March 2022 has been designated "Women's History Month." As in years past, the commemoration will be used to honor women's contributions throughout American history. Since the theme of this year's celebration is "Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope," it's appropriate to focus on the thousands of women who distinguished themselves in the pharmacy profession.
It's a story that begins with Elizabeth Greenleaf who is recognized as the first female pharmacist in America. The story spans generations of women including Camille Schrier who, in 2020 was crowned Miss America while a pharmacy student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy.
According to the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), Greenleaf is listed among the 32 apothecaries in New England during the late 1600's, and in 1727, owned an apothecary shop in Boston. Today's working mothers can learn a lesson from Greenleaf who, in addition to running her own store, had twelve children.
Camille Schrier dedicated her tenure as Miss America to combatting opioid addiction and medication errors. She was often referred to as "the Science Miss America." Schrier began her reign by breaking from pageant tradition with her choice of onstage talent. Rather than show off her singing or dancing skills, she wowed the crowd by performing a catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide.
Schrier is on track to graduate in 2022 with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. She has used her time on the national stage to promote sciences and STEM, and will no doubt continue to be a goodwill ambassador for the pharmacy profession, and the role of pharmacists in public health.
When Schrier receives her degree from VCU, she will be in good company. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), women accounted for 63% of first professional degrees in pharmacy awarded in 2019-2020. And 45% of Ph.D degrees awarded that year went to women.
Most notably, the AACP notes, women now account for the majority of students enrolled in first degree pharmacy programs. "Of the total number of students enrolled in first professional degree programs for fall 2020," the AACP stated, "64.6% were women and 18.4% were underrepresented minority students."
While Greenleaf and Schrier certainly brought honor to the profession, they are in good company. This includes several finalists in the 2021 Next-Generation Pharmacists Awards program, which is sponsored annually by Pharmacy Times and Parata Systems. The program recognizes pharmacists of distinction across several practice settings. In October 2021 several women were recognized including:
Also worthy of the title "trailblazer," are the more than 45,000 members of the Pharmacist Moms Group, which was formed in 2017 as a resource for women pharmacists with children. "We are all pharmacists, but more importantly we are all moms" the group's website says. "With women from all areas of pharmacy sharing the common goals of helping each other and promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Pharmacist Moms Group strives to improve the industry one pharmacy and one woman at a time."
Our deepest respect to all women who left a mark on our nation's history. But a special tip of the hat to those women who distinguished themselves as pharmacists and laid the path for the trusted professionals we know today!