With A Lot of Help From Our Friends

February 8, 2017

Two weeks ago we celebrated a milestone achievement at the College with the opening of College Parkside Pharmacy, our second student operated pharmacy. Located in the South End of Albany - less than two miles from the ACPHS campus - the pharmacy serves a dual mission of (1) providing a distinctive and innovative experience for our students and (2) improving access to pharmacy and health care services for members of the local community.

While the pomp and circumstance of the grand opening ceremony made for a terrific media event, the news coverage did not fully convey the community effort that made it all possible.

There might not be a College Parkside Pharmacy without people like Larry Doud, CEO of Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC), who was the first person to fully grasp the concept of a student operated pharmacy. Larry's enthusiastic embrace of the idea gave us the confidence and financial support to continue on our path. 

The RDC leadership team demonstrated its continuing support for the initiative by attending the grand opening event in Albany (they were at the opening of our Schenectady pharmacy too). They travel together in the "RDC van" usually driven by Larry or one of the senior executives. Despite leaving Rochester in the wee hours of the morning, they never seem the worse for wear when they arrive in Albany.

We have also had great support from MVP Health Care. CEO Denise Gonick and her team were also among our earliest supporters, and they have been instrumental in helping get both our Schenectady and Albany locations off the ground. The MVP team was out in full force at the Albany opening, a group which included ACPHS alumnus Jim Hopsicker, Vice President of Pharmacy at MVP. 

Jim staked out a spot on the second floor balcony for the grand opening event where he could be seen hovering over the proceedings as his daughter, Alyssa, eloquently spoke on behalf of ACPHS students. Alyssa, a P3 student who is active in professional organizations on campus, is used to public speaking, but I am not sure she is used to having her father suspended above her while she does so!

Another key person in the opening of College Parkside Pharmacy was Steve Longo of the Albany Housing Authority. Steve embraced our vision of a pharmacy in the South End and worked with us to find a great location. 

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan also supported the idea from the beginning and, along with Steve, gave valuable advice on the siting of the pharmacy. Mayor Sheehan even spoke at our grand opening despite having to give her State of the City address later that day! 

State Assemblymember Patricia Fahy and State Senator Neil Breslin also made time to speak at the opening ceremony. Both asserted the importance of pharmacists in addressing our nation's health care issues. The presence of these government leaders provided a nice "seal of approval" for what we are doing.

Of course, no talk of political support would be complete without mentioning Assemblymember John T. McDonald III, ACPHS Class of '85. John was unable to make it to the grand opening, but he made it a point to attend the campus celebration the following day. In addition to being a longtime supporter of the College, John has been an equally staunch advocate for the profession of pharmacy. Whether they know it or not, pharmacists across New York State are fortunate to have a person like John in their corner.

It was great to see other alumni at the event as well, including some who traveled significant distances. Richard Cummings '80, drove in from Lake Placid, and Alfred Austin '97, came from Norwich, NY. Both were supporters of the Beyond Practice Ready campaign who were not going to let a few hours in the car stop them from seeing the pharmacy in person.

I must also mention the support of the ACPHS Board of Trustees. Board Chair Marion Morton '84 took two days out of her schedule as the Global Category Head of Obesity Care at Nestlé Health Science to be part of Wednesday's and Thursday's events. She was joined by fellow trustees Matt Bette and Paul DerOhannesian II, both of whom attended the grand opening. The backing of the Board of Trustees is the rock that this entire effort has been built upon.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge one of our most important supporters and future collaborators - Willie White. Willie is a local community leader who serves as the Executive Director of A Village, Inc. A Village is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to developing the South End of Albany. 

The organization gets its name from the African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child." The same sentiment could easily be applied to the opening of College Parkside Pharmacy. We couldn't have done it without a lot of help from our friends.

Greg Dewey, Ph.D., is President of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

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