work, answered questions about these medications and about the disease, and highlighted that vaccination is important for all, including Black communities.

Navigating Widespread Biases

Dr. Blackwell’s passion for helping Black pharmacy students and practitioners reach their potential was sparked when, as a student, he faced his own race-based barriers.

“As a black male at a predominantly white institution, people assumed I played football just because a lot of African American males at the university did,” said Dr. Blackwell. In other instances, he faced microaggressions, such as being told that he was “surprisingly articulate.”

Rather than taking these slights to heart, Dr. Blackwell transformed their energy into a stronger resolve to serve his community and reach greater heights. “I’ve always tried to be an example so that other people that look like me try and have a seat at the table, along with the many other underrepresented groups out there,” he said.

Divya Varkey, Pharm.D., M.S., clinical associate professor at University of Houston College of Pharmacy, has been one of Blackwell’s most admired mentors. She said Dr. Blackwell “epitomizes the idea of ‘paying it forward,’ and his passion is easy to see when it comes to providing guidance, support, and mentorship to those around him.”

“His goal for those around him is simply stated: to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be the best version of themselves,” Dr. Varkey said. “To that end, as a mentor himself, Dr. Blackwell spends countless hours working with mentees to help them cultivate their own definition of success and then – and most importantly – connects them to opportunities to achieve those goals.”

ASHP and Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Dr. Blackwell recently served on ASHP’s Task Force on Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), where he helped develop recommendations on marketing and advocacy. The recommendations range from calling on ASHP to provide scholarships to Black, Indigenous, and persons of color (BIPOC) to asking the organization to spotlight the accomplishments of BIPOC students.

“To make all pharmacists feel that ASHP is their home, they need to see themselves playing a role within the organization, and marketing and awareness of ASHP opportunities is one way to get more people at the table,” Dr. Blackwell said, adding that by virtue of taking on leadership roles – including currently serving as a member of ASHP’s House of Delegates  –  he believes he has helped further the cause of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Having a seat at the table is so important because it inspires others who look like me to go further, ultimately giving them more of a voice and expanding the conversation to include other viewpoints,” said Dr. Blackwell.

He is hopeful the DEI Task Force recommendations will help chip away at society-wide racial inequality and urged ASHP members to review and reflect on the recommendations as well as the actions ASHP takes to address health disparities.

“And be a voice within your state affiliates for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts,” Dr. Blackwell urged. “While work at the national level is critical, it all starts at the state level.”

 

By David Wild

November 30, 2020

ASHP’s Midyear Clinical Meeting is Unstoppable

Dear Colleagues,

The 55th Annual Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition is about to kick off! We have a wonderful week ahead packed with world-class educational programming, exciting speakers, and opportunities to connect with colleagues and enrich your practice. This year’s theme is “Unstoppable,” and more than 23,000 attendees will have the opportunity to come together, Dec. 6 –10, on our virtual platform to knowledge share, network, and experience the largest gathering of pharmacists in the world in a new and unique way. Registration will remain open through Dec. 10, so there is still time to register and take advantage of everything the meeting has to offer.

We are delighted to welcome our keynote speaker, award-winning actor, producer, director, and COVID-19 survivor, Tom Hanks, on the morning of Monday, Dec. 7. We are also very pleased to welcome Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joining us on Wednesday, Dec. 9. Please note that these special events will only be available for viewing during the scheduled session days and times. You don’t want to miss these extraordinary speakers.

The 2020 Midyear also features:

  • More than 175 hours of continuing education
  • More than 4,600 posters
  • 1,328 booths in the Residency Showcase (29% increase over 2019)
  • 132 exhibitors/booths

The Midyear Clinical Meeting is the longest, continually running clinical pharmacy meeting in the world. This year, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, ASHP promises to bring you an unstoppable Midyear, offering the most timely and relevant content to support contemporary practice and the best possible patient care.

Our 55th meeting brings together our profession’s best and brightest subject matter experts who will share their knowledge about current pharmacy practice in an ever-changing healthcare landscape.

The distribution and administration of the anticipated COVID-19 vaccines are top of mind and on Monday, Dec. 7, ASHP will hold the first of two late-breaking COVID-19 vaccine sessions. Monday’s session will focus on clinical considerations. A second session will be held on Wednesday, with a focus on operational considerations. In addition to the late-breaking vaccine sessions, we have 18 relevant and informative sessions that will keep you up-to-date on the latest developments related to COVID-19 response and recovery.

Monday will also feature a special Town Hall hosted by Paul C. Walker, Pharm.D., FASHP, chair of the ASHP Task Force on Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Dr. Walker will present the Task Force’s draft recommendations for new and enhanced efforts ASHP should take to address issues of racial diversity, equity, and inclusion impacting Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The Task Force will consider feedback from the Town Hall and other channels in preparing a final report and recommendations to submit to the ASHP Board of Directors in January 2021.

This year’s Midyear marks the first anniversary of the ASHP Innovation Center. The center seeks to elevate the vital role hospital and health-system pharmacy practitioners play in new and emerging science, and position pharmacy practitioners as influencers in developing systems that advance patient safety and quality care. This year’s Midyear offers a wealth of programming dedicated to implementing and using innovative strategies and solutions to further pharmacy practice, including two critical on-demand sessions: Innovations in Drug Information Practice and Research; and Advanced and Innovative Roles in the Specialty Pharmacy Setting. Later in the week, on Thursday, Dec. 10, we have a session highlighting the pros and cons of new technologies that have improved patient care safety and efficiency.

As part of the ASHP Innovation Center, the ASHP Foundation is currently accepting applications for a competitive grant program to support projects that demonstrate the impact of optimizing health information technology and digital transformation that enhance safe and effective use of medications. The grant program is available for interprofessional healthcare teams with a pharmacist as principal investigator. The deadline for applications is Feb. 4, 2021.

I encourage attendees to check out the ASHP Midyear Virtual Posters. With our virtual platform, you can review poster PDFs and audio clips summarizing each project. Authors will be available for real-time video Q & A chats alongside their virtual posters.

These are just a handful of the highlights from the largest gathering of pharmacists in the world. Be sure to follow us on social media @ASHPOfficial and #ASHP2020 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and look for News & Views, the official Midyear newspaper, which will be delivered digitally to all attendees via a daily e-mail. Also, be sure to check out ashptv.com for daily interviews, member stories, and content.

The success of this unstoppable Midyear Clinical Meeting is due to the tremendous work of hundreds of ASHP members and staff, and we are pleased to showcase their efforts and share this event with you.

Finally, I would like to wish all of our members a safe and healthy holiday season. Thank you for being a member of ASHP and for all you do for your patients and our profession during these very challenging times.

Sincerely,

Paul

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