A mentor once said, “There are two types of public health pharmacists: 1) those who, by the very nature of their dispensing roles, contribute to the health of their communities and 2) those who practice public health through research, program development, implementation, etc.” Pharmacists in category 2 could be considered public health practitioners.
Pharmacists who wish to become public health practitioners may obtain public health-related degrees, such as a Master of Public Health (MPH). For certain roles, these additional academic qualifications are necessary. For other public health pharmacy jobs, a pharmacy degree, with or without relevant experience, may be sufficient.
Below I'll describe just a few jobs that may be ideal for public health pharmacists.
Experience in counseling patients and caregivers makes a pharmacist a natural fit for roles in health education. Communication is key in this role, as is having a strong health care knowledge base. Health educators may specialize in various disease states, such as diabetes or heart disease. They may also work with special populations like pregnant women.
In the past, most emphases on infection prevention were directed toward hospitals. As prevention efforts expand to other health care settings, opportunities for pharmacists to assume roles as leaders in infection prevention have also increased. Knowledge of antimicrobial drugs, resistance patterns, and stewardship best practices adds to pharmacists' qualifications in infection prevention.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an epidemiologist studies disease distribution and causes of disease. Epidemiologists are investigators who use quantitative and analytical skills to study diseases within various populations. There are many specialties that epidemiologists may choose to focus their research, such as cancer, heart disease, and infectious disease. Pharmacoepidemiology is an especially interesting sub-field for many pharmacists since it directly relates to medication use and safety.
Drug Safety Specialist
Speaking of safety, drug safety is a public health field that attracts many pharmacists. It is an expansive area that could involve working in pharmaceutical companies, hospital administration, or state and local health departments. In any case, the goal is to optimize medication use by advancing medication safety initiatives and minimizing and monitoring medication safety risks.
This abbreviated list gives you an idea of the possibilities that exist for pharmacists aiming to become public health practitioners, but it doesn't stop here. In public health, the possibilities are endless.
About The Author
Megan N. Brown, PharmD is a public health pharmacist and freelance health writer. She enjoys reading suspense novels, learning new skills, and maintaining her personal blog, Your Friendly Public Health Pharmacist.