Published: June 09, 2022
By the I.C.E. Editor
It’s well known that those entering the health care profession face a rigorous but important path that requires regular testing of their skills and competencies. But what about the organizations that advocate for those professionals and make certification programs possible?
We spoke with Trey Melazzo, MBA, PharmD, a member of the American Pharmacy Association (APhA)’s Executive Postgraduate Training program, who got a closer look at how APhA and the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) operate to support pharmacists throughout their career. Read on to learn more about the program, new perspectives Melazzo has gained during his tenure and reflections on the value of certification.
Can you tell us more about the residency program?
The APhA Executive Postgraduate Training is a 12-month program that gives pharmacists like myself experience in association management and lets us gain a better understanding of APhA’s mission and strategic operations. My core area has been with BPS, with a focus on credentialing.
I rotate between departments, so one week I’ll be with the APhA Foundation, another week I might be with government affairs, finance and HR, the executive office, marketing and communications, education, publishing or membership. It’s been a great experience so far that’s given me a broad understanding of everything APhA does.
I also work with six other residents in this program who focus on the foundation, government affairs, education and publishing. We work together in a shared office and are able to catch up often. The fact that our work covers different departments allows us to connect the dots and learn from each other.
What’s unique about my role with BPS is that I get to touch a little bit of everything. I’ve done a few projects that focus on business development and analysis, and I’ve reviewed different bills and how they affect certification entities. Through this work, I’ve also been able to sit in on a few meetings with the Professional Certification Coalition, and I’ve done member outreach. One project allowed me to meet 14 different pharmacists from all over the country and across different specialties.
What are some things you’ve learned so far in your residency?
I attended McWhorter School of Pharmacy at Samford University and was a member of APhA throughout pharmacy school. As a pharmacy student unsure of what area I wanted to pursue after graduation, the most exciting aspect of APhA's advocacy efforts was that the APhA representatives on Capitol Hill were actual pharmacists who were passionate about making real change to advance the profession to best meet the needs of our patients.
For most of my pharmacy school career, I found myself moving away from the clinical side of the profession and more toward the administrative side. Knowing this was the direction I was meant to go, I enrolled in the business school and graduated with a dual PharmD and MBA degree.
Even though I was moving toward an administrative or business side, I was aware of BPS. Many of my classmates discussed what areas they saw themselves becoming board certified in. So I knew that similar to physicians, pharmacists can get board certified to continue to advance their skill set that would translate to better quality of care for their patients. What I did not know was while 80% of physicians become board certified, only 20% of pharmacists become board certified. I not only see this as a huge opportunity for pharmacists to advance their skill set to offer a higher quality of care for patients, but also see it as a way for pharmacists to promote and advocate for themselves as the medication expert on the health care team, and are best equipped in monitoring patients’ medication therapy.
Working with both APhA and BPS now paints a fuller picture for me: APhA specializes in the advocacy side of things, supporting pharmacists in their career, while BPS is the “action item” that solidifies skills through certification. The certification exam pharmacists take is incredibly difficult but at the end it shows that these pharmacists are subject matter experts in their area of work. I’ve gained a new appreciation for this through my work so far.
You were able to spend a week with I.C.E. as part of this program, too, given BPS’ connection to the association. Can you tell us more about that experience?
One of the most interesting parts of that week was being able to sit in on an all-day futurist meeting. There were six experts from around the U.S. and each attendee was part of a credentialing organization for all kinds of professions.
Along with the two futurists who led discussions, the group discussed the current work environment in our country and how to adapt to change in a profession by identifying areas that could offer a positive side, or threats that would minimize the value in earning a certification. We can’t predict the future, but we can keep a pulse on where things are going. For example, what does certification mean to younger generations and how does that impact the work of credentialing specialists? It was a great opportunity to learn from others during this meeting.
How do you see this experience helping to further shape your career?
I didn't realize there were so many moving parts that go into a certification organization, and this program has helped me gain a new perspective and appreciation on the value of certification. I now understand how it showcases your skill set, particularly with obtaining a certification and maintaining it — it is such a rigorous process.
This sounds like a unique opportunity. What are the benefits of a program like this?
For me, I wanted to go into pharmacy to help patients. I was born with a heart defect and the respect I have for all levels of health care involved in my treatment that allowed me to be the healthy adult that I am today is the reason I chose a career in health care. This residency experience with APhA and BPS has granted me the ability to learn and work alongside some of the most highly respected leaders in the pharmacy profession every day.
The training I have received in association management has allowed me to focus on different areas of our profession that are always looking to offer pharmacists the tools they need to provide patients with the highest quality of care possible. It’s been an amazing experience so far, and I strongly recommend any pharmacy student, pharmacist or professional with a similar career path to pursue this kind of learning experience!