Kremers Seminar in the History of Pharmacy & Drugs

Edward Kremers
Edward Kremers in 1933

The Kremers Seminar in the History of Pharmacy & Drugs, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy and the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, explores the history of pharmacy, pharmaceuticals, drugs, and medicines. The “Kreminar” features authors and scholars discussing their latest research and projects, and aims to use history to inform contemporary understandings and debates about pharmacy, drugs, and medicines.

Edward Kremers (1864-1941) was the second Director of the University of Wisconsin Department of Pharmacy (later the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy) and a co-founder of the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. Throughout his career, he strongly believed in the importance of history and the value of humanistic research in pharmacy and the health sciences.

In the spirit of Edward Kremers, each Kreminar focuses on a specific theme and features presentations that provide crucial historical context about contemporary issues related to drugs and pharmacy.

Dr. Lucas Richert, George Urdang Chair in the History of Pharmacy at the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy and the AIHP Historical Director, hosts the Seminar.

Current and Upcoming Kreminars

2024 Kreminar Series: Community Pharmacy

“Community pharmacy,” sometimes called retail pharmacy, is arguably the most common type of pharmacy that offers the public access to medications and a knowledgeable healthcare provider. A community pharmacy, or drug store, also acts as a healthcare facility that is responsible for the provision of pharmaceutical services. Many, if not all, community pharmacies provide medicinal goods only available with a prescription and those with that can be purchased over-the-counter. Community pharmacists are considered to be the most accessible health professional to the public, as they are available to provide personalized advice about health and medicine on a walk-in basis, without the need for an appointment.

The 2024 Edward Kremers Seminar in the History of Pharmacy and Drugs will focus on community pharmacy from a variety of perspectives and disciplines. In 2022-2023, the pharmacy space was forced to reckon with pharmacist mental health fatigue, strikes over pay and layoffs, pharmacy store closures, and ongoing opioid litigation related to pharmacy chains. To varying extents, all of these issues intersected with and impacted community pharmacy. The 2024 “Kreminar” will aim to explore some of these topics from multiple angles and through a diverse group of speakers.

May 28th: Contextualizing the Community Pharmacy: Historical Problems in the Present by Lucas Richert

It is no exaggeration to say that nearly all Americans have stepped foot in a pharmacy. Yet ways of thinking and talking about pharmacy and pharmaceuticals —including the profession’s educational standards, scope of responsibilities, and business models —are changing rapidly. The examples of pharmacy’s role in the ongoing opioid crisis, as well as vaccine delivery during the Covid-19 pandemic, helped bring attention to pharmacy in American life. As the cost of drugs and the position of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) stimulate further debate, patients and consumers have also noticed that Amazon’s entrance into the pharmacy and pharmaceuticals space has provoked even more scrutiny about the traditional drugstore. 

This paper will historicize the evolution of the community pharmacy in American life during the post-war period. Over their histories, both the “pharmacy” and “drugstore” have served various medical, commercial, and cultural roles, from offering soda fountain drinks to providing a stage for “sit-ins.” Beyond health care, these businesses have acted as key sites of civic engagement and growth, as well as symbols of inequality or division that must be reckoned with. This paper, using sources from the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP), will help cast light on the historical development of an enduring institution in the US, the image of the pharmacist and pharmacy profession over time, and the fluctuating role of diversity and inclusion in healthcare as business models change. In doing so, this paper will also reflect on significant contemporary debates in pharmacy and reflect on what the future of pharmacy might hold. 

Lucas Richert is Professor of History and George Urdang Chair in Pharmacy History. He is the Executive Director of the AIHP. You can more about his work and his research lab on his website.

Tuesday, May 28th
12:00 – 1:30 pm (CDT) – Register

May 29th: A Look Behind the Counter: Examining Community Pharmacist Occupational Fatigue with Dr. Taylor Watterson

Join us for a journey “behind the counter” as we delve into the complex landscape of community pharmacist occupational fatigue. In this presentation, we’ll explore contemporary challenges facing pharmacists, particularly amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll also take a historical lens, unraveling the evolution of occupational fatigue in community pharmacies over time. By understanding how the profession arrived at its current state, we’ll gain valuable insights into potential strategies for the future. 

