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Andy Stergachis Honored for Uniting Public Health and Pharmacy

NWCPHP faculty member Andy Stergachis, PhD, RPh, receives the 2013 Pharmacist of the Year award from the Washington State Pharmacy Association.
Andy Stergachis Honored for Uniting Public Health and Pharmacy

Andy Stergachis (left), PhD, RPh, pictured with Jeff Rochon, PharmD, CEO of the Washington State Pharmacy Association.

NWCPHP faculty member Andy Stergachis, PhD, RPh, receives the 2013 Pharmacist of the Year award from the Washington State Pharmacy Association.

December 5, 2013

The Washington State Pharmacy Association recently recognized NWCPHP faculty member Andy Stergachis, PhD, RPh, as the 2013 Pharmacist of the Year. Stergachis was honored for his efforts to strengthen collaborations between pharmacists and the public health community, most notably in emergency preparedness planning.

“I am honored to be recognized for service to the profession and the greater community. While this is an individual award, credit should also go to pharmacy, academia, and public health agency colleagues who have recognized the value of working together, particularly in the areas of mass dispensing and mass vaccination,” said Stergachis.

Stergachis is a native of Tacoma, Washington and is dedicated to bolstering the region’s preparedness infrastructure. He has served as a strategic national stockpile coordinator for King County, is pharmacy advisor to the Public Health - Seattle & King County Preparedness Section, and serves in the Public Health Reserve Corps. He has also been a long-time member of the State of Washington Joint Advisory Committee for Public Health and Hospital Emergency Preparedness & Response.

Drawing from his experience, Stergachis says, “Public health agencies and pharmacies both have critical roles to play during an emergency.” Public health brings expertise in surveillance, communication, information and resources management, and decision-making. Pharmacists and other pharmacy workers excel at receiving, storing, and dispensing medications, administering vaccines, and counseling patients. Additionally, those in pharmacy are skilled at reaching vulnerable populations like the elderly or those with limited English proficiency.

Stergachis recalls many examples of successful collaborations between public health and pharmacies in Washington State. In 2011, the Department of Health and the Washington State Pharmacy Association partnered to address the public’s radiation concerns following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The Health Department developed resources and talking points that pharmacists used when counseling patients. They also helped manage the large volume of calls from residents.

During the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, Washington pharmacists dispensed antivirals, administered vaccines, and helped monitor the stockpile of supplies. During the 2012 Washington State pertussis outbreak, they helped public health agencies distribute vaccinations to low- income adults.

Because public health agencies and pharmacies have different organizational cultures, these collaborations are no small feat. Communication challenges, record keeping practices, and varying legal requirements are some of the biggest challenges.

Stergachis uses his knowledge of both the public health and pharmacy worlds to help eliminate these barriers. In 2013, he led a working group that developed an operational plan for model agreements between public health agencies and pharmacies in the State of Washington, allowing for more formal relationships and clearer roles and expectations. The outcomes from this working group were later developed into a toolkit to help public health and pharmacists respond to emergencies and other events.

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