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Thoughts on the John W. Webb Lecture


Last night I attended a hospital pharmacy event that has quite a history.  John W. Webb was the pharmacy director at Mass General Hospital and a legend in the profession.  Every year there is a lecture from a leader in hospital pharmacy that comes to Boston to present in his honor.  There was a certain air of importance, pomp and circumstance that made it kind of cool.


From the web site: “The Webb Award honors health-system pharmacy practitioners or educators who stand apart from others because of their extraordinary dedication to fostering excellence in pharmacy management and leadership.”


I did not have the privilege of meeting John Webb.  His successor, Harry DeMonaco, however was a powerful influence in my career.  The first time I set foot in a hospital pharmacy I met Harry and have had the pleasure to bump up to him a number of times since.   I have not seen him for a while.  He is listed in LinkedIn as Director, Innovation Support Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.  This is a great position for him.  Harry is one of the – no, scratch that — he is THE most innovative and brilliant pharmacist, I have ever met.  While Harry would dazzle the crowd, he has not been nominated for the lecture.  I suspect it is due to his sometime noted contempt for organized pharmacy.   My recent contempt for Am Soc Health-System Pharmaicst (ASHP) is perhaps a spillover from this brilliant man.


Bill Gouveia, a legend of sorts in pharmacy informatics, was the Master of Ceremony.   He introduced one of John Webb’s sons.  Nice.  He talked about this Dad as a patient quiet and gracious leader.  It turns out he loved  Barber Shop Quartet music.  He would have been the leader behind the band not the one to be out front.   Meg Clapp the current Chief Pharmacy Officer at Mass General said a few words as well.  Meg is always a class act.


This year the award went to Toby Clark.  It turns out; Toby is the only Webb lecturer to wear a bow tie that John Webb always wore.  Toby is also a pharmacy informatics pioneer.  This is how I had the pleasure to meet and work with him through the years.   Toby and I have had some major disagreements, but I have always loved his conviction and boldness in his views.  Not unlike Harry Demonaco, come to think of it.  It was great to see Toby and chat a bit before and after his lecture. 


I really do not like it when speakers read from the lectern.  I feel cheated when speakers do this.  It is not fair to the audience and it takes away for the content of the speech.  Toby read his speech.  Bummer.  The content was really great and I highly recommend folks read it when it comes out in the Journal, AJHP( most likely months from now).


One of Toby’s themes was bold leadership.   He made a great case to be bold.  This is a needed element in pharmacy practice and leadership.  He also mentioned the wonderful pleasure of going back and reading past Webb and Whitney lectures.  I have done this from time to time and completely agree, there have been some terrific lectures in the past.  Jim Stevenson’s comes to mind.  This one from John Webb is a classic.


Other random thoughts form the evening:

  •   Max Ray, one of the all-time nice guys and thoughtful minds of the profession was there, gracious as ever.
  • Some of the ASHP intelligencia was there, given my previous rants and contempt; it was a bit hard to be cordial.  They are good people, so I tried.  I noted to Sara White that I will work on that ‘being Bold’ thing.
  • Not as many students as I thought.  It would have been nice to see more.
  • We(I) need to chronicle the early days of pharmacy informatics.  Bill and Toby, are not getting any younger, and capturing their insights, particularly about informatics really should be done.

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