(L-R), American Pharmacies members John Gross of Michigan, John Hickman of Texas, Ashley Seyfarth of New Mexico and Steve Hoffart of Texas with their advocacy awards.
350 Come to Learn, Network & Play at the First APEX since June 2019

No one knew quite what to expect for our first annual conference since the start of the pandemic, held Sept. 9-11 at the beautiful La Cantera Resort in San Antonio. We knew our members were itching to gather again -- eager to learn and commune after 18 challenging months. We expected 275 attendees in the current environment and weren't necessarily expecting, but certainly prepared for, a more subdued conference.

What we experienced was an energy-charged gathering that was propelled by the enthusiasm of 350 attendees and their sheer joy at rejoining the American Pharmacies community. Our exhibitors also were excited to be back in front of people -- several had not exhibited live in the 18 months preceding our conference. Several dignitaries from AmerisourceBergen joined us, enthusiastically joining a live conference for the first time in a year and a half. Everyone celebrated the opportunity to gather and again share knowledge, camaraderie and fun. Even the weather cooperated, with the traditional late-summer Texas heat and humidity displaced by a drier, cooler interlude. We all needed this experience.

APEX continued its evolution into a major multistate event. States outside Texas were well-represented at the conference, with attendees coming from as far away as New York, West Virginia, and Florida.

“This was our most successful annual meeting to date,” President Laird Leavoy pronounced after the event. “My theme was 'American Heroes' -- chosen to single out heroism -- the heroism of our first responders and citizens on 9/11 to what our members do every day in serving and caring for their communities."

"The enthusiasm of our attendees was underscored by the significant turnout. And the quality of our educational sessions and very strong participation by the AmerisourceBergen team ensured the success of APEX 2021."
The conference kicked off Thursday with our traditional foursome scramble golf tournament at the beautiful and challenging Resort Course. The milder weather left the 45+ golfers less fatigued and better able to take in two highly important Thursday afternoon CE sessions. The first was a critical session on how to implement point-of-care testing in community pharmacies; the second session was an equally vital presentation on how to build a successful CBD practice in your pharmacy and help patients with product selection and dosing. Both sessions provided a lot of practical guidance on building programs that can deliver significant revenue while strengthening the role of pharmacies as health-care destinations.

After the Thursday CE sessions, Good Neighbor Pharmacy President Brian Nightengale and Chris Johnson, senior manager of state government affairs for AmerisourceBergen, updated attendees on the many ways that ABC is engaged around the country in advocacy efforts on behalf of independent owners. After a vendor breakout session conducted by FDS-Amplicare, Thursday was capped perfectly with an early-evening outdoor reception on the La Cantera grounds.
After a buffet breakfast, Friday's activities kicked off with a panel discussion on RxCompass, our powerful data metrics platform. Members and RxCompass power users Russell Pelzel (L), Austin Brown (C), Allesandra Ochoa (R) and Vanessa Rawls (not shown), delivered both practical advice and first-hand accounts of how they use the platform to boost adherence and dispensing revenue.

Next came a CE session on grassroots advocacy, where a panel of member owners (John Gross of Michigan, Ashely Seyfarth of New Mexico and John Hickman and Steve Hoffart of Texas) shared experiences and advice on effective interactions with elected leaders. The session was both informative and motivational, especially the extensive Q&A portion.

When asked what motivates her to be so politically involved on behalf of independent pharmacy, Seyfarth pointedly responded, "It's MY profession. If I am not going to fight for it, then who will?"

After lunch, the CE continued with a valuable presentation on accounting fundamentals that are critical to supporting pharmacy financial success. Accountants Ollin Sykes, Scotty Sykes and Bonnie Bond of Sykes and Co., PA provided valuable advice on effectively managing inventory, debt and other components of pharmacy finance.
The mid-afternoon opening session featured remarks by Leavoy and Nightengale, but the featured draw was funny guy Tony Brigmon (right), the former "Ambassador of Fun" for Southwest Airlines. Over 60 minutes, Brigmon drew on humor, pathos and a deep catalog of actual Southwest Airlines experiences to deliver a powerful message on "positivity" -- using humor and kindness to bring more fun and meaning to the workplace. The highlight of Tony's speech was his spirited rendition of "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight, during which he called on the audience to deliver the backup vocals!

Breakout sessions by RxSafe and the APRX MEWA health plan followed the General Session and led into the three-hour Friday Night Vendor Fair and Reception in a packed Exhibit Hall. Exhibitors were uniformly enthusiastic about both the layout of the exhibit hall and the amount of interaction they had with our member pharmacists. All of them reported a very positive experience, driven by the high traffic in the Exhibit Hall.

Besides a variety of libations and gourmet food, there was face-painting, games and balloon sculptures for the kids.

APRx President Laird Leavoy kicked off the Saturday morning shareholder meeting held on the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. He spoke on a stage that was dramatically framed by an oversized American flag backdrop that was custom-made for the event. Leavoy took a few minutes to talk about the heroic acts of citizens and first responders that defined Sept. 11, 2001, but also the everyday heroism shown by pharmacists in caring for their communities during a very challenging pandemic.

The Shareholder Meeting included presentations from Leavoy and staff leaders from operations, marketing and communications, legal and sales, followed by a 30-minute informal meet-and-greet session with the American Pharmacies Board of Directors.
Afterward, Michael Wright (Left), VP of government affairs for American Pharmacies, delivered a vital CE session that covered APRX's advocacy involvement in multiple states, its many victories and the ongoing advocacy issues and challenges for independent pharmacy. Wright covered APRx advocacy activities in Texas, New Mexico, Michigan, Arizona, and Tennessee.

During the session, Wright recognized four APRx shareholders for their vital support of our advocacy efforts in 2021. (See the photo at the very top of the newsletter).
After lunch in the Exhibit Hall and open consultation sessions on websites and social media with APRx marketing staff, the APRxPAC reception took center stage. The donors-only reception featured appearances by two stalwart American Pharmacies legislative allies in Texas -- State Rep. Tom Oliverson of Houston, chair of the House Insurance Committee; and State Sen. Bryan Hughes of Tyler, Tx., (Right, receiving award from member Chuck Eubanks), chair of the Senate State Affairs Committee. The two men were the legislative sponsors of the powerful HB 1763, one of the strongest PBM reform bills ever passed in the United States. Both men were honored with American Pharmacies' Champion of Texas Pharmacy award for their efforts and both spoke proudly and enthusiastically about their work on behalf of community pharmacies.

"They (PBMS) were due for a market correction," Oliverson said of the need for HB 1763. "They had been having their way with community pharmacies for too long. It was time to restore some balance."

A fired-up Hughes repeatedly stressed how proud he was of the pharmacists in his district and the vital role they play in their communities. "You just keep doing everything that you are doing because you are so important to so many people," Hughes said.

The PAC reception also included a drawing for four YETI coolers. (APRx Board members and staff who are PAC donors were not eligible to participate).

After the PAC reception, the Saturday night banquet concluded the conference on the lawn behind the hotel with food, drink and music under the Texas stars.
We're Changing Things Up in 2022!
Join us June 23-25 at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, TX, for our 2022 Conference, our first experience in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. We’re expecting greater attendance in this populous and accessible North Texas hub. Located just two miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, the Gaylord Texan is a luxury resort perched on the scenic shores of Lake Grapevine. With 1,814 rooms, the 10-acre Paradise Springs Water Park and a majestic 2.5-acre, steel-framed atrium, the Gaylord Texan Resort offers a spectacular experience for the entire family.

Registration with early-bird discounts opens on Jan. 1, 2022.