Celebrating National Pharmacist Day

national pharmacist day

January 12 is National Pharmacist Day, when we recognize the contribution that pharmacists have made–and continue to make–to patient care and our healthcare systems. As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, pharmacists are among the essential workers who have been hard at work behind the scenes. In addition to checking and distributing medications at hospitals and in the public eye, they’ve been filling lifesaving prescriptions, distributing flu vaccines, and preparing for COVID-19 vaccines.

Some Famous Pharmacists in History

Throughout history, there have been notable pharmacists you may not have been aware of. Here are some of their stories:

Forty-five years ago, in 1976, a pediatric patient was admitted to Hammersmith Hospital, London. The 19-month-old girl presented with baffling symptoms that mimicked those of encephalitis or epilepsy. Luckily, an on-duty hospital nurse had read bestselling mystery writer Agatha Christie’s 1961 novel, “The Pale Horse.” 

In the novel, Christie’s villain used thallium poisoning as his murder weapon of choice.  

Based on her reading of Christie’s novel, the nurse suggested that the baby should get tested for thallium sulphate. The child tested positive (her parents had used a household poison to control rodents), and the appropriate poison treatment saved the child’s life.  

How did one of the world’s most famous mystery writers know exactly how thallium sulfate affects the human body?

Long before she was a bestselling author, Agatha Christie worked as a pharmacy dispenser.  

Other famous pharmacists include Benjamin Franklin, who helped to establish America’s first public hospital and public pharmacy. Oh, and you want a nice cold Coca Cola with your medical history here? Drink up! But not before you say, “thank you” to Civil-War-era pharmacist, John Pemberton. According to The Pharmacy Times, Pemberton first created the carbonated drink from coca leaves (cocaine) and kola nuts to manage his war-injury pain.

Since Christie’s or Franklin’s or Pemberton’s eras, the role of the pharmacist has changed.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 321,700 pharmacists work in the United States, across and within various settings.

Where Pharmacists Work

Hospitals, government and the military: Many clinical pharmacists work in hospitals or other civilian or military healthcare settings, where they are involved in patient care and offer expertise in the safe use of medications or advise patients and providers on the correct selection, dosages, interactions and side effects of certain medications.  

Retail Drug Stores or Pharmacies:  Here, pharmacists dispense customer medications and answer any questions that patients may have about prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or other health concerns. 

Insurance providers: Consultant pharmacists advise healthcare facilities or insurance providers on patient medication use or on how to improve pharmacy services.  

Pharmaceutical industry:  Pharmacists may design or conduct clinical drug trials and help to develop new drugs. Or they may work in pharmaceutical marketing, sales, research and development, quality control or regulatory compliance. 

Steps to a Career as a Pharmacist

  1. Complete a PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) program 
  2. After completing a PharmD degree, you must pass two licensing examinations, the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam® (NAPLEX®)  and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam® (MPJE®) on pharmacy law. 
  3. Complete a state-mandated number of hours as a pharmacy intern
  4. Some pharmacists become certified in specialty areas such as immunization, diabetes education, nutrition or oncology. Licensing boards for these specialties vary. 

Let’s Observe National Pharmacist Day

Whether in a hospital or at a local pharmacy, most of us have benefited from the expertise of our pharmacists. 

This January 12, National Pharmacist Day, take the time to say, “Thank you” to your local pharmacist. Or recognize them on social media by using #NationalPharmacistDay.  

Considering a career in pharmacy? “Meet” these 15 pharmacists who work in various clinical settings, such as cardiology, infectious diseases, oncology and pediatric medicine. 

Studying for the NAPLEX? Check out the BoardVitals NAPLEX question bank filled with more than 1,400 NAPLEX practice questions to support your preparation for the NAPLEX (pharmacy licensing examination).