2021 KCHP Presidential Address - Carolyn Huninghake

Good afternoon! I’d like to start by saying thank you to QA Business Solutions, Jim Andrews, the KCHP Spring Meeting planning committee, Evan Williams and Brian Gilbert for all of their work to make this meeting possible – wow, you all have done an amazing job. I’m also very excited for the success of the inaugural Kanas Pharmacy Residency Conference – the work needed to make this happen has been amazing to watch, and I’m so impressed with what the hard-working members of our organization have accomplished.

For those listening in that I haven’t had the privilege of meeting quite yet – I wanted to give a brief introduction. I’m from St. Louis, MO and attended UMKC for my post-high school education. I didn’t see pharmacy as my career path until about 2 years into college when I found myself needing a summer job. After a day of working in a small independent pharmacy, I had found my passion. Perhaps being the daughter of two pharmacists, I should have come to that conclusion earlier. I went to pharmacy school at UMKC and went on to complete a PGY1 pharmacy residency at Saint Luke’s Health System upon graduation. Matching with Saint Luke’s has transformed my career and I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the colleagues I’ve worked with.

After residency, I worked as a clinical pharmacist at Saint Luke’s North. I transitioned to a role in pharmacy informatics with Saint Luke’s about two years ago and still feel like every day is a new day, learning what I “know” about IT (more specific to pharmacy) and what I still definitely don’t (how does the TV remote work again?)

During pharmacy school I met my now husband Brandon, a University of Kansas School of Pharmacy school graduate. We have two sons, a soccer-loving 6-year old named Flynn and a blonde-haired 3-year old named Porter.

During the end of residency, I began serving on the board of the Greater Kansas City Society of Health System Pharmacists. While I was completing my time with GKC, the opportunity to serve on the board of KCHP was brought to my attention. Yes, I am also a member of the “Jeff Little recommended me…” club and so began my board involvement in KCHP. I’ve had the privilege of serving as District 3 Director, Treasurer, and now president.

Once I was elected President-Elect, knowing I would be giving a speech was one of the first (of many) things I thought about. In preparation for this, I tried to do some research – I read past president speeches, read about cooking, sports, and sailing just to name a few and how so many concepts of these activities correlate to work within an organization. I spent time reading through the ASHP Pharmacy Forecast for the last few years to determine what is important from the perspective of our national association. I also had some one-on-one discussions with past-presidents, seeking insight into how to write this speech and ideas for this presidential year.

One major impact of this speech, and life in general, is the complete shift of almost everything as we know it due to COVID. While I know it feels like COVID is a central concept to so many conversations, I don’t think I could discuss ideas and hopes without acknowledging how very difficult the last year has been. At last year’s meeting I’m sure we all had hopes that we would be together to meet, learn, and converse in person. Unfortunately, while I do believe we are close, it doesn’t seem like we are ready to make that leap quite yet. I remain hopeful though that next year we will be together in-person again, at least in some fashion. I’m also remaining hopeful that later this year, an in-person gathering of some sort would be reasonable. As many of you can surely appreciate, I have been missing in-person activities – be it social events or learning experiences – throughout this last year and am more than ready to find out what the new “normal” will start to look like.

As I was thinking about the theme for this speech and talking with a mentor about this address, one resounding theme seemed to hold true – what IS the new “normal”? Where do we go from here? This has become a prominent question in my personal life and I believe strongly holds true for KCHP, as well.

I can 100% promise that I have the answer to that. Science and vaccines, of which I am grateful, have given us a glimpse into what that new normal may be. With that said, the adjustment to that new normal is going to be something we will all need to work through together. And while I don’t have the answer, one of my goals during my time in this presidential cycle is to help KCHP work through questions that may help us set the stage to what this may look like.

As I began to think about tackling these questions, starting with the reflecting on the past year seems like a good first step. Some of the questions I thought about have been: What was successful about the last year? What have we learned – personally? As a profession? As an organization? What worked well over the last year? What didn’t work as well as we would have liked? The answers to these questions aren’t necessarily simple ones, and it will take the work of our Board and Members to work through them. But I wanted to share some thoughts about a few of take-aways that I’ve had to highlight today.

