Addressing Growth and Expansion

by John E. Clark
The process of growth and development of ABHP as a black professional pharmacy organization can be described in several words, such as, slow, painful, challenging, and exciting. Some of the activities and challenges associated with the growth and development of the membership occurred during the period between 1985 and 2002.
        The original small group meetings as “the Black Pharmacists of ASHP” were replete with discussions about the special needs and issues of common interest among black pharmacists, most of who regularly attended the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meetings (MCM), and how they could be addressed. Some of the discussions by the group dealt with painful and challenging questions, such as: Why should there be a black pharmacy association? Why do we have to include “black” pharmacists in the name of organization? What is the purpose of having a black pharmacy organization? What should be its goal?
        The trend of questioning often carried over outside of the small group meeting at the ASHP MCM. In an attempt to start an ABHP chapter in Miami, some potential members had objections to being identified as “black pharmacists” and wanted the name to be changed before joining the organization. The discussions became so passionate that one member walked out of the meeting in protest, vowing not to join with the organization's efforts. The reaction to the name of the organization occurred many times over the years by both black and white pharmacists. While some black pharmacist chose not to associate with the ABHP largely because of the name, some white pharmacists would contact the organization after receiving mail from ABHP and asked that their contact information be removed from the mailing list because they were not black pharmacists and objected to receiving information from the organization. One person referred to the ABHP as a “segregationist…., separatist” organization and felt that it was divisive for the organization to exist. In all the case scenarios, the pharmacists admitted not knowing, reading, or endorsing the mission, goals, and objectives of the organization. It appears that the primary focus, perceptions, and opinions were based on the name of the organization. 
        Since the beginning of ABHP, membership growth and retention were challenges and viewed as critical for the long term survival of the organization. After much effort, some attention started to be directed toward the ABHP for the first time. The attendance at the luncheons, receptions, and award ceremonies not only increased, but who attend and who was invited also made a difference in attracting participation.  Some keynote speakers at the earlier luncheons included Mayor Andrew Young, U.S. Senator Julian Bond, Dr. Joseph Oddis, Dr. Charles Diggs, Dr. James G. Haughton, Dr. Deborah B. Prothrow-Stith, William A. Johnson, Jr (Mayor of Rochester, NY), Dr. Hewitt Matthews, and Mr. Willie Horton.
        At its 8th Annual Business Meeting held on December 10, 1985 in New Orleans, the Association revisited its Constitution and Bylaws. The organization also started the work on the following initiatives to build a platform for member participation and engagement:
            1. Formation of a National Membership Committee.
           2. Formation of an Educational Affairs Committee.
           3. Creation of a National Fund-Raising Project.
           4. Plans for a Caribbean Cancer Symposium.
           5. National Survey of Black Pharmacists
     ABHP started participating in the Exhibit Program at the 1985 ASHP Mid-year Clinical Meeting (MCM) and continued every year thereafter. The Exhibit booth was viewed as part of the partnership with ASHP, and was used to increase the visibility of the organization, to recruit new members and potential corporate partners. The number of African American pharmacists and students attending the meeting started increasing significantly. Over time, the renting of the Exhibit booth at the ASHP MCM became one of the most important actions taken by ABHP in the early formation of the organization. The organization also used the exhibit table to present membership information, news about the association, upcoming events, invitations to the ABHP Reception and Luncheon, and to present information about educational programming of the organization. Each year, member of the Executive Committee and other dedicated members were assigned daily shifts during the MCM to staff the booth.
       At the December 1995 Business Meeting, a proposal was presented to the Executive Committee to strengthen infrastructure of ABHP through the development of regional chapters. The establishing of the chapters was outlined with the following purpose:
            1. To provide a means for professional interaction and continuing education, problem solving, and
                discussion of professional issues.
            2. To increase the opportunity for member participation in ABHP activities.
            3. To provide a readily accessible mechanism for regional program development.
            4. To provide a network to rapidly gain member feedback on issues of concern to ABHP committees and
                 the Board of Directors.
            5. To provide a locally effective membership recruitment mechanism.
After much discussion, the proposal was approved by the ABHP Executive Committee. The guidelines and process for starting the chapters were later approved, which addressed: the structure, procedure for application and charter, chapter and ABHP responsibilities, and strategic implementation guidelines. The initial discussion was to start the chapters in 1996 in the following cities: (DC) Washington DC; (Florida) Miami, Orlando, Tampa; (Illinois) Chicago; (Texas) Houston; (Michigan) Detroit; (Georgia) Atlanta; (Louisiana) New Orleans. Two of the intended responsibilities of the regional chapters were to assist the ABHP in conducting regional educational symposia and in organizing an annual meeting, which would rotate among the geographical areas of the chapters.
        In 1993, ABHP became an approved provider of continuing education (CE) as accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmaceutical Education (formerly the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education, ACPE). The ACPE provider status was another step in strengthening the ABHP educational offerings that did not exist before. All the CE offerings prior had been possible because of the use of contracts with other ACPE providers.
        With the transition of officers, came a reinforcement of the ABHP goals and objectives. The 1993 Executive Committee had one of the best financial years of the Association. The new officers in 1994 intended to focus on the financial gains accomplished by the efforts of the outgoing officers. The operational goals and objectives for 1994 were to:
          1. Develop a solid budget to address the financial concerns of the association.
         2. Increase the CE program offerings.
         3. Improve communication with members by producing a consistent newsletter.
         4. Increase the membership.
         5. Provide recognition for research endeavors for students and practitioners.
         6. Provide a forum for members to address professional concerns of African American institutional
      The 1994 officers included:
            • Terrill G. Washington, President (Washington, DC)
            • Earnest Johnson, President-elect (Silver Springs, MD)
            • Robert D. Gibson, Vice-President for Development (San Francisco, CA)
            • Margaret Peoples, Secretary (Amber, PA)
            • Valerie Robinson-Baker, Treasurer (Orlando, FL)
            • Theotus Butler, Past President (Atlanta, GA)
Committee Chairpersons included:
            • Clarence Curry, Awards (Washington, DC)
            • Kathleen Kennedy, Educational Affairs (New Orleans, LA)
            • Brenda Saxon, Fund-Raising (Washington, DC)
            • Sonia Ford, Meeting Arrangements (Pico Rivera, CA)
            • Doris Jackson, Membership (Houston, TX)
Each year, the new officers of the ABHP attempted to make improvements in the operations of the organization. The 1995 officers and committee chairs included:
            • Earnest Johnson, President (Silver Springs, MD)
            • John E. Clark, Vice President for Development (Miami, FL)
            • Margaret Peoples, Secretary (Amber, PA)
            • Horace Knight, Treasurer (Bethesda, MD)
            • Terrill G. Washington, Past President (Washington, DC)
In addition to the previous years’ objectives, the 1995 officers wanted to focus attention on activities for students and research recognition. The incoming president, Mr. Earnest Johnson, objectives included:
            1. Providing a membership roster.
           2. Improving the communication to members with more newsletters.
           3. Providing a career program for pharmacy students as part of the MCM program activities.
           4. Addressing changes in the Bylaws.
           5. Establishing criteria for the ABHP Research Awards
The Committee Chairpersons:
          • Clarence Curry, Awards Committee (Washington, DC)
          • Lenore Coleman, Educational Affairs (Washington, DC)
          • Sonia Ford, Meeting and Arrangements (Pico Rivera, CA)
          • Gail Brown, Membership (Newport News, VA)