Honoring and Uplifting Black Excellence in the Field of Pharmacy

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Honoring and Uplifting Black Excellence in the Field of Pharmacy

February is Black History Month

As we commemorate Black History Month, let us not only acknowledge, but also actively celebrate and uplift the invaluable contributions of Black individuals to the field of pharmacy. Despite the systemic racism and discrimination they have faced, countless Black pharmacists have made immeasurable contributions to the profession and to their communities. They have not only broken barriers but also served as shining examples of resilience, determination, and excellence. It is imperative that we recognize and uplift the accomplishments of Black pharmacists, not just during this month, but all year round.  While we can't recognize them all, here are four incredible examples of Black excellence in the field of pharmacy. 

The Change Makers

James McCune Smith was an American physician, apothecary, abolitionist, and author. He was the first African American to hold a medical degree from the University of Glasgow in Scotland and after his return to the United States, he became the first African American to run a pharmacy in the nation. Despite his impressive achievements, Smith was not admitted to the American Medical Association or local medical associations. He was a public intellectual, using his training in medicine and statistics to refute common misconceptions about race, intelligence, medicine, and society in general.

Anna Louise James was a pioneering figure as the first female African American pharmacist in Connecticut. She operated the James Pharmacy in Old Saybrook for fifty years. After graduating from college, James initially ran a drugstore in Hartford before going to work with her brother-in-law, Peter Lane, at his Lane Pharmacy in Old Saybrook. After Lane left the pharmacy in 1917, James took over and became the sole owner in 1922, renaming it as James Pharmacy. She lived upstairs from the pharmacy and kept it open every day, with half days on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. James made extensive renovations to the pharmacy which was originally built in the 1790s as a general store. In 1967, she retired and closed the pharmacy, yet continued to live upstairs until her death in 1977.

Robert H. Carter III was an American pharmacist who made history as the first African American certified pharmacist from Massachusetts. He began working for druggist and chemist William P. S. Caldwell in 1871, and by 1876 he owned and managed his own pharmacies in Boston and New Bedford. On January 5, 1896, he was certified as a registered pharmacist and worked in this profession for 37 years. He was also a member of the National Negro Business League.

Mary Munson Runge was another lighting rod of change in the pharmacy world, becoming the first female, the first African American, and the first employee community pharmacist to be elected president of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). She graduated from the Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy in 1948 and worked as a hospital pharmacist for 21 years before becoming a community pharmacist in Oakland, California. Throughout her career, Runge held leadership positions in various professional organizations including the California State Board of Pharmacy, the California Pharmacists Association, and the American College of Pharmaceutical Education. As APhA president, she created the APhA Task Force on Women in Pharmacy and the Office of Women's Affairs.

At Outcomes®, we recognize the importance of representation and inclusivity in the field of pharmacy and strive to create an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Like these amazing individuals highlighted here, we are committed to creating an inclusive workplace that promotes and values diversity and ensures equity across our organization. Let's continue to learn and celebrate the contributions of Black individuals and work to make the field of pharmacy more inclusive for all.