APEX 2023 Report


Celebration Time
375 Attend Uplifting APEX to Learn, Share & Honor 20 Memorable Years

If you measure the success of a conference by the laughs and smiling faces of its attendees, then APEX 2023 was certainly a triumph. Just look at the conference photo stream and you will see that EVERYONE –― pharmacy owners, guests, presenters, staff, exhibitors –― was having a great time together at the world-class JW Marriott Hill Country Resort in San Antonio.

American Pharmacies celebrated its 20th anniversary at APEX and delivered a record six CE sessions, important awards and recognitions, inspirational speakers and ― most importantly ― a sense of community and purpose for everyone there. There was a healthy dose of fun with a golf tournament, hotel water park and multiple meals and receptions.

Though attendance was down slightly from APEX 2022, enthusiasm was up. (All organizations are grappling with declines in event attendance since the COVID pandemic –― it's a nationwide trend.) Despite that challenge, APEX remains a strong multistate draw, and attendees flocked to San Antonio from 15 states, some as far away as NY, FL and CA.

The conference kicked off Thursday with our traditional foursome scramble golf tournament at the scenic AT&T Canyons course, one of two pro-caliber TPC links at the JW Marriott. Sixty+ golfers largely finished playing before the scorching sun broke through heavy haze.

Thursday afternoon presentations opened with well-attended RxCompass training sessions that were split into separate tracks for beginning and experienced users of our industry-leading data metrics platform. RxCompass training was followed by a vendor breakout session with EnlivenHealth.

The first CE session of the day was a thought-provoking plunge into the advantages and details of crafting collaborative practice agreements, presented by Nicolette Mathey of Atrium 24.

The second was an energetic and motivating presentation by NOVA CEO Sue Chen on the many advantages of establishing a healthy HME shop in your pharmacy's front end.

The evening Welcome Reception closed out Thursday's activities.

Friday was a truly impactful day, with critical CE sessions, an awards ceremony and keynote address, and a high-energy exhibit hall packed with vendors.

After the morning buffet breakfast, Friday's activities kicked off with Scottie Sykes of Sykes and Co. discussing how to mitigate the impacts of the upcoming "DIR Cliff" in 2024. Josh Potter of PRS Pharmacy Services followed with an equally timely presentation on pharmacy compliance with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act provisions taking effect in November. General Counsel Miguel Rodriguez followed with a session on PBM-related litigation and other legal activities around the country.

The afternoon general session kicked off with a brief welcome from Vince Leonard of Liberty Software, our premier conference sponsor, followed by APRx President Laird Leavoy and AmerisourceBergen's Brian Nightengale -- president of community retail and long-term care pharmacy.

Afterward, Leavoy and Marketing & Communications VP Chuck Waters presented awards recognizing many notable achievements:

  • American Pharmacies member Frances Dyer Hickman of Dyer Drugstore in McKinney, Tx, was honored for her 65 years (1958-2023) as a practicing pharmacist. She still works behind the counter daily at Dyer Drugstore! Frances was, unfortunately, unable to attend, but her son, John Hickman, accepted an award on her behalf.
  • Former Board member Lynn Everett was honored for serving 20 years on the board, three times as chairman. Everett, who left the Board earlier this year, was the last of the original American Pharmacies Board members.
  • PPSC co-founder Bill Mincy was honored for 40 years of outstanding contributions in advocacy, pharmacy network management and pharmacy economics.
  • Administrative Associate Paula Gray (above with President Laird Leavoy) was honored for her 20 years of employment at American Pharmacies. Paula was the first employee hired by APRx founder Mike Gohlke in 2002!
  • Incoming P-3 students Quinn Mosgrove of UT-Austin and Casey Hourigan of Incarnate Word University were recognized as inaugural scholarship winners in American Pharmacies' new Independent Spirit Scholarship Program.

 Mosgrove was awarded the $2,500 Rudy Davila Memorial Scholarship, which was created and funded by President Laird Leavoy in honor of longtime San Antonio pharmacy owner and APRx member Rodolfo "Rudy" Davila, who passed away in April at 89. Davila Pharmacy was for decades an anchor of the community in the economically disadvantaged and medically underserved West Side of San Antonio. Leavoy made some heartfelt comments about Davila's friendship and influence during the awards presentation.

