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Using BPS Board Certification to Become Transplant Pharmacist, D.O.C.

by Heather J. Johnson, PharmD, BCPS
Council Member, BPS Specialty Council on Solid Organ Transplantation
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy
Clinical Specialist, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center


Most of us remember receiving our first white coat. Whether we bought it at the university bookstore or it was bestowed upon us at a White Coat Ceremony, it’s a memorable moment. I remember wearing my white coat proudly – a sign that I was a burgeoning member of our trusted profession; a sign to patients and other practitioners that I was dedicated to the care of my patients. Later in my career, I had the opportunity to practice pharmacy outside of the United States in Italy. I was shocked when I arrived and saw many professionals adorned with white coats. Who knew that EVERYONE wore a white coat of some sort – from the physician and pharmacist to the butcher and baker?


When I received my Board-Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist lapel pin from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS), I donned it with pride similarly to my first white coat. While I earned the certification to align with my personal career goals, I wanted others to recognize and celebrate the accomplishment, as well. It started when another health care practitioner asked about it. They were one of many who understood what board certification is and appreciated the significant effort and dedication needed to attain and maintain it. I recall fondly the pride I felt when they introduced me to a patient as a board-certified pharmacist.


Students and residents also asked about “those letters”, wanting to know how they could acquire the coveted accomplishment of board certification, too. To my patients and to the public, my lapel pin and designations open a conversation about how seriously board-certified pharmacists take patient care and what we are willing to invest to ensure that we are at the top of our game. Board certification is a stamp of quality to increase patients’ confidence in the care we deliver, and I found a similar respect for the credential during my time in Italy.


When shopping for wine or cheese in Italy, I learned to look for D.O.C. – denominazzione di origine controllata – as a mark of ingredient origin or quality. Colloquially, it means “the real thing”. To me, it was an indicator of what was inside before I could taste it.


I soon realized that where Italian wine and cheese had D.O.C., pharmacists had board certification credentials to establish a standard of credibility and value of high caliber specialization within the profession.


I’ve come to realize that board certification to much of the world – regulators, payors, practitioners, and patients – describes what we know, what we can add, how we practice, and who we care for.


In a world with the Board-Certified Transplant Pharmacist (BCTXP) credential, we can use this designation to advocate for specialty care that is provided by pharmacists with specialized knowledge. In the world before BCTXP, we didn’t have a tangible and widespread measure of what was on the inside. When I complete my term on the inaugural Solid Organ Transplantation Pharmacy Specialty Council, I most certainly plan to pursue the BCTXP certification because I know that the designation will accurately identify what’s on the inside – a pharmacist with specialized training, knowledge, and skills. I want to be a Transplant Pharmacist, D.O.C. – “the real thing!”