Committing to look in the mirror, and walk in the light
On May 25, George Floyd’s breath was taken from him tragically and senselessly. Many Americans feel that their breath was taken along with his. For many others, George Floyd’s life has passed into a deeper consciousness of the realities faced by Black Americans – realities that have been too easy to disregard.
George Floyd’s family said that his killing was caused by a pandemic of racism and discrimination. Maybe this is a unique and timely comparison that can sink in. After all, over the past three months, our nation has feared a virus that spreads quickly, that affects its victims harshly and unpredictably, and that can pass from a carrier who is not even aware of his or her infection. That sounds like racism and discrimination to me.
As is the case across business settings, we recognize that people of color on our pharmacy teams may feel heartbroken, numb or exhausted as a result of the most recent tragedies involving George Floyd and others. The same is true of the diverse customers whom they serve.
Individuals and entities are considering this issue from their own perspectives, and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores is among the organizations doing so. Like those who have gathered in great numbers peacefully yet passionately, we stand committed to confronting racism and discrimination.
True leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us to confront our disappointment and anger with perseverance and hope. What will it take for us to validate his vision that “only in the darkness can you see the stars”?
Every individual and every organization will need to consider and answer that question for themselves. For NACDS, it may be helpful to think of the role that we can play in terms of our vision that pharmacies serve as the face of neighborhood healthcare. That vision relates directly to the individuals and communities we serve and to the individuals who serve as team members in our members’ pharmacies.
A Commitment to Listen
First, however, NACDS must look in the mirror. Like any other organization or individual, we must acknowledge what we may not yet know and understand fully. Listening is an important treatment for the racial divide. As a member-driven trade association, and as an organization committed to empowering our own staff team to thrive, NACDS will pursue important initiatives. These initiatives are designed to make the topics of diversity and inclusion ubiquitous within the Association.
NACDS will create a Diversity and Inclusion Council that consists of representatives from our member companies. Participants will include companies’ diversity and inclusion officers and other interested personnel. The NACDS Diversity and Inclusion Council will make recommendations to NACDS as it deems appropriate, and it also will help to share knowledge among members of this crucial subject matter.
NACDS also will create a Diversity and Inclusion Team among the NACDS staff. Reflecting the approach of our member companies, NACDS already has put into place policies that are important for protecting all employees. NACDS also seeks to create a positive culture for all. However, we need to continue to challenge ourselves to make further evaluations about what more we can do to be the kind of organization that we must be. We will look to the Diversity and Inclusion Team to help to accomplish that.
In addition to these important initiatives, NACDS anticipates a related announcement in the coming weeks that will further bolster our work in this important area. This announcement will relate to our engagement with an external force whose critical eye, authenticity, and proven experience will add tremendous power to this advancement of diversity and inclusion within NACDS.
Pharmacies as the Face of Neighborhood Healthcare: Our Communities
Regarding the communities that pharmacies serve, NACDS members already help to address healthcare disparities within the nation, and we will identify opportunities by which NACDS can help to redouble these efforts. The fact that the current discussions of race are occurring amid the COVID-19 pandemic is timely, as we are learning that Black Americans are disproportionately affected by the virus. This reflects a deeper divide which also can be seen in disparities related to chronic conditions.
To achieve success in the next phase of our nation’s journey in confronting COVID-19, an NACDS report — “Pharmacies: A Vital Partner in Reopening America” — emphasizes the importance of meeting the needs of the medically underserved. The report includes recommendations regarding testing and the availability of treatments and vaccines when they become available, and these recommendations include a specific focus on those in the most need.
Similarly, NACDS has made it a priority to serve as a thought leader in addressing social determinants of health and to collaborate in federal efforts to help address disparities in care, and to engage with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address social determinants of health.
We raise these examples not to suggest that they are in any way sufficient, but rather to give hope that a renewed effort is not starting from scratch. Together, we can and must do more.
Pharmacies as the Face of Neighborhood Healthcare: Our Team Members
Regarding the individuals who serve as team members in our members’ pharmacies, the NACDS Foundation — which is affiliated with NACDS — is committed to fostering the commitment to diversity and inclusion that is ingrained in the pharmacy community. In 2017, the NACDS Foundation initiated as part of its scholarship program a new category of diversity and inclusion scholarships which focuses on helping people of color to succeed. Through this initiative, the NACDS Foundation has funded projects proposed by colleges and schools of pharmacy that include targeted engagement with Historically Black Colleges and Universities; outreach to high school students who demonstrate interest in pursuing a pharmacy education; supplemental training to empower student pharmacists in preparation for their pharmacy education and during their coursework; peer mentoring; and more.
Now, it is more important than ever before to build on this endeavor. We are committed to doing that.
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Martin Luther King, Jr. said that each of us must choose whether to “walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” NACDS stands among those committed to peering into the dimmest reaches of our own souls, for the purpose of transforming ourselves into an ever-more-reverent steward of our nation’s brightest ideals and an ever-more-caring servant of all humanity.
Steve Anderson is president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.