Dr. Taylor Watterson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy in the Department of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes and Policy. Dr. Watterson is a licensed pharmacist and health services researcher aiming to improve patient safety through systems-based, collaborative research. She has received funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Center for Prescription Drug Programs Foundation, and was a recent recipient of the NIH Loan Repayment Program REACH award. She received her PharmD from the University of Pittsburgh and her Master’s and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy. She completed a T32 primary care postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Wednesday, May 29th
12:00 – 1:30 pm (CDT) – Register

May 30th: Trojan Horse Technologies: How Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Encourage Pharmacists to Police Patients with Dr. Liz Chiarello

In the throes of an intractable overdose crisis, U.S. pharmacists have begun to engage in an unexpected practice—policing patients. Contemporary sociological theory does not explain why. Theories of professions and frontline work suggest professions closely guard jurisdictions and make decisions based on the logics of their own fields. Theories of criminal- legal expansion show that non-enforcement fields have become reoriented around crime over the past several decades, but past work largely focuses on macro-level consequences. This article uses the case of pharmacists and opioids to develop a micro-level theory of professional field reorientation around crime, the Trojan Horse Framework. Drawing on 118 longitudinal and cross-sectional interviews with pharmacists in six states, I reveal how the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs)—surveillance technology designed for law enforcement but implemented in healthcare—in conjunction with a set of field conditions motivates pharmacists to police patients. PDMPs serve as Trojan horse technologies as their use shifts pharmacists’ routines, relationships with other professionals, and constructions of their professional roles. As a result, pharmacists route patients out of the healthcare system and leave them vulnerable to the criminal-legal system. The article concludes with policy recommendations and a discussion of future applications of the Trojan Horse Framework.

Liz Chiarello is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Saint Louis University. She conducts research at the intersection of healthcare and law. Her research centers on how cultural forces such as law, politics, and organizational policy influence decision-making in healthcare and the criminal-legal system. Chiarello’s current project centers on the U.S. overdose crisis. She examines how the fields of healthcare and criminal justice have used shared surveillance technology to address the crisis and how doing so has changed professional work and undermined patient care. Her research is supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and her book, Policing Patients, is forthcoming with Princeton University Press. Dr. Chiarello has been a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University. Her work has appeared in sociology and socio-legal journals as well as popular media including op-eds, and podcasts.

Thursday, May 30th
12:00 – 1:30 pm (CDT) – Register

May 31st: Preserving Community Pharmacy History: Institutional and Personal Approaches with Hannah Swan

In this presentation, Hannah Swan, archivist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy, will take a two-pronged approach to archival histories of the community pharmacy. She will first highlight the collections of the Edward Kremers Research Library and Archive, exploring manuscripts, books, and ephemera available to researchers. Several case studies will foreground what these materials can teach us not only about pharmacy history, but about broader social, cultural, and economic histories as well. The second half of the presentation will be dedicated to the practical side of collection management. Hannah will share her expertise both as an archives and library professional and as a personal collector. (She was the 2022 recipient of the National U.K. Book Collecting Prize for her personal collection of books and ephemera.) She will touch on her work processing and digitizing the EKRLA collections, but also how this work can be scaled down for the hobbyist pharmacy collector. Topics covered will include cataloging, digitization, and basic preservation.

Hannah Swan is an archivist in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, currently working on a National Endowment for the Humanities grant-funded project to process, digitize, and exhibit the collections of the Edward Kremers Research Library and Archive. She holds a postgraduate diploma in Archives and Records Management from University College London and a master’s in Book History and Material Culture from the University of Edinburgh. She has worked in the special collections library field for over six years and has received international recognition for her personal collection of midcentury American party planning books and ephemera.

Friday, May 31st
12:00 – 1:30 pm (CDT) – Register

Past Kreminars

2023 Summer Kreminar: Highlighting Our Homebase: Stories from the AIHP/UWSoP Historical Collections

2021 Summer Kreminar: Opiates & Opioids (May 13–June 17)

2020 Summer Kreminar: Cannabis (May 28–June 25)

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AIHP Wants to Document Your COVID-19 Stories and Experiences

AIHP COVID-19 ProjectThe American Institute of the History of Pharmacy is documenting and preserving pharmacy stories and experiences during the COVID-19 global pandemic for the benefit of future historians and scholars. We seek to record the effects of this public health emergency on all types of pharmacy experiences. We invite you to share your pharmacy stories, photos, videos, artifacts, and other documentation of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

You can participate in the AIHP COVID-19 Pandemic Pharmacy Historical Documentation Project either (1) by immediately sharing your thoughts/experiences and/or submitting digital materials or (2) by signifying your to intention to submit materials in the future. Please comply with all applicable local or state stay-at-home orders while self-documenting.

Please click the link below to learn more about participating in the AIHP COVID-19 Pandemic Pharmacy Historical Documentation Project.

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All past issues of Pharmacy in History have been digitized and are text-searchable at JSTOR.

Note: Academic libraries seeking subscriptions to History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals should directly contact the University of Wisconsin Press.

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Calendar of Events

Upcoming events of interest to historians of pharmacy, pharmaceuticals, medicines, science, and related fields. (Event information current when posted. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, please double-check the status of all events):

May 28-31, 2024: Kremers Seminar in the History of Pharmacy webinars.
June 27-30, 2024: ADHS Biennial Conference, Buffalo, NY.
July 7-11, 2024: International Social Pharmacy Workshop, Banff, Canada.
September 4-7, 2024: 46th International Congress for the History of Pharmacy, Belgrade Serbia.
January 3-6, 2025: Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association, New York City, NY.

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