In a 75-minute speech that captivated the entire room, former Navy captain and best-selling author Mike Abrashoff (right) shared his powerful insights into how he inspired his crew to transform the USS Benfold ― one of the worst ships in the entire U.S. Navy ― into the best in the Pacific fleet.

Abrashoff recited the staggering challenges he faced in his underachieving destroyer, among them low morale, poor performance ratings and the highest turnover rate in the Navy. Sharing many poignant moments from his encounters with more than 200 crewmen, he shared how he replaced the traditional command and control leadership structure with commitment and cohesion. The lesson he communicated was clear: leadership matters and company culture is everything. 

Abrashoff shared many powerful insights and tips for engaging the hearts, minds and loyalties of workers. "You can't order excellence," he emphasized. "The most important thing that a captain can do is to see the ship through the eyes of his crew."

After the keynote address, Amerisource Bergen's Saurin Mehta, VP of Operations, led an engaging discussion of the drug wholesaler's operational and distributional performance and the goals and solutions it is developing to improve its performance. Mehta was just one of almost 20 AmerisourceBergen executives and managers who attended APEX to share their expertise and support our staff and attendees.

The day closed out with reception from 6-10 p.m. in our biggest exhibit hall ever ― 42 exhibitors. The larger hall we laid out created improved flow and vendor visibility that both the exhibitors and attendees loved. Traffic was high and most exhibitors ― like AJ Asgari of Drugstore2Door (left)― were busy all evening. It was the most successful exhibit hall that APEX has produced.

For the secod year, Kendra Scott Jewelry exhibited at APEX and was one of the most popular booths in the hall. Twenty percent of the revenue geerated from Kendra Scott's ales in the hall were allocated to the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Saturday kicked off with the annual Shareholder and Member Meeting, which was highlighted by a presentation from U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas (R). Gonzalez, who has co-sponsored multiple bills supporting community pharmacies, told APRx members that they are not alone in their fight against PBM abuses and other challenges. And he stressed that it is critical that they reach out to their elected members of Congress.

"They need to hear from you," Gonzalez said. "You need to tell your story because you are so important to your patients and your communities."

After the Shareholder & Member Meeting, the Board of Directors held a Meet & Greet session to give members an opportunity to meet and speak with Board members in a more relaxed setting.

Saturday morning programs concluded with VP of Government Affairs Michael Wright's 2023 Advocacy Update and Awards. Wright covered vital state and federal advocacy issues and how APRx works in many states and Washington to protect independent pharmacy. He also covered the importance of pharmacist engagement and presented awards to three people who are outstanding advocates for independent pharmacy:
  • APRx member Russell Pelzel of TX;
  • APRx member Deb Keaveny of MN;
  • Monique Whitney, CEO of Pharmacists United for Truth & Transparency (PUTT)

The second half of the advocacy session was a moderated panel discussion featuring APRx lobbyists Jerry Valdez of Texas (above with microphone), Steven Irizarry of Washington, D.C. (above), Jason Thompson of New Mexico and Ryan Burtka of Michigan.

After lunch, AmerisourceBergen experts conducted breakout sessions on audits, GNP marketing programs and front-end/OTC programs.

The Saturday afternoon PAC reception featured a special guest ― Texas State Sen. Morgan LaMantia of Brownsville ― who is a steadfast suporter of Texas independent pharmacy. LaMantia was honored with the Champion of Texas Pharmacy award by Michael Wright and Board Chairman Joe Ochoa for her legislative efforts during the 2023 Texas session on behalf of Texas independent pharmacy. LaMantia is shown at right with Board member Vance Oglesbee (L) and Michael Wright.

The reception also featured recognition of new PAC donors and drawings for $500 in gift cards.

The intense afternoon heat brought the Saturday night reception and banquet indoors, where attendees enjoyed an extensive buffet, libations and danced to the pulsing sounds of an eclectic DJ. It was a fun and festive conclusion to three days of communing, sharing and learning.

This was our strongest APEX to date, Leavoy declared. "This event means so much to our members because it showcases the value and community of American Pharmacies. It's also a great opportunity for us to show our members how much they mean to us."