Saving Lives: The Role of The Pharmacist in HIV

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Welcome to this week’s episode today our episode is critically important. It is so important with things that have been going on in the world and 2020. But my guest today is a great friend of mine, a fellow advanced practice pharmacist. Somebody who I admire, who works in his community does so much good in his community and we are here for a cause today.

“BE THE CHANGE”

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What you will learn

  • August 4th Bombing in Beirut
  • 300,000 People Displaced, hundreds killed
  • Pharmacists and doctors jump into action
  • Middle Eastern Pharmacy Association & American Lebanese Medical Association helping efforts in Beirut
  • What Can YOU DO to help!

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Transcript

Michelle Sherman:
This is Michelle Sherman, president of MichRX Pharmacist Consulting services and your host for the conscious pharmacist podcast. Welcome to this week’s episode today our episode is critically important. It is so important with things that have been going on in the world and 2020. But my guest today is a great friend of mine, a fellow advanced practice pharmacist. Somebody who I admire, who works in his community does so much good in his community and we are here for a cause today. That is extraordinary. I’d like to introduce my friend, dr. Michael Daher fellow advanced practice pharmacist, owner of PEX pharmacy in Duarte, California in the San Fernando in the San Gabriel Valley. And we’re here today because Michael is instrumental in helping the people of Lebanon after this catastrophic bomb loss that happened on August 4th. It’s a personal issue for Michael it’s. It’s actually a personal global issue for all of us, but I want you to introduce Michael today and we are going to talk about how we as pharmacists and listeners to the pharmacy podcast network, this podcast, the conscious pharmacist network, how we can make a difference, how we could be conscious, making a difference to the people of the world and to the people of Lebanon. Today, we are all Lebanon. Michael, thanks for being on the show today.

Michael Daher:
It’s it’s my absolute pleasure. Would you like me to call? I I’ve. I always joke with the D with the doctor title that it’s just Mike. I always tell my students as well on top of the pharmacy, I teach at Marshall B Ketchum school of pharmacy and Fullerton. So I always tell them that, just call me Mike. So would you like to call me, would you like me to call you dr. Sherman or would you like Michelle? Because my legal name is also shell. So we got two Michelle’s on the podcast today. So it’s beautiful. Thank you for that. Very warm introduction. You, you hit the nail right on the head, Michelle you and I were talking offline prior to coming on and on to on top of talking about everything. We’ve what we’ve started with what we went through, how we got here.

Michael Daher:
One of the things that I wanted to highlight, and one of the things that I continue to tell everybody is through everybody’s generosity and support. We are all Lebanese, and that is the most humbling, most beautiful aspect of humanity. And as we’ve said here in the midst of a pandemic, that’s affected people financially, emotionally, mentally just the fact that everybody has been able to step up and today is the 13th or 14th. If I’m not mistaken, this is the 15th. Okay. So we, this is only 11 days out from that blast. And we have done so much and it’s not possible without the support of so many. So I’m looking forward to highlighting all that’s happened. I want to give you a big, thank you. On behalf of our group, the middle East pharmacy association and the American Lebanese medical association, our two nonprofits that are on the ground, taking donations and getting things shipped. We want it to thank you for welcome me on today. And let’s, let’s talk let’s, let’s go ahead and get into it. Where would you like to start?

Michelle Sherman:
Thanks, Mike. My pleasure. Like so maybe tell our listeners, like from the beginning, the bomb went off on August 4th. There’s a massive bomb in the Harbor of, of Beirut. Let, let our listeners know why they, how that affects you personally. I know you have family in Lebanon and how did, how did the call to action happen and where did you go from the bomb blast to all the pallets and goods that you have today to get it the route?

Michael Daher:
Sure. So my, so yes, my, my parents, both my dad, Albert, and my mother fattier, they are, they are Lebanese immigrants. And for the, when you look at the history of Lebanon, Beirut itself was called the Paris of the middle East. It was the most beautiful place in the middle East. It had the most tourism. This was in the seventies. Everybody went to Beirut in 1975, civil war started and it resulted in all of my uncles, my aunts, my grandparents, everybody fled Lebanon. So I’m, I’m a first generation American here my whole life. Unfortunately, anytime I turn on the news and I see Lebanon, you never see anything good coming out of Lebanon. All you really see is a bomb war, bloodshed, something. So I thought it was just another, another day and something else happened. I woke up that morning and I saw my phone.

Michael Daher:
People were texting me, Hey, a bomb went off in Beirut. I looked at the video and I know we’ve all seen it. The first initial video that came out was somebody within the port. So you didn’t see how big of the bow, how big a bomb it was. The other thing is there was a photo or a video taken from maybe about a quarter mile away. And those people were actually featured on Instagram. They are alive as well, but after looking at it again, I thought, Oh, that’s a big, that’s a big bomb, but you still didn’t realize how big it truly was. Then more angles started coming out. And these are people that were miles away, even on jet-skis in the, in the Harbor, in the water, they were out a mile, two miles away from it. So after we, you start after more footage came out, you saw that this bomb, it had the mushroom cloud.

Michael Daher:
It was massive. And the ricochet and the force of the shock that came from it. After this, we were getting calls from our family that lived 10 miles away up in the mountains, 10 miles away from the blast. And they said that their home, all the glass, the doors were blown off and the glasses were shattered. Wow. Then the photos, the photos from our family started coming in. One of my, one of my mother’s cousins works in the port of Beirut and he actually was able to leave maybe 30 minutes prior. His office is demolished. I mean, he went back and took a photo and I will share that with you so you can show your listeners. And it’s a, I mean, when you, when you look at the photos, you, you, you just don’t even, you don’t even know how to process it. And on record, just to give people perspective your, your listener’s perspective, this was the third largest explosion to ever go off in the history of the world.

