What does 40 years of Pharmacy Advocacy look like? Meet Starlin.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Starlin Haydon-Greatting, MS-MPH, BSPharm, CDM, FAPhA, then hold on to your chair. She’s a leader for Pharmacist Moms. Here’s what she had to say about 40 years of pharmacy advocacy.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Starlin Haydon-Greatting, MS-MPH, BSPharm, CDM, FAPhA, then hold on to your chair. She’s the one at the microphone asking the speakers the hard questions. She’s the one traveling all over this country talking about pharmacists’ skills. She’s a consultant, pharmacoepidemiologist, and director of clinical programs at the Illinois Pharmacists Association (https://www.linkedin.com/in/starlinhaydongreatting/). She was the one balancing babies (twins) with work in the public health office. Now’s she balancing grandbabies with work in professional associations. She’s been on fire for her entire career and she has done more for pharmacists than we will probably ever realize.

She’s a leader for Pharmacist Moms. Here’s what she had to say about 40 years of pharmacy advocacy:

Did you start advocacy work as a student?

Yes, I am from Southern Illinois and my mother was the precinct committee chairwoman for Madison County-so when the Metro-East Pharmacists started a rally for Pharmacies south of I-80 both my StLCOP instructors and my mother fed me the “Kool-Aid!!” I became one the first students downstate on the IPhA BOD! StLCOP Faculty, Hillary Still, MS, RPh lived in Illinois and challenged his students to get involved because it was their future—a true Philosophy of Pharmacy Practice! [We named our first-born daughter after Hillary!]

How did it begin and how did it grow for you?

In 1976, pharmacy —especially pharmacists—did not have much input about pharmacy practice and as usual we were not at the table to discuss our worth with the expanding insurance plans that just started to cover some medications. In Southern Illinois, the pharmacists I worked for as a student pharmacist where “rabble rousers” and challenged the Chicago Control over the whole state’s pharmacy practice. The geographic differences and philosophy of pharmacy practice differed between the Chicago area and south of I-80. I began telling the stories of the patients I saw in the “corner drug-store” in Wood River that started seeing more and more unemployment and increasing Medicaid population. Seeing my mentors and the legislatures drink in the patient care stories fed my activist soul! I realized then, that the true skill of pharmacists is our ability to speak for our patients, our Healthcare team, and ourselves about the healthcare delivery at ground level—WE are the “boots on the ground!”

Why does pharmacy need advocacy now, more than ever?

I have been focused on moving pharmacy forward since 1976! Today because of the changing health care climate with access to care and the social determinants of health, we have a better chance to fill in the GAPS of care! With 6-8 years of professional pharmacy education we are MORE than dispensers—we are the “Universal Translators” of complicated and advanced medications and delivery systems. Especially with digital technology—we are ahead of the curve!

What advice/words of wisdom do you have for pharmacists who feel they don’t have the time or expertise?

Time: Make time, at least 15 minutes, to actually listen to your patients and relate their stories to the Decision Makers! OR the Decision Makers will leave you OUT of the decision. We are a profession and sometimes owners and bosses lose track of our purpose and the ethical and empathetic philosophy of pharmacy practice. When I was the Director of Quality Assurance and Drug Utilization Review for Medicaid—I witnessed the lack of respect our profession receives because the wrong representatives were at the table deciding what was best for pharmacy’s future. Well they were wrong then and are still wrong!

Expertise: Everyone has a story, your patients’, your family’s, your own and therefore you ARE an expert. You ARE the boots on the ground in every practice site and are witness of many flaws in the system. Take those stories and Join a Pharmacy Organization that will teach you the advocacy skills. We need all pharmacists united to move our profession forward—in numbers we have strength and support—alone we are seldom heard.

What would you say to someone who thinks pharmacy organizations aren’t doing enough?

Did you know there are laws and federal mandates that prevent Pharmacists from Colluding—gathering together in an organized group discussing anything with money, reimbursement or costs is federally prohibited. We can gather and set standards of practice and opinions on performance measures etc.…. Labor relations fall under the labor laws of each state. If we want to change the system, we need to participate in the Management of the System. Just like any relationship we need to proactively communicate the needs and aspirations of our pharmacy purpose. Surround yourself with negative thinking you will think negative—surround yourself with positive thinking you will begin to think more positive. Come join the positive path of moving pharmacy forward we need all the boots on the ground we can get!!! After all our profession depends on it….

Any last words of advice for moms who are struggling with integrating their career and home lives?

Stop trying to be “perfect” and strive for excellence and make small reachable goals. I gave up on housework in the 60’s…Women should pride themselves on their outstanding mothering/nurturing/empathy abilities, communications talents and partnering skills, with family, friends, and colleagues. The professional pharmacy philosophy that you inherently have will ALWAYS put the patient first and focus on being person-centered even if you only have 60 seconds—our patients are the pharmacists’ advocate!!!!

Thank you, Starlin!


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