Braden Addresses Pharmacy Graduates
May 11, 2004

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ATLANTA Larry Braden, president of Lacey Drug Company, addressed nearly 150 doctor of pharmacy and doctor of philosophy degree candidates at the Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy's Commencement, held May 1 on Mercer's Atlanta campus.

 

Braden, a 1965 graduate of the School of Pharmacy, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the United States Pharmacopeia, which ensures quality medicines by establishing standards that pharmaceutical manufacturers must meet, and has previously served as Executive Vice President of the Georgia Pharmacy Association, one of the oldest professional associations of pharmacists in the nation.

 

His address to the graduates follows:

 

 

 A GENERATIONAL CHANGE

 

I am deeply honored to be here on this very important day and to…..

 

 

(PAUSE)

 

MAY I ASK YOU A QUESTION?  

 

EACH OF YOU GRADUATES OBVIOUSLY GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL; SOME OF YOU HAVE RECEIVED COLLEGE DEGREES IN OTHER FIELDS; AND NO DOUBT YOU'VE ALL ATTENDED GRADUATION AND COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

 

SO GIVE ME A QUICK SHOW OF HANDS:  WHO CAN REMEMBER THE NAME OF A COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER YOU HAVE HEARD, OR THE SUBJECT OF HIS OR HER SPEECH?

 

WELL, THAT CONFIRMS SOMETHING I HEARD FORMER SENATOR AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BOB DOLE SAY A WHILE BACK,

"BEING A COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER IS LIKE BEING A CORPSE AT A FUNERAL; IT'S HARD TO HOLD THE EVENT WITHOUT ONE, BUT NOBODY REALLY EXPECTS HIM TO SAY ANYTHING WORTH REMEMBERING."

 

I'M SURE THAT'S WHY I ONLY HAVE ABOUT TWELVE MINUTES ON THE PROGRAM TODAY.

 

OK, SO WE'VE ESTABLISHED THE FACT THAT YOU'RE NOT HERE TO LISTEN TO ME…..SO WHY ARE YOU HERE?

 

IS IT BECAUSE THIS IS THE END?  THE FINAL FINAL IS BEHIND YOU; ONLY ONE HURDLE, THE NABPLEX EXAM, STANDS BETWEEN YOU AND REACHING YOUR DREAMS OF GLORY AND RICHES.

 

BUT IF WE'RE HERE TO MARK THE END OF YOUR COLLEGE DAYS, SHOULDN'T WE BE CALLING THIS A "TERMINATION" EXERCISE…..OR, AT LEAST REVERT TO THE TRADITIONAL DEPARTURE FROM HIGH SCHOOL WHERE THE MOST HONORED PERSON DELIVERS THE "VALEDICTORY"----THE GOOD BYE---ADDRESS ?

 

YET MY INVITATION TO BE HERE TODAY STATES THAT WE HAVE GATHERED FOR A COMMENCEMENT…A COMMENCEMENT…..COMMENCING…BEGINNING TO…"FIXIN TO" IF YOU WLL,  DO SOMETHING----COMMENCING TO BEGIN A PROFESSIONAL CAREER---- AND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

 

YOU CAME HERE AS A CHOSEN FEW; DR. BARTLING TELLS ME THAT 742 QUALIFIED PEOPLE COMPETED FOR THE SLOTS FILLED BY THE 142 OF YOU.  EACH OF YOU IS ONE OUT OF FIVE OF THE SHARPEST STUDENTS IN THE NATION----YOU ARE THE BEST OF THE BEST.

 

YOU HAVE THE HIGHEST RETENTION RATE OF ANY CLASS IN MODERN HISTORY; ONLY TWO OF YOUR FIRST SEMESTER CLASS MATES DID NOT COMPLETE THIS JOURNEY, AND YOU'VE PICKED UP A COUPLE OF PhDs ALONG THE WAY…CERTAINLY NOT A SHABBY WAY TO CLOSE OUT YOUR ACADEMIC YEARS.

 

SO HERE YOU ARE, FULL OF HAPPINESS, EXCITEMENT, RELIEVED THAT YOU HAVE SUCCEEDED.

 

AND HERE YOU ARE:  COMMENCING---BEGINNING---A JOURNEY FOR WHICH YOU HAVE SPENT VIRTUALLY ALL OF YOUR LIFE—A QUARTER-CENTURY OR MORE---PREPARING TO UNDERTAKE.

 

IT'S TEMPTING FOR ME TO STAND HERE AND TRY TO TELL YOU HOW TO HAVE A LONG PRODUCTIVE CAREER; A HAPPY, REWARDING AND PROSPEROUS LIFE.

