Max Lee: How the Events of 2020 Have Shaped My Career Mission
Originally published in the June 2021 AMCP Foundation Impacts e-newsletter.
By Max Lee, PharmD
PGY1 Pharmacy Resident, Premera Blue Cross
AMCP Foundation welcomed two pharmacist residents, Max Lee, PharmD, and Kyle Bakkie, PharmD, for a virtual rotation this spring. Max and Kyle were the 2020-21 residents in the Postgraduate Year One (PGY1) Managed Care Pharmacy Residency at Premera Blue Cross in Seattle.
What a year it has been! I recall how excited I was to begin my post-graduate education at Premera Blue Cross this time last year. However, no one could have foreseen the series of events that would make this past year one of the most tumultuous and challenging periods of my lifetime.
- The COVID-19 pandemic derailed life as we knew it and divided the nation across political lines which hindered our response to a deadly virus that took the lives of many;
- The murders of George Floyd and others in the Black community at the hands of law enforcement energized the Black Lives Matter movement and protests in every major city in this country;
- Lastly, the unspeakable hate crimes against the Asian American & Pacific Islander community continue to this day and have caused me to question my own safety.
In hindsight, doing a residency in this climate of social unrest has helped shape my perspective on the impact I can make as a managed care pharmacist.
Race and equality continue to be a social focal point in the United States and these issues manifest themselves in significant disparities within the health care system, as I have come to learn. Systemic racism in the form of explicit and implicit biases held by providers and other health care workers affect access and quality of care delivered to patients of diverse backgrounds. Negative health care encounters have created distrust in the system which perpetuates medication nonadherence and increased hospitalization rates in Black and Hispanic communities. The progressive shift of cost-sharing for expensive medications to patients has created increasing barriers for low-income populations that are disproportionately persons of color. These and other factors that propagate racial health disparities have now been well-documented, and the events described above have provided the industry an opportunity to re-evaluate solutions to address them.
Managed care pharmacists are in a unique position to affect the way medications and health care services are allocated. Discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion ought to be integrated at every step of the continuum so that formulary and benefit design are developed with these key considerations in mind. Coverage policies and quality initiatives should be strategized with input from those directly affected by racial disparities. Finally, emphasis on education to various stakeholders should continue to help encourage dialogue around these ongoing issues. I had the privilege of working closely with patient advocacy groups and thought leaders throughout my work in residency. I am grateful for this exposure early in my career and will continue to do my part in furthering this work in the future.
If you would like to support AMCP Foundation’s mission to inspire the next generation to improve patient health, give today!