In the winter of 1979, Kenneth Leibowitz, MA, assistant professor of communication, stopped at the pharmacy for his wife. An oral surgeon had just removed her wisdom teeth and she needed her prescription filled. Leibowitz asked the pharmacist if the medicine contained any codeine, as his wife had a codeine allergy. The pharmacist’s response surprised him: “If you had any questions you should have asked your doctor. I get paid for filling prescriptions not for answering questions.” The profession of pharmacy was different then, and since that defining moment, Leibowitz has dedicated his efforts toward advancing the practice of pharmacist patient counseling.
At University of the Sciences, Leibowitz researched pharmacists’ attitudes toward patient counseling. Some reported not having time to counsel patients, others weren’t sure how, and some believed that it wasn’t a pharmacist’s responsibility. In response to his findings, Leibowitz expanded his CO 101 Introduction to Communication curriculum to include exercises in patient counseling. The results have been phenomenal.
What began as a classroom exercise for students became in a few short years the National Patient Counseling Competition (NPCC). The program was adopted by the United States Pharmacopeia Convention and the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists, and the first national competition was held in 1985 with 31 participating schools. In 1988, the International Pharmacy Student Federation began using the NPCC model to exhibit patient counseling.
Today, the APhA, the largest association of pharmacists in the United States, hosts the NPCC at annual meetings. Participants include students from almost every pharmacy school in the country. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the competition. Leibowitz estimates his program has affected more than 50,000 students over the past 25 years. He credits pharmacy law expert and University of Florida, College of Pharmacy professor, David Brushwood, with the program’s national success.
“There’s a real feeling of satisfaction that something that started so long ago has impacted the lives of so many students,” said Leibowitz. “The competition encourages student pharmacists toward becoming better patient educators, and in turn, reinforces the role of the pharmacist as both a health care provider and an educator.”
Honorary Membership in the APhA is conferred upon individuals either within the profession of pharmacy or outside of it, whose activities and achievements have had a significant impact upon public health, the profession, and its practitioners. For his notable contributions to the field, Daniel Hussar, PhD, Remington professor of pharmacy, nominated Leibowitz for Honorary Membership in the APhA. Leibowitz will accept the honor at this year’s annual APhA meeting in San Antonio, Texas, in April.
“Every year I go to a pharmacy conference, and as a communications professor, there’s always been that slight feeling of being an outsider. To receive this honorary membership is an acknowledgement that I’ve been accepted for my work, and I’m part of the profession,” Leibowitz said proudly.