 

BUT I'VE NOW HAD TIME TO CROSS PATHS WITH PhDs IN PSYCHOLOGY WHO COULDN'T LIVE WITH THEMSELVES; AND PhDs IN SOCIOLOGY WHO COULDN'T LIVE WITH OTHERS.  SO I DON'T HAVE A MAGIC GALENICAL POTION OR FORMULA FOR A LONG AND SUCCESSFUL LIFE, BUT I DO HAVE RATHER BROAD EXPERIENCES IN THE WORLD OF PHARMACY, AND I KNOW OF NO ONE WHO HAS BEEN MORE FORTUNATE THAN I IN ONE'S PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE; SO PLEASE BEAR WITH ME WHILE I SHARE SOME OBSERVATIONS AND A FEW EXPERIENCES OF MY OWN.

 

 

 

 

YOU AND I REPRESENT A GENERATIONAL CHANGE: MY CLASS HAD ITS COMMENCEMENT IN 1965, AND WE ARE BEGINNING THE PROCESS OF SLOWING DOWN, OF TRANSITION---OF PASSING THIS GREAT AND ANCIENT PROFESSION FROM OUR STEWARDSHIP TO YOURS.

 

MOST HISTORIANS STATE THAT PHARMACY IS THE WORLD'S OLDEST PROFESSION; PREDATING MEDICINE AND LAW BY HUNDREDS OF YEARS AND MORE CONTEMPORARY PROFESSIONS BY MILLENNIA. 

 

HOWEVER, SINCE ANOTHER GROUP HAS LONG LAID CLAIM TO BEING THE WORLD'S OLDEST PROFESSION, I'VE CHOSEN TO IDENTIFY MYSELF THROUGH THE YEARS AS A MEMBER OF THE SECOND OLDEST. YOU ARE SOON TO BE PASSED THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR SERVING AS A TRUSTEE OF THIS BRAVE AND PROUD PROFESSION.

 

.  THE GENERATIONS BEFORE MINE HAD BEEN TAUGHT, AND THE LAWS AND COURT DECISIONS OF THE DAY HELD THAT A PHARMACIST WAS TO FOLLOW THE ORDERS OF THE PHYSICIAN; TO ONLY STEP FORWARD WHEN THE PHYSICIAN THREATENED A PATIENT'S LIFE THROUGH AN ERROR OF PRESCRIBING; AN ERA IN WHICH THE CURMUDGEON PLAYWRIGHT GEORGE BERNARD SHAW NOTED THAT "ALL PROFESSIONS ARE A CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE LAITY."

 

 

WHEN OUR GENERATION ENTERED PRACTICE, PHARMACY WAS BEGINNING A TITANIC TRANSITION; FROM A CHEMISTRY AND PHARMACOLOGY-BASED CURRICULUM TO THE  CLINICAL- BASED REGIMEN YOU HAVE FOLLOWED, AND THE ROLE THAT YOU WILL ASSUME AS A FULLY-INTEGRATED MEMBER OF THE HEALTHCARE TEAM HAS BEEN SHAPED OVER THESE PAST FORTY YEARS BY BOLD LEADERS LIKE MY DEAN, OLIVER LITTLEJOHN

 

NOT LONG AFTER I HAD BEGUN TO PRACTICE, DR. WILLIAM APPLE, THE HEAD OF THE AMERICAN PHARMACEUTICAL ASSOCIATION FOR THREE DECADES OR MORE, MADE THE PROCLAMATION THAT THE DAYS OF PHARMACISTS BEING VIEWED BY MANUFACTURERS AS THE END OF THEIR DISTRIBUTION CHAIN, AND BY PHYSICIANS AS THEIR UNDERLINGS WERE RAPIDLY COMING TO AN END.

 

OUR GENERATION TOOK ON THE FIGHT OF PROFESSIONAL AND SOCIAL CHANGE; STATE-BY-STATE, LEGISLATURE-BY –LEGISLATURE, THE LAWS PROHIBITING GENERIC INTERCHANGE WERE STRICKEN FROM THE BOOKS,  BUT NEVER WITHOUT  PROLONGED OPPOSITION FROM ORGANIZED MEDICINE AND THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY.

 

WE CAME BACK AND RECHALLENGED THOSE POLITICAL FORCES, ELIMINATING THE REQUIREMENTS THAT PRESCRIPTION FORMS CONTAIN TWO SIGNATURE LINES: ONE INDICATING THAT THE PHYSICIAN HAD NO OBJECTION TO US PHARMACISTS UTILIZING OUR JUDGMENT; THE OTHER PROHIBITING THE EXERCISE OF SUCH JUDGMENT.

