How community pharmacy can impact health care policy: Health policy lobbyist gives student pharmacists pointers on how to make a difference

Heidi Ann Ecker was the sixth speaker in this year’s “Preparing for Your Career in Pharmacy” seminar series hosted by the Washington State University College of Pharmacy in Spokane, Washington. She spoke to student pharmacists on January 27 about the importance of getting involved in the health care policy discussion at the local, state and national levels. Ecker is the director of government affairs and grassroots programs for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).

“How many of you voted in the last election?” asked Ecker. “Guess what, if you voted you’ve already engaged. This is the beginning of the red carpet status that you have with your elected officials.”

Ecker has over 20 years of experience in federal lobbying and government relations in the national health care arena. She joined the NACDS in 2008, and directs and orchestrates strategic grassroots programming, which the NACDS calls “RxIMPACT.” Ecker also conducts field-based advocacy and grassroots trainings, and engages advocates and pharmacy schools through to support NACDS policy priorities.

NACDS federal government relations activities support its 120 retail chain pharmacy companies and 1,000 associate member companies that supply “front end” products showcased in the aisles of pharmacies across America.

Ecker previously worked for U.S. Senator Kennedy (D-MA), and she has advocated on behalf of the National Community Pharmacists Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Nurses Association, American Psychological Society, and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity.

“It takes a really long time to get something passed,” said Ecker. “This points to the power of a long-term relationship with legislators and their staff.”

Her talk, “Effective Grassroots Involvement in the Policymaking Process,” out lined best practices for WSU’s future pharmacists to use when contacting their local representatives, and why it is so important for them to do so: because their input makes a difference, and their representatives want to know the story about their impact on the community, said Ecker.

The career seminar series was established by the dean of the College in 2012 to expose future pharmacists to a variety of career opportunities and the industry and organizational leaders within those fields. The seminars are funded through the College of Pharmacy Dean’s Fund for Excellence and our community partner, the Spokane Teachers Credit Union. For information on participating in the career seminar series, or to contribute to the Dean’s Fund for Excellence to help expose WSU student pharmacists to thought-leaders and industry innovators, contact the College of Pharmacy advancement office at or 509-358-7651.

[February 10, 2015] Lori J. Maricle