Ron Fitzwater, CEO of the Missouri Pharmacy Association, is an NACDS RxIMPACT Day Pioneer—meaning he attended the very first NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill in 2009. He is one of four Pioneers who have attended every event over the past decade.
Ron Fitzwater, CEO of the Missouri Pharmacy Association, is an NACDS RxIMPACT Day Pioneer—meaning he attended the very first NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill in 2009 and registered by an early deadline to help build momentum. In fact, Fitzwater is one of 15 Pioneers who will attend the 2018 event, and he is one of four Pioneers who have attended every event over the past decade. That kind of committed, consistent advocacy is a hallmark of the event. A total of 1,901 advocates have attended the event over the past 10 years and nearly half of all advocates return to participate in additional NACDS RxIMPACT events.
NACDS.org caught up with Fitzwater this week to talk about why he thinks it’s so important to come to the event every year, and what it means to him to speak directly with members of Congress on their own turf.
Q: What made you want to come to the first NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill 10 years ago?
A: I appreciate all the work that NACDS does. The first year I went just to see what it was like and see what went on at the meeting. I found that it was very professionally run. I got an opportunity to speak, essentially, on the key pharmacy issues of all the pharmacists in Missouri. I liked the format, the structure, and the very punctual way the event was run.
Q: Why do you think it’s so important to participate every year?
A: We obviously try to meet with our members of Congress back here in Missouri and certainly try to get our pharmacists to meet with them. NACDS has also been active in trying to get members of Congress into pharmacies. But you also have to go on their turf and show them that you’re willing to go the extra mile. You need to go over to their world and continue to push your message. We try to do a two-pronged approach, but we think the Washington visits are a key part, to show lawmakers that we’re serious about the message, that there are critical issues facing pharmacy, and they’re the ones that can provide the relief for our members.
Q: What kinds of personal stories have you shared with lawmakers about pharmacy?
A: I try to tell the pharmacists who are with me on my team to just speak from your heart. How is it impacting your patients? What are you seeing? Obviously you go through the talking points, but I tell them to think of how the issues impact the patient standing at the counter, when you’re frustrated and you can’t do something to benefit the patients, or there’s some legislation or regulation in a contract that prevents you from giving them the best care. I tell them to speak from everyday experience, and members of Congress appreciate that.
Q: What else have you observed in your 10 years as a Pioneer?
A: The other thing that has really impressed me at the event is a lot of times I’ll have a student with me, and it’s really interesting to watch the members of Congress. They love hearing from young pharmacists, especially students. They want to know what their perception is, what they’re anticipating the profession is going look like, what they’ve seen so far, and what their educational background is. Students usually get excited about the clinical opportunities, in addition to the dispensing opportunities. There is a broad opportunity at this meeting to express a lot of different viewpoints in pharmacy in a very short period of time.
Q: Do you have any advice for new attendees?
A: Just absorb the day and have a good time. I’ve had opportunities to be with CEOs and folks on the executive level of the chains, in addition to the pharmacists. I’d recommend that they try to take the time to meet as many people as they can, certainly meet the folks on their team. It’s also good to listen as other folks from a different seat at the table explain their frustrations with the issues that are impacting pharmacy. I always come away with a lot of additional information that I can incorporate as I try to deal with the same issues, either back here in Missouri with members of Congress, or a lot of them are interchangeable with some of the state issues that we address.
I’m looking forward to it. It seemed like it was so far off and now it’s a week away. It’s exciting!