 

 TODAY YOU ENTER A PROFESSION IN WHICH ALL PARTIES, PHYSICIANS, PATIENTS, AND THE STANDARDS OF THE COURTS, FULLY EXPECT YOU TO EXERCISE YOUR COMPLETE JUDGMENT IN ASSURING THE BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME OF THERAPY AND THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF SAFETY FOR THE PATIENT.

 

IN THE SAME YEAR THAT MY GENERATION ENTERED PRACTICE, 1965, MEDICARE WAS ENACTED; AS YOU BEGIN YOURS, THE MOST SWEEPING CHANGES OF THE MEDICARE PROGRAM IN THESE PAST FORTY YEARS WILL BE IMPLEMENTED: THE MEDICARE MODERNIZATION ACT OF 2003, aka THE MEDICARE DRUG BENEFIT.

 

PHARMACY ASSOCIATIONS HAVE WORKED THESE PAST FOUR DECADES TO ATTAIN THE GOALS OF RECOGNITION OF PAYMENT FOR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES SEPARATE FROM THE DELIVERY OF A PRODUCT, AND WE TAKE CONSIDERABLE PRIDE IN HAVING REACHED THAT GOAL.

 

  THE NEW PROVISIONS OF MEDICARE PART D—THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT—RECOGNIZE IN FEDERAL LAW THE VALUE OF MEDICATION THERAPY MANAGEMENT, MTM; AND WITH THAT PROVISION YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY OF A PROFESSIONAL LIFETIME TO DEMONSTRATE CONCLUSIVELY THE DEPTH OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE, AND THE VALUE OF YOUR SERVICES.

 

MY GENERATION DOES NOT, HOWEVER, PASS TO YOURS A PERFECT, TROUBLE-FREE PROFESSION.  YOU WILL BE FACED IMMEDIATELY WITH THE PROBLEMS OF OUR CITIZENS, THEIR EMPLOYERS, AND OUR GOVERNMENT BEING UNABLE TO AFFORD THE MEDICATIONS THAT HAVE BROUGHT ABOUT SUCH EXTRAORDINARY ADVANCES IN THE LIVES OF SO MANY PEOPLE.  THE UNSUSTAINABLE RATES OF INCREASES IN THE COST OF DRUGS  WHICH RESULT IN AMERICA'S MOST VULNERABLE CITIZENS PAYING THE HIGHEST PRICES IN THE ENTIRE WORLD FOR THEIR MEDICATIONS , WILL IN TURN RESULT IN FURTHER DOWNWARD PRESSURE ON PHARMACIES—COMMUNITY AND INSTITUTIONAL—WITH THE OMINOUS PROSPECT OF DOWNWARD PRESSURE ON PHARMACISTS' SALARIES.

 

 

 

 

 MONITOR WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO PROFESSIONAL AIRLINE PILOTS IN RECENT YEARS; IT COULD HAPPEN TO US, AND I DARE SAY WILL HAPPEN IF YOUR GENERATION WERE TO FAIL TO PICK UP THE BATON AS IT IS PASSED TO YOU.

 

THE HIGH COST OF MEDICATIONS HAS RESULTED IN WIDE-SPREAD CALLS FOR ALLOWING PATIENTS TO LEGALLY PURCHASE DRUGS FROM OTHER NATIONS WHERE THE COSTS ARE MUCH LOWER, BUT DOING SO THREATENS THE INTEGRITY OF THE WORLD'S SAFEST DRUG DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM AND UNDERMINES 150 YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT OF SAFEGUARDS.

 

 IT'S WORTH NOTING THAT THE U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION IS FIVE TIMES LARGER THAN ALL OF THE OTHER DRUG SAFEGUARD AGENCIES IN THE ENTIRE WORLD; WE CANNOT ALLOW THE CLOCK TO BE TURNED BACK ON THIS MOST FUNDAMENTAL COMPONENT OF OUR NATIONS HEALTHCARE SYSTEM.

