From the first day of my APPE rotation at ASHP, the hot topic was undoubtedly all about “Policy Week”. When introducing myself to ASHP staff, often one of the first questions they’d ask was, “Are you ready for Policy Week?” My answer was a resounding, excitement filled yes-- mainly because I was ecstatic to be at ASHP Headquarters. I didn’t know a lot about Policy Week or what this event entailed. My only experience with ASHP policy was in my first two years of pharmacy school when I attended the two-day Advocacy Boot Camp for pharmacy students. When I saw that during the first week of my rotation, most meetings concerned Policy Week preparation, I figured it was a pretty big deal.
ASHP staff had every detail of the week planned and mapped out, down to the vegetarian meals for pregnant women who couldn’t eat deli meats. It was amazing to see the amount of thought and hard work that went into making the annual Policy Week a robust experience. As I continued to attend these meetings and had discussions with my preceptor about Policy Week, I began to understand exactly what this week-long meeting was about. Policy Week is an opportunity for ASHP members to create, revise, and review some of the policies that ASHP supports as an organization. These policies are then used as the framework to relay to others the position ASHP takes on certain issues and often becomes the standard for pharmacy practice within health systems. After sitting in and participating in this week, my perception of ASHP’s role in policy has completely changed.
Each year, the ASHP President-elect appoints members to one of five councils: Public Policy, Therapeutics, Education and Workforce Development, Pharmacy Practice, and Pharmacy Management. Each Council meets during policy week to discuss current issues in health-system pharmacy. The Councils also seek opportunities to improve pharmacy practice by implementing, eradicating or tweaking current best practices. The Commission on Affiliate Relations also meets during this time to evaluate ASHP’s relationships with state societies of health-system pharmacy. The policies that the Councils create during the week later go to the ASHP Board of Directors and then the House of Delegates to be accepted or revised. As a student sitting in on some of these meetings, I was impressed to see the passion of the Council members as they focused and collaborated on the issues at hand. For hours, they would seamlessly move through topics, engaged in discussion, questions, debates, and, eventually, agreement.
Another aspect of Policy Week was something I was very familiar with: Legislative Day. On this day, attendees of Policy Week head to Capitol Hill to meet with Congress and staff, advocating for various policies on behalf of ASHP and the profession of pharmacy. As a student at Howard University in Washington D.C., I had gone to the Hill to advocate for the profession in the past, so speaking with the staff of congress was something I was very comfortable with. After the briefings on the bills we rallied down to Washington D.C and shared our views. We spoke about drug shortages, drug pricing, the opioid crisis, and funding for residency programs. Advocating for the profession is always a fulfilling experience, and it proved to be an amazing addition to the week’s activities.
Now, after having gone through my first Policy Week, I understand why everyone’s first question was if I was ready for it. There was so much to do, learn, and take-in that by the end of it, I had a completely newfound respect for everyone who spends time to help ensure that our profession progresses in a way that is ultimately most beneficial for patients and their care. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to experience Policy Week as a student, and I look forward to the opportunity to experience it as a practitioner as well.