Rear Admiral (RADM) Pamela Schweitzer - retired Chief Professional Officer of Pharmacy for the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) - talks to us about the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists during a public health crisis. Dr. Schweitzer was responsible for providing leadership and coordination of USPHS pharmacy programs for the Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Health & Human Services from 2014-2018.
- Pharmacists play a critical role in the USPHS because they have a unique skill set.
- A pandemic, like COVID-19, requires a coordinated effort between the public and private sectors to address mass vaccination efforts as well as shortages of medications, testing, and personal protective equipment using an incident command structure.
- USPHS pharmacists are deployed to the hardest-hit zones to provide medical and scientific assistance. With the COVID-19 pandemic, USPHS officers have been helping set-up community testing and mass-vaccination sites as well as providing input on federal guidance impacting pharmacists and pharmacies.
- Pharmacists in the USPHS must wear many hats. While formal training is helpful, getting a wide breadth of on-the-job experiences is critical.
- Be curious. Learn new skills in every position/job. Be flexible and positive. Be comfortable with shifting conditions. Step up, speak up, and volunteer. Act when you can. Be a role model.
- If you'd like to get more involved, consider volunteering with your local Medical Reserve Corps , applying to become a Commissioned Officer in the USPHS or the newly formed USPHS Ready Reserve Corps.