First – I think it has been phenomenal to watch the growth of technology and how it can 1) bring us closer together (in ways) and 2) help pharmacists provide patient care. One of the topics discussed in the 2021 Pharmacy Forecast is improving access to care and positioning Health Systems to successfully reach patients and provide the care they need. The Forecast also discusses the importance and use of telehealth to help provide care, reaching rural and underserved areas. We have seen how the COVID-19 pandemic increased virtual care of patients that traditionally had to travel miles to speak with a health care professional.

I have heard great examples of how organizations have been able to quickly shift mentality and continue to provide care from a distance. A few examples I’ve heard about (and I’m sure there are many others) – include shifting rotational sites to completely virtual or a hybrid model and ambulatory visits shifting to virtual or video appointments, when clinically appropriate. Technology has been able to help improve patients’ access to care. I know there are more, and one of my challenges to you all today is to brainstorm and think of other ways we could be utilizing technology as a resource.

While technology has brought a lot of positive things, it is most definitely not a replacement for being with people in-person. This past year has shown the true importance of gathering together, in-person, and how important this direct-human contact can be. As with many people, there was a large gap of time that I wasn’t able to see my parents in person. Right before COVID, my mom was diagnosed with heart failure, and the potential risk outweighed any possibility of seeing her in person. While I am so very grateful for technology, nothing came close to giving her a hug in-person, and seeing her get to snuggle on the couch with my boys after a long 9 months. I use this story to illustrate that while technology is helpful, it definitely isn’t a replacement.

As we continue to move forward – one of the second challenges I think we will need to work through as an organization is how do we start to find that balance – the balance of wanting to be together and NEEDING to be together, but also allowing KCHP to reach members from across the state in a meaningful, efficient manner. Do more events become hybrid? Do we have in-person events and make other ones virtual? This is the second challenge I hope to conquer, again with input from you, our members and board, is finding out what kinds of interactions do you want and need, and how can we as an organization meet those needs.

As we have all witnessed the good and maybe the not-so-great aspects of technology, I think my current role as an informatics pharmacist while in this presidential role is unique to help bring awareness and discussion around this topic. Leveraging technology while still understanding its limits is going to be a fine balance – ensuring the social needs of members are met, while still reaching members from across the state.

As we begin to work through finding this balance, it will also be a focus on continuing to support our membership and continue to grow, meeting the needs of practitioners across the state – our students, technicians, and pharmacists of Kansas. We as a Board of Directors will need your help, your input, to know how best we can continue to serve you and work for the patients of Kansas in this new “normal”.

After listening to the panel discussion yesterday, I was moved by conversations regarding moving forward in a post-pandemic world and re-engagement. I believe there is work we can do as an organization to support you all as we try to figure this out, together. I also feel like as a colleague and pharmacist, I can’t begin to understand all of the struggles we all have dealt with the last year – but I do know that we are not alone, you are not alone, and I hope in some fashion KCHP can be an outlet for us to grow and heal together.

I am honored to be standing before you all today as the next President of KCHP. I feel overwhelmed with excitement, thinking of the accomplishments of the boards and presidents of the past. I have many people to thank for helping me get to this point – mentors, managers, family and friends who have helped support me along the way.

So, with that - I am ready to charge forward over the next year to help KCHP find our new “normal”, whatever that may be.

And while I know the last year has been more difficult than any of us could have predicted, I am awed by how we as an organization and profession have not only maintained but are stronger today for having made it through the last year.

Early this year I started a new cycling work out program and one of the instructors, Robin Arzon mentioned during a ride that “This is the time to not just survive, but thrive”. I honestly believe that while yes, this last year has definitely had tough moments where many times we may have felt we were just “surviving”, KCHP continued to thrive. I thank Kat for her remarkable leadership during such an uncertain time. Her leadership has been incredible and I thank her immensely for her work. KCHP has also continued to thrive due to the hard work and dedication of our board and our members – dedication to not only the organization but also to the patients of Kansas.

I am willing and ready to help KCHP find our new “normal”, to the best of my ability over the next year. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as President, and I am welcoming the challenge and opportunity to help KCHP thrive – over the next year and beyond. Finally, I want each and every one of you listening to know that, as Joe Slechta put it so simply yesterday, I appreciate YOU – each and every one of you. Thank you for all you have done and I look forward to what we as an organization will accomplish over the next year.

Copyright 2019, Kansas Council of Health-System Pharmacy (KCHP)
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