Pharmacy Professor Mirtallo Receives Barney Sellers Public Policy Award From A.S.P.E.N.

Professor Mirtallo

The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) recognized College of Pharmacy Professor Jay Mirtallo with its Barney Sellers Public Policy Award. Mirtallo will receive the award as a part of ASPEN’s Nutrition Week Feb. 15 in Long Beach, CA.

ASPEN works to improve patient care by advancing the science and practice of clinical nutrition and metabolism through the work of dietitians, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, scientists, students and health professionals. The Sellers award honors the work of the former ASPEN executive director and is given to an ASPEN member who has significantly contributed to advancing advocacy goals.

Mirtallo first joined the organization in 1978 and joined its public policy committee in 1989. He was mentored by several senior members of the committee and began working with other health professionals to give patients and practitioners a voice among US policy makers.  

“I was the first pharmacist to ever join ASPEN’s public policy committee,” said Mirtallo. “No one ever starts off in advocacy; it’s a learned skill that is crucial to assuring patients have access to quality care.”

Mirtallo’s work with the committee led him into different roles with ASPEN, including sitting on the organization’s board of directors in 1999 and serving as president in 2010. While ASPEN’s public policy efforts have been very successful today, Mirtallo mentioned there was once thinking within the organization to get rid of public policy initiatives.

“When I was first serving on the board of directors, there was talk of removing the public policy committee and its efforts for monetary reasons,” said Mirtallo. “If others and myself hadn’t strongly advocated to keep the committee, we would have never been able to achieve a lot of our recent goals with advocating for patients affected by drug shortages.”

Despite the initial challenges, ASPEN was able to use its influence to become a prominent voice during several recent US drug shortages. Working with the Food and Drug Administration, Joint Commission, hospitals and societies with similar goals, ASPEN successfully advocated for patients and practitioners specializing in nutrition.

“Working in an advocacy role has allowed me to truly understand how the pharmaceutical supply chain works and that is what I am able to pass on to my students,” said Mirtallo. “It’s a tremendous honor to be mentioned alongside Barney Sellers. Not enough people take the time to understand the policy side of healthcare because of how long these initiatives take and how difficult they can be to pull off, but the long duration is always worth the results of helping those who don’t always have a say in important matters.”