A legislator because I love my state, a pharmacist because I love my community

SPM: State Legislator

VanDePutte

As you prepare for your career in pharmacy, I know you are looking forward to getting a job and helping patients achieve better health. But your responsibilities go so much further than providing medications. I encourage you to reach outside the basic job description.

It is my hope that all of you will take a leadership role in the profession—and that means getting involved with the lawmaking process and understanding how it affects the profession. And I don’t just mean how it affects those on the pharmacist side of the counter. You need to understand how it affects patients as well. Pharmacists talk to patients and often times they are the only health care providers that can really spend the time to discuss a patient’s health fully. Pharmacists offer communities information and preventive care that they otherwise may not be able to access.

There have been huge changes in the health care system and there are sure to be even more coming. With all of these changes beginning to take effect, it is now more important than ever to stand together and protect the crucial role that pharmacists play in keeping patients healthy. That is my goal as a member of the Texas legislature.

Throwing my hat in the ring

The country is facing a provider shortage crisis, a cost containment crisis, and a rampant health crisis for people unable to get health insurance, which may sound scary, but as a mother of six children, I have gotten really good with a crisis! It is because of all of these changes and new challenges that right now is such an exciting time to get involved.

One route you could take would be the one I have chosen—running for office. I have been a legislator for more than 2 decades. I am a legislator because I love my state and I am a pharmacist because I love my community. When I didn’t see candidates addressing the issues that were important to me, especially preventive care, I decided to take on the challenge myself. In 1990, I won election to the Texas House of Representatives, representing the west side of San Antonio. In 1999, I was elected to the Texas Senate.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte counsels a patient at Davila Pharmacy in San Antonio.

Grassroots impact

In polling, pharmacists are often ranked among the most trusted professionals in the United States. Of course, elected officials usually are not, so the integrity you bring to the statehouse or city hall could boost public confidence in the legislative process. But you don’t have to be an officeholder to change public
policy. Simply taking time toorganize, coordinate with other pharmacists, and reach out to policymakers has a huge impact.

Things you can do include: attend legislative days; form coalitions and partnerships to grow your numbers; share your personal experiences (no one else can tell your story); inform your communities about important initiatives; and talk to legislators and make your message a priority for them.

When pharmacists get involved, things get done. During the 2013 Texas legislative session, many different pharmacy groups worked together to make some great legislative improvements, which will help ensure that we as pharmacists can continue to provide excellent care while running efficient and effective businesses. We passed laws that:

  • Ensured greater safety in the products from out-of-state compounding pharmacies.
  • Created uniform audit standards of pharmacy claims.
  • Developed a single, standard form for requesting prior authorization of prescription drug benefits.
  • Increased transparency topharmacists regarding reimbursement formulas.

These laws didn’t just magically happen on their own. They came into existence because pharmacists stood up and spoke out. Please join me and thousands of other pharmacists who are shaping public policy that strengthens our profession and protects our patients!