CA launches LGBTQ training for pharmacists

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday December 27, 2023
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California Board of Pharmacy Executive Officer Anne Sodergren. Photo: Courtesy CA Board of Pharmacy
California Board of Pharmacy Executive Officer Anne Sodergren. Photo: Courtesy CA Board of Pharmacy

California has launched a new LGBTQ cultural training requirement for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who are licensed in the Golden State. It is rolling out the online course starting with licensees up for renewal in 2024.

The training was required to be in place by January 1 due to the enactment in 2022 of Assembly Bill 2194 authored by gay Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego). Its operative date was delayed a year in order to provide the California Board of Pharmacy time to implement it and for accredited professional groups to create the training about the concerns of LGBTQ+ patients.

Anne Sodergren, the state board's executive officer, told the Bay Area Reporter the LGBTQ training is now an ongoing condition of renewal for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, meaning they will need to take it every two years when they must renew their licenses. While the District of Columbia in 2016 enacted a rule requiring two hours of continuing education about LGBTQ health concerns, it is unclear if another state other than California has a similar license renewal requirement for pharmacists or pharmacy technicians.

"I don't know of any other states that do it," said Sodergren, though she stressed that doesn't mean there aren't others now requiring such LGBTQ training.

The need for such LGBTQ health information being taught to pharmacy students in college courses has been highlighted within the profession in recent years, both on university campuses and in academic papers. Having it be part of the licensing requirements for the profession will particularly benefit LGBTQ residents outside of California's urban centers noted Trevor Chandler, a gay man from San Francisco who serves on the California State Board of Pharmacy as a non-pharmacist member.

"It is incredibly important because so many pharmacies and pharmacists in rural areas don't have that competency. We get spoiled here in San Francisco," said Chandler, who works in education and is running for a county supervisor seat next November.

(Sodergren told the B.A.R. her agency doesn't compile stats about LGBTQ people's interactions with pharmacists in the state. A report earlier this year by the state auditor into the collection of LGBTQ health data by California public health entities noted how "there is often sensitivity around answering questions regarding gender identity and sexual orientation" in rural counties of the state.)

The pharmacy board heard an update on the implementation of Ward's bill at its last meeting of 2023. Chandler told the B.A.R. he expects it will receive a report back on how it is going in late 2024. He also noted the training is meant to be updated to include, for example, new information about LGBTQ health trends or advancements in gender-affirming medication treatment.

"The exciting part about this training is it is a living document," said Chandler, adding, "We want to make sure it is continually updated."

The B.A.R. met up with Ward in mid-December when he happened to be in San Francisco. He said he was "proud" that his legislation had broad support within the pharmacy profession and expected there wouldn't be any problems with it now going into effect.

"They wanted LGBT cultural competency to be a part of what they do," Ward said of the pharmacists he had worked with in crafting his bill.

The California Pharmacists Association, which had backed Ward's legislation, is one of the groups to develop a training course that meets the new cultural competency requirement. The professional group has approval by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education to provide continuing pharmacy education.

"This is a unique initiative tailored for both pharmacists and pharmacist technicians to elevate their practice and promote LGBTQ health and equity," Rajan Vaidya, PharmD, the association's vice president for practice and professional development, told the state board at its December 13 meeting.

The association is providing the one-hour training, titled "Caring for All: The Pharmacy Professional's Role in LGBTQ+ Health and Equity," for free for a limited time to anyone needing to take it via the website. Among its five objectives is defining commonly used LGBTQ terms, explaining health disparities found within the LGBTQ+ community, with a focus on the particular experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other LGBTQ+ people of color; and ways to be affirming of LGBTQ patients.

Overseeing its development were Jay Holloway, a pharmacist with AIDS Healthcare Foundation who uses they/them pronouns; Los Angeles LGBT Center clinical pharmacy program coordinator Tam Phan, PharmD, a gay man who is an assistant professor at the USC Alfred E. Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and Cheryl Wisseh, PharmD, a health sciences assistant clinical professor at UC Irvine's Department of Clinical Pharmacy Practice School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Phan explained during the pharmacy board meeting that the goal of the training is to help pharmacists "foster environments that affirm the identities and experiences of LGBTQ-plus individuals."

Nicole Thibeau, PharmD, the director of pharmacy services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center who serves on the state board, thanked the California Pharmacists Association for developing a training more detailed than what she had been expecting.

"This is beyond surface level, and I really, really appreciate it," said Thibeau. "I am so happy we are here. I never thought I would see the day."

The California Society of Health-System Pharmacists also has a training course that meets the new licensing requirement. It can be taken online via the website.

In an emailed message sent out to licensees December 22, the state pharmacy board recommended, "that, prior to registering for any cultural competency course, licensees confirm compliance with the course provider to ensure the course meets the requirements of BPC section 4231. The Board reminds licensees that certification of course completion should be maintained as evidence of compliance."

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