I was watching America’s Most Badass, a show devoted to telling the stories of tough Americans. They got around to featuring Harry Truman, the president who made the tough decision to use nuclear weapons in war. But first, when Mr. Truman’s World War I experience was being reviewed, it was noted that someone said, “He looked more like a pharmacist than a company commander.”
What does that less-than-bubble reputation say about our profession? Sounds to me as if it says we are wimps, or that our job is wimpy. Look at the entertainment industry. Did George Clooney ever get cast as one of us? Are we crafted as barroom aggressors in Heineken commercials? No, we are too often portrayed as the portly, balding types behind the prescription counter subject to the whims of the world, like the druggist in 1988’s “The Blob.” (“Hey, Pal, can I have a pack of Trojans and a Binaca Spray?”) Say all you want about catching drug errors and interactions, but our work does not quicken pulses or make the news, unless, of course, we are, like that Kansas R.Ph., adulterating chemotherapy for fun and profit. We are not seen to rescue damsels in distress. Actually, we are the ones who need rescuing!
I have no easy solution to the problem. By its nature, pharmacy has difficulty carrying any panache. Unlike nursing or medicine, its image lumbers along as a passive activity. It makes no scenes. It operates behind the scenes. My own pharmacy alma mater viewed it as an allied health profession. So, if we are allied, who are the main contenders? Why else, then, in this year of twenty fifteen, does it just now seriously seek a seat at the table of official providers? Although it has become a public health profession, its inchoate air makes it seem as if its licensure still belongs to the boards that make the pipefitters and real estate agents.
We cannot control the screenwriters, but we might try influencing them by becoming activists. A motivational program I recently attended includes the phrase “proceed until apprehended.” We must speak out, and act out, in all matters concerning our profession. We must demand to take time to fill prescriptions cautiously, to counsel patients, and to cultivate patient rapport, no matter what the computer clock says about our numbers. We must simply take our right to excretion, something all other workers seem to have. If we do not take the risks, then we ought to just shut up and accept our weak rep.