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The Bridges We Build
by Jennifer Arnoldi, PharmD, BCPS Clinical Associate Professor, SIUE School of Pharmacy President of ICHP
One of my favorite school projects was building a bridge from balsa wood, popsicle sticks, and glue. Our team brainstormed, sketched ideas, and tested our designs. On the final day, our teacher tied a bucket to the middle of each bridge and gradually added weights until one by one, the carefully constructed bridges collapsed. Some bridges did not hold up for long while others held incredible amounts of weight before giving in. Each team held their breath while their bridge was tested and most of us were left wishing we had done something differently.
Bridge-building has been the theme for my presidential year. Like the competition of my youth, it has been a whirlwind of challenges - events that have made us hold our breath, and triumphs that have given us reason to celebrate. However, we have all the key ingredients – a strong team, key supplies, and the weight of our challenges.
Our team: The work of ICHP could not be accomplished without the ICHP staff and their hard work behind the scenes, keeping things running smoothly. Working seamlessly alongside the staff is the ICHP Board of Directors and volunteers; these groups collaborating and connecting makes the work of the organization seem effortless. We also have our external partners including other healthcare providers, our lobbyists, the legislators and their office staff, and of course, our patients. We all know that we can’t exist in a silo, so maintaining the bridges that have been built with these stakeholders over time requires care, trust, and communication.
Our supplies: What goes into building our bridges, other than the people involved? I think one key aspect is the mechanisms by which we connect with one another. At the annual leadership retreat, volunteers come together to work on a strategic plan to guide us through the year. The creativity, passion, and teamwork at the retreat sets us on a path towards productivity. Regular meetings of the Divisions, Networks, Executive Board, and Board provide an impetus for ICHP to make progress. It’s a way for us to connect and collaborate to meet our goals. The Spring and Annual meetings allow us to get together on a larger scale, learn from one another, and network.
Our challenges: Just as the weights tested the strength of the bridges, we face challenges as an organization. Legislative advocacy is a vital piece of what we do, which requires fundraising, educating ourselves and our legislators, ongoing communication, and persistence. Additionally, any organization that runs on volunteer efforts faces obstacles in finding engaged members who are willing to donate their time and energy to the cause. Finally, we have to remain nimble to keep up and stay fresh in the ever-evolving world of healthcare. A friend recently told me that bridge-building is still part of her child’s curriculum, but while my bridge was built with cheap supplies and tested in the school’s auditorium, today’s bridges might be drafted in a STEM lab using digital software, allowing for quick modifications and test simulations. Like everyone, we need to think creatively, adapt, and make the most of our resources to continue to be successful.
I encourage each of you to think about your role in ICHP and the profession. In what way can you continue to contribute and even increase your involvement? The landscape of healthcare, and pharmacy in particular, is evolving rapidly. The last thing I want is for us to get to the end of the bridge and think, “I wish I had built that differently.”