MPA | Pharmacy News

Mary Beth O'Connell, Pharm.D., BCPS, FASHP, FCCP, FNAP, AGSF, professor, Wayne State University Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Systems, Pharmacy Practice Department, Detroit, Mich.

As they say - Mother Nature rules, which on occasion means families, businesses and communities including community pharmacies and hospitals can be destroyed by fire, floods, tornados, freezing cold weather, etc.. Man-made disasters such as bioterrorism, radiologic emergencies and shootings can also cause extensive devastation. Sometimes the issue is more of a public health need - such as vaccinations needed for large numbers of citizens exposed to hepatitis A. During these disasters and public health needs, healthcare and medication needs arise requiring coordinated healthcare relief.
Fortunately, Michigan is one of the states that plans ahead for these events. We have the MiVolunteer Registry, a database with medical and non-medical volunteers who can quickly be called to service should a disaster require additional human resources. Click here for more information about the Registry. The advantage of this registry is health care professional qualifications are verified and contact information is frequently updated to enable quick gathering of healthcare professionals to efficiently meet urgent healthcare and medication delivery needs.
Pharmacy staff are needed at these disaster relief medical sites. Unfortunately, the number of pharmacy staff volunteers as of May 2019 is only 378, much lower than our goal of at least 1,000 generous, humanitarian pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and student pharmacists. Please, please join us and be ready to volunteer to help save a life, treat a chronic illness, give a vaccination, and/or provide words of encouragement and support. All pharmacy talents are needed from supply coordination and patient assessment to medication problem identification and resolution. Please watch the YouTube video created by the MSHP Legal and Public Affairs Committee ( or the one created by the state ( for more information and details.
Disasters are not common in Michigan, but they still happen, necessitating our preparation. Michigan's last major disaster declaration was June 2018 in the western part of the Upper Peninsula after destructive storms ( Similarly, extensive damage in the Midwest from tornados occurred this past May and we still remember the Camp Fire in Paradise, California in 2018, one of the deadliest U.S. fires and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. As you see, there is no shortage of disasters but shortages of pharmacy staff able to help during and after the disaster. Disaster relief after Hurricane Maria required healthcare supplies and personnel resources from outside the island.1 Good news, within the MiVolunteer Registry you can declare if you are willing to also provide humanitarian pharmacy services outside our state as well. You can list to volunteer for a half day to days or weeks, your choice. You have lots of choices for your volunteerism.
Both the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the American Pharmacists Association have statements about pharmacy involvement during and after disasters.2 From a literature review, a framework of pharmacy contributions during disasters has been created listing activities needing minimal training to those requiring expert skills.3 This article is a great one to read because it has great tables and lots of interesting information. You will see you definitely have the skills needed during a disaster. The pharmacy roles during these disasters can be divided into four major areas - patient management (medication management, counseling), response integration (medication deployment, triage, CPR), pharmaceutical supply (stockpiles, inventories, distribution, record keeping) and policy coordination roles (guidelines, policies).4 Besides knowing pharmacotherapy and pharmacy distribution, emergency preparedness pharmacy staff also discuss the importance of being innovative (especially since supplies are generally limited), being a team player (frequent consultations and filling in gaps) and being able to lead and be independent (generally not enough health volunteers). During Hurricane Irma, an emergency order issued by the governor allowed hospital pharmacies to dispense 30-day supplies instead of the normal 1-day supply for outpatient medications, however the hospital had limited oral medications to fulfill these needs.Significant coordination was required between other hospitals, community pharmacies and distributors outside the hurricane area. "Having pharmacy staff able to work long shifts, create new processes and overcome challenges was instrumental to maintaining medication safety." Pharmacy staff are also excellent experts to assist with medication selection and adjustment according to patient factors to insure appropriate medications are prescribed and dispensed to resolve biological threats.2
Ready to help save lives? Ready to make sure everyone has medications after a disaster? Ready to share your talents? Hopefully you said YES. YEAH!!! Register with the MIVolunteer Registry now ( Just go to this link and complete the form. You will need your pharmacy license and dates for your various certifications. You can start the registration and finish in a couple of sessions. Someone from the registry will contact you to finalize the application. Once approved, they generally contact you annually to update your information or to obtain new information if licenses or certifications have expired. And remember, if they contact you, you always have the right to say you can't do it this time. They know and respect you have your own professional and personal obligations. Please do not wait, register now and encourage your colleagues to register as well. How about showing the video at a staff meeting and have pharmacy staff sign up immediately afterwards!
Do you still have some questions? That is normal. The MiVolunteer Registry has a frequently asked question section that is very informative and most likely has the answer to your questions ( If not, call or email MPA Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Farah Jalloul at (517) 377-0224 or She is pharmacy's contact person to the MiVolunteer Registry.



1. Melin K, Rodriquez-Diaz CE, Community pharmacy response in the aftermath of natural disasters: time-sensitive opportunity for research and education. J Prim Care Com Hlth 18;9:1-4.

2. Narayanan N, Lacy CR, Cruz JE, Nahass M, Karp J, Barone JA, Hermes-DeSantis ER. Disaster preparedness: biological threats and treatment options. Pharmacotherapy 18;38:217-234.

3. Alkhalili M, Ma J, Grenier S. Defining roles for pharmacy personnel in disaster response and emergency preparedness. Disaster Med Pub Hlth Prep 17;4:496-504.

4. Nazar Z, Nazar H. Exploring the experiences and preparedness of humanitarian pharmacists in responding to an emergency-response situation. Res Soc Adm Pharm 19: doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2019.03.146. [Epub ahead of print]

5. Nitzki-George D, Palowitz L, Sowerby K, Fusselman K, Borro A. Dealing with the unexpected during and after Hurricane Irma. AJHP 18;75:170-171.

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