By Marcy SanchezJanuary 3, 2020
During a recent federal pharmacist's conference, U.S. Army Maj. Sean O'Brien was presented with the Army Pharmacy Research Award for work at U.S. Army Health Clinic Vicenza, in Vicenza, Italy. The conference is the largest of its kind for federal pharmacists, which include uniformed personnel and civilian counterparts.
O'Brien, chief of Ancillary Services at Vicenza AHC, has not only influenced the Army Pharmacy work environment, but has also sought to improve overall clinic efficiency as well.
"(O'Brien) is more than deserving of this award recognizing pharmacist contributions," said Lt. Col. Joseph Matthews, commander, U.S. Army Health Clinic Vicenza. "He consistently and effectively collaborates with members of the healthcare system to elevate the profession of pharmacy from a transaction to a service."
According to conference organizers, the award recognizes excellence in the area of pharmacy research within the Army and is for specific research which has direct applicability to Army pharmacies.
Because privileged pharmacists can provide a broad spectrum of services within their scope of practice, O'Brien is currently studying the impact of expanding pharmacists' role at Vicenza AHC. Leveraging their scope of practice, O'Brien introduced a pharmacist-administered influenza vaccination program in the outpatient setting at the clinic to improve access to care and Soldier readiness. This hands-on approach echoes O'Brien's commitment toward patient outcomes as he shifted from a retail pharmacy to serving his country.
"I always wanted to serve my country in some capacity," said O'Brien, who obtained his doctorate of pharmacy from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences-Boston. "Initially, I was not aware of the opportunities the Army provided for pharmacists. (The Army) seemed like a perfect opportunity to blend my desire to serve with my chosen profession."
Currently, O'Brien hopes to help shape the future of Army Pharmacy as Army, Navy and Air Force military facilities transition to the Defense Health Agency.
"Change usually brings unease and discomfort. However, it is also a conduit for opportunity, and that is what we are doing in our pharmacy section," said O'Brien. "The transition has provided an open-door for optimizing pharmacy operations. We are introducing programs that have never existed before at Army medical treatment facilities to allow pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to practice at the top of their licenses."
In keeping with selfless service, O'Brien aims to impact military pharmacy operations across the Department of Defense while enhancing the role and clinical focus of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
"(O'Brien) certainly understands the complex, challenging, and dynamic environment of Army Medicine as it re-engineers itself, policies and procedures to deliver optimal operational medicine," said Matthews. "He understands the connection between the role of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the requirements of the Military Health System to define what is needed by military medical personnel to deploy to a combat zone."
Currently, O'Brien is researching service member perceptions toward outpatient pharmacists' role as prescribers, medication and disease management, in order to minimize primary care visits.
"It is our hope that the program and research will demonstrate that pharmacists and technicians provide more than just a transaction at the window; we provide a valuable service that directly impacts readiness," said O'Brien.