A History of Military Service by Pharmacists

This Remembrance Day, We at Centrum Pharmacy would also like to inform you of the roles and services that Pharmacists in the military have played and continue to play in safeguarding our troops and ultimately our freedom. 

History of Pharmacists in the Military: 

This history lesson highlights the indispensable role pharmacists have played in various wars, from World War II to modern conflicts. 

World War II: The Unsung Heroes: Pharmacists faced dangers of combat, with individuals like Robert Knecht and Paul Stanley Frament losing their lives. Despite the risks, wounded soldiers expressed gratitude for the vital role played by medics, including pharmacists.

Early Challenges: 1930s-1940s: Pharmacy education required a baccalaureate degree, but this didn’t grant a military commission. The value of pharmacists wasn’t always aligned with their rank and pay. Ultimately, a dispensing error in 1930 highlighted the need for employing skilled pharmacists in the military.

Recognition and Struggle: In 1943, President Roosevelt established the Pharmacy Corps in the Army. Approximately 14,000 pharmacists or students served during WWII. Post-war, the Pharmacy Corps was replaced by the Medical Service Corps in 1947.

Korean War: Advancements and Opportunities: The Korean War saw advancements in pharmacy and pharmaceuticals. Pharmacists contributed to formulary development, and pharmacy officers played a crucial role in intravenous fluid therapy.

Postgraduate Training and Recognition: In the late 1950s and early 1960s, pharmacy officers competed for postgraduate training. In 1958, the first master’s degree program in hospital pharmacy was completed. In 1966, the Secretary of Defense mandated that major military medical treatment facilities must be staffed with licensed pharmacists.

Vietnam War: Controversy and Improvement: The Vietnam War sparked controversy, but military medical services improved in specialization and speed. Pharmacists played crucial roles in medical evacuation systems, highly trained medical specialties, and biomedical research.

Modern Era: Clinical Pharmacy and Combat Deployment: In the 1980s, clinical pharmacy took shape, and the Pharm.D. degree became recognized for promotion. The 1990s saw the establishment of clinical pharmacy practices. Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia provided pharmacists with opportunities in combat deployments.

Present Day: Homeland Security and Unified Forces: All branches of military medicine work jointly for homeland security. Pharmacists are responsible for pharmacy operations, personnel, and entire ambulatory healthcare facilities. They play a significant role in medication logistics, inventory activities, and homeland defense readiness.

Conclusion: Military pharmacists, in wartime and peacetime, continue to play a crucial role in protecting the country. Their sacrifices deserve honor and respect, in all its aspects.

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