 

YOU WILL BE ENTERING A HEALTHCARE SYSTEM THAT IS FAR FROM PERFECT IN FULFILLING ITS PRIMARY CHARGE; THE ONE ISSUED BY HIPPOCRATES TO HIS STUDENTS: "FIRST, DO NO HARM."  ACCORDING TO A STUDY RELEASED BY THE INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, IN 1999, AS MANY AS 98,000 DEATHS OCCUR EACH YEAR IN OUR NATION AS A RESULT OF MEDICAL ERRORS;  SOME 7,000 OF THOSE CAN BE DIRECTLY ATTRIBUTED TO MEDICATION ERRORS.  THE COST IN LIVES AND THE COST IN DOLLARS IS BEING VIGOROUSLY ATTACKED, BUT IT WILL BE UP TO YOUR GENERATION TO CRAFT AND IMPLEMENT SOLUTIONS.

 

 WHILE YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE WILL BE SHAPED SIGNIFICANTLY BY THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT LIE WITHIN THE MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT, YOUR GENERATION WILL HAVE TO STRUGGLE ALONGSIDE MINE TO FIND A WAY TO PAY FOR A SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE SYSTEM IN WHICH, BEGINNING IN 2011 AND FOR THE TWENTY YEARS THEREAFTER, 10,500 PERSONS A DAY WILL TURN 65 AND QUALIFY FOR THOSE BENEFITS.

 

TIME DOES NOT PERMIT, AND THIS EXCITING, JOYFUL DAY IS NOT THE DAY TO DELVE INTO THESE CHALLENGES, AND I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT YOU WILL DO WHAT EACH PRECEDING GENERATION HAS DONE: MEET THESE AND THE OTHER CHALLENGES THAT LIE AHEAD, AND WITHIN EACH OF THOSE CHALLENGES FIND OPPORTUNITIES AS WELL AS SOLUTIONS.

 

 

WELL, IN JUST A FEW MINUTES YOU WILL COMMENCE TO COME FORWARD TO RECEIVE THAT LONG-SOUGHT DIPLOMA, AND IN JUST A FEW WEEKS YOU'LL ASSUME A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN SOCIETY AND WITH IT SIGNIFICANT RESPONSIBILITIES.

 

 TAKE GREAT AND JUSTIFIABLE PRIDE IN THIS SECOND-OLDEST PROFESSION; HOLD IT IN TRUST AND BE A CAREFUL STEWARD OF ITS LEGACY AND ITS FUTURE.

 

NOW, IN THE ABSENCE OF THAT MAGICAL GALENICAL POTION I WISH I HAD TO FORTIFY YOU AND SEND YOU ON YOUR WAY, LET ME SHARE A FEW QUICK OBSERVATIONS ABOUT LESSONS LEARNED ALONG MY PATH.

 

TAKE THE TIME TO COMMIT YOURSELF TO HELPING MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE BY SUBSCRIBING TO THE SIMPLE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES OF COMPASSION, TOLERANCE, FORGIVENESS AND UNDERSTANDING.  REMEMBER THE VALUE OF SIMPLE ACTS OF KINDNESS, AND THE HEALING VIRTUE OF BEING A KIND PERSON ABOVE BEING A PERSON WHO SHOWS KINDNESS TO SOME.

 

TREAT EVERY PERSON YOU ENCOUNTER WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT; RESPECT YOURSELF, AND PROJECT YOURSELF BY YOUR DEEDS IN A MANNER THAT EARNS THE RESPECT OF OTHERS.

 

YOU HAVE BEEN STEEPED THESE LAST FOUR YEARS IN AN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH PRESIDENT GODSEY HAS CHALLENGED EVERY FACULTY MEMBER TO GIVE YOU THE RESOURCES TO MAKE MORALLY DISCRIMINATING DECISIONS THROUGHOUT YOUR LIFE; AN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH DEAN MATTHEWS HAS ASKED EACH FACULTY MEMBER HERE TO MAKE A PERSONAL COMMITMENT TO YOU AND YOUR SUCCESS; AN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH THE FACULTY HAVE ACCEPTED THOSE CHALLENGES.

 

SO WHEN YOU CROSS THIS STAGE TODAY, AS YOU DEPART IT WITH DIPLOMA IN HAND, IF YOU CARRY WITH IT THE VALUES OF THIS UNIVERSITY, ITS PRESIDENT, YOUR DEAN AND THIS FACULTY IN YOUR HEART, YOU WILL BE EQUIPPED TO FACE ANY CHALLENGE; AND YOU WILL HAVE THE INGREDIENTS TO COMPOUND YOUR OWN MAGICAL GALENICAL POTION.

 

FROM MY GENERATION TO YOURS, "WE CONGRATULATE YOU AND WISH YOU GODSPEED ON THIS INCREDIBLE JOURNEY YOU ARE COMMENCING UPON,"

 

DRIVE CAREFULLY.

 

 

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