imageThe 47th Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) opens Sunday, Dec. 2, in Las Vegas. The five-day meeting—the largest gathering of pharmacy professionals in the world—is expected to draw more than 20,000 hospital pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, pharmacy leaders and related professionals.

Former President Bill Clinton will give the keynote speech at the conference’s official opening session on Monday. His address, “Embracing our Common Humanity,” will describe the challenge of globalization; emphasize the world’s growing interdependence; and point the way toward a common future based on shared goals and values.

Also at the opening session, the ASHP will bestow its Board of Directors Award of Honor to June L. Dahl, PhD, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in Madison, for her extraordinary contributions to the field of pain management.

At the heart of the meeting are dozens of educational sessions, workshops, symposia, networking sessions and case studies that reach across a spectrum of topics essential to contemporary pharmacy practice.

“We always strive to include the hottest subjects and the most important developments at this meeting,” said JoAnn Harris, RPh, MBA, ASHP’s director of educational services. “That includes the Pharmacy Practice Model Initiative [PPMI], medication safety, practice management and leadership, pharmacy processes, informatics, career development, residency training, the fast-growing specialties of ambulatory care and emergency medicine pharmacy, and medical breakthroughs.”

The Spotlight on Science lecture on Wednesday features Mansoor M. Amiji, PhD, RPh, a distinguished professor and the chairman of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University’s School of Pharmacy, in Boston. In his talk, “Nanotechnology in Medicine: How Very Tiny Solutions Can Impact Big Problems,” Dr. Amiji will explain the latest advances in biocompatible materials, from natural and synthetic polymers; target-specific drug and gene delivery systems for cancer and infectious diseases; and nanotechnology applications for medical diagnosis, imaging and therapy.

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Former President Bill Clinton’s keynote speech, “Embracing our Common Humanity,” will help kick off the 2012 ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting.

PPMI Remains a Key Focus

The PPMI once again occupies a prominent place at the conference. A number of sessions incorporate various facets of the pioneering framework that has already begun to change the course of pharmacy practice. In Thursday’s session, “Strategies Worth Sharing: Practice Innovations,” clinicians and managers from various settings will describe how they adopted elements of PPMI recommendations into the workplace, and describe common barriers to PPMI advancement, explained program chair Jennifer Edwards-Schultz, PharmD, FASHP, the pharmacy residency program director and a clinical pharmacist at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, in Montana. The speakers will tackle an assortment of PPMI recommendations, including those that deal with ambulatory care, pharmacy practice management, informatics, new practitioners and pharmacy students.

“Last year, PPMI was still very new, so we took a broad view: here’s where we want to go and here are some ideas,” Dr. Edwards-Schultz said. “This time around, we’ve asked people who have actually implemented elements of PPMI to share their experiences—their successes and the challenges they faced—and perhaps inspire others to advance the PPMI process within their institutions.”

Medication safety, as always, is another conspicuous theme. The poignant Monday session, “The Emily Jerry Story: Lessons Learned from a Fatal Medication Error,” will revisit a tragedy that rocked the profession. In 2006, 2-year-old Emily died after a catastrophic dosing error. Christopher Jerry, Emily’s father and founder of the Emily Jerry Foundation, and Eric Cropp, BSPharm, who was the supervising pharmacist on duty when a technician made the fatal chemotherapy compounding error, are among the presenters. Mr. Cropp lost his pharmacy license and served prison time after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He now serves as a patient and caregiver advocate for the foundation. In their unlikely partnership, the two men have teamed up to encourage hospitals to take concrete actions that reduce human errors in pharmacy systems.

“The primary message that Eric and I want to convey is that the medical community must not focus on the criminalization of medication errors,” Mr. Jerry said. “That takes the focus off fixing the real problem, which is that the system failed. What happened to Eric Cropp set a horrible precedent going forward.”

The other speakers will be Michael R. Cohen, RPh, MS, the president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), and Douglas J. Scheckelhoff, MS, ASHP’s vice president for professional development.

ISMP To Highlight Top 10 Medication Safety Issues

Wednesday also will feature “Top Ten Medication Safety Issues Related to Hospital Accreditation Standards,” presented by noted drug safety expert Darryl S. Rich, PharmD, MBA, FASHP, a medication safety specialist with the ISMP. Dr. Rich will describe strategies for tackling the most problematic and potentially dangerous safety issues that also are cited frequently by the Joint Commission during accreditation surveys. A prime example: Many facilities do not include opioids on their list of high-alert drugs, even though they top the list for causing serious errors among hospitalized patients, Dr. Rich said.

Ambulatory care is among the emerging practice areas represented at the meeting. The “Super Sunday” workshop, “Ambulatory Care Review Course Intensives,” offers six hours of high-level programming for board-certified ambulatory care pharmacists. Attendees also can take the recertification exam. (This workshop requires additional fees.) “We’ll also have quite a few regular educational sessions for ambulatory care pharmacists,” Ms. Harris said.

The growing importance of emergency medicine pharmacy also is reflected on the schedule. At the Wednesday session, “Hot Topics in Emergency Medicine,” experts will discuss important emergency interventions such as thrombolytics for pulmonary embolism, and high-dose insulin therapy and intralipids for overdose patients, according to Daniel Hays, PharmD, BCPS, FASHP, the clinical coordinator of Emergency Pharmacy Services in the Departments of Pharmacy and Emergency Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Network.

“We’ve put together an advanced-level program for pharmacists currently practicing in the realm of emergency medicine or are interested in doing so,” he said. “When I started, very few pharmacists practiced emergency medicine. Now there are a few hundred or more—still a relatively small number, but an impressive growth rate.”

Also on Wednesday, Dr. Hays will moderate “Emergency Medicine Pearls.” Each pearl comprises a three- to five-minute presentation that conveys a single useful idea or concept about clinical pharmacotherapy but may not be widely known or understood.

Idea Sharing for Residency Preceptors

At another Wednesday session, “Residency Precepting: Strategies Worth Sharing,” speakers will offer ideas that residency program directors and preceptors can use to create highly productive residency experiences, according to program chair John E. Murphy, PharmD, a professor of pharmacy practice and science and associate dean at The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, in Phoenix. Dr. Murphy himself will explore how preceptors can shepherd residents toward residency projects that truly make a difference for themselves and their institutions and that can be completed comfortably within the time limitations of the program.

“I think it’s best when preceptors help residents choose a project they really want to do,” he said. Other topics will include how to refine the orientation process to ensure that residents are thoroughly prepared for what lies ahead and to find the most effective ways to assess residents’ performance.

The meeting pays special attention to pharmacists who have recently started their careers. At the premeeting workshop that runs Saturday and Sunday, “Great Expectations for New Practitioners,” pharmacists with fewer than five years in the profession can explore workplace challenges, mentorship and clinical issues in an encouraging, motivational atmosphere. Day 1 covers career management, such as navigating hospital politics and publishing and conquering certification exams. Day 2 is dedicated to improving clinical skills, regardless of practice area. Participation is included in the conference registration fee.