Michael Daher:
As we know there was Hiroshima, there was Nagasaki, and then there was Beirut this ammonium nitrate that lit was 1,750 tons, 27, 50, sorry, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. This was one fifth, the size of Hiroshima. So this was one fifth, the size of the biggest nuclear bomb to go off in the history of the world. So woke up, read the news as I started seeing more and more. And of course with social media news travels faster than, than ever before, we started seeing the hospitals getting inundated. We started seeing people carrying bodies through the street. We started seeing blood all over the place. We started seeing mass hysteria, mass panic. And for the first couple of days, you know, the, the five phases of, of death. I mean, first there was, there was shock. Then there was disbelief. And then there was sadness and depression.

Michael Daher:
And, and I think it was finally about day that happened on a Tuesday morning. So then I think by Friday, I think once we’d kind of licked our wounds a little bit, we decided, okay, it’s done now. There’s a need, what do we got to do? So we, we had one of our, one of our members in our group. His name is [inaudible] a K R a M. You let us know that his his, as a physician in the middle East, over in Lebanon, we we, he reached out one of the big nonprofits, probably this is like the, the County hospital. You know, this is the one that people don’t want to go to, but they have to go to cause it’s the last resort. This hospital is called a 80 hospital. We were instructed that they had a big need for oncology meds.

Michael Daher:
Things like Lovenox, Ivy, baggies, antibiotics, typical, you know, all this stuff, typical of a blast, they needed over the counter items like gauze bandaids, strip pads, all that. So we spoke with the CEO of the hospital. His name is dr. Fetisov yet. So we spoke with him Saturday morning, Sunday, we threw up a GoFundMe. We started promoting and saying, we have this list. They send us a list. This is what we’re trying to compile for anybody that can help. Please help. Also, prior to that, we, we made, we put a video on social media, on behalf of the pharmacy PAX pharmacy got about 10,000 views on Facebook. And on Instagram, this was shared all over the world, all throughout the middle East, all throughout Europe, all throughout Australia, New Zealand, believe it or not, we were getting calls, getting support. We made a go fund me that Sunday.

Michael Daher:
And then within two days we raised $25,000. And on Monday I went into work. We got the list, spend about five, six hours looking to see what $21,000. Cause at the time we had about 20, 21. So we said, what’s what is 20 to $21,000 look like? So we fiddled and played and we looked at their list. What’s feasible. What’s not feasible. There. There’s a big need. For instance, for the the, the tetanus shots. There’s a big need. After that blast, a lot of people need tetanus shots. So we were able to get them 10 boxes, a hundred shots. I know that’s nothing for a country of 4 million, but you know, something is something. And we were able to get the, get those meds. They came in Tuesday, we had a group of volunteers. There would be maybe about 15 of us. I have photos of all this. Then it became time to box. It became time to make a manifest list. What’s in each box, let’s tape, let’s move. Let’s have you lift all in all it turned out. We had about 1300 pounds worth of meds box, ready to ship. We partnered with our colleagues at the Armenian relief society who have a plane that left this morning. As of about an hour ago, it is now air bound. And it is on its way to the us embassy where it will then be picked up by the hospital to give to the patients.

Michelle Sherman:
It’s incredible. That call to action and just getting it done within like days, like you say, it’s 11 days ago, and there’s already a plane down bound for Beirut there. That is incredible. I mean, the world is dealing with so much with COVID-19 and all the struggles just here in California. You know, as pharmacists and take, trying to take care of our patients and being on the front lines every single day that this call to action was extraordinary. So the conscious pharmacists report cost our nonprofit, the center for advanced pharmacist care is going to put out donation page for people to go to an, all the funds that are donated through our nonprofit will go directly to you and the organizations the Lebanese medical association the middle East pharmacists association to buy whatever it is that you need. We’ll share the list on, on this transcript so people can donate directly as well, like whether they medical supplies, drugs. You had mentioned earlier when we were talking offline about the conference that are taking in people to shelter them and then you know, food, blankets, clothing, things like that, whatever it takes, we’re also assisting in helping you get those things. So maybe can you let us know what’s going on with, with the conferences as well?

Michael Daher:
Yes. So the, the only thing I neglected to say was we, I reached out to a local, one of our local Congressman to inform him of what, what we were doing. He put me on the phone with one of the ambassadors formerly of the middle East. Who’s retired. Who’s kind of leading the charge. Now we met a bunch of nonprofits. And again, our mission started spreading. So we got anonymous donations from hospitals. I mean, we not only did we send 1300 pounds, we literally have about 40 pallets worth of medical supplies that have been donated to us via the hospitals. We were able to partner with a couple of the airlines. I mean, I can always release the names later. They just want to be anonymous for now as we move forward, but 40 pallets worth of goods. And in addition, the United States response has already sent multiple pallets to the hospitals that we found out 108 pallets are going to the four major hospitals in Beirut, which a lot of people think right now, like we need to support the hospitals.

Michael Daher:
And that was our initial response within the first few days. But now we’ve learned that not only have other countries like Saudi Arabia and Italy and France and all these, all these pallets have arrived at the four major hospitals in Beirut, which are the Lebanese American university, the American university of Beirut hotel, which means hotel of God, like the hotel of God and repeat Curry hospitals. So our focus now is we know that these hospitals are taken care of by the big, by the big players. So our, our thought was, how can we help next? What can we do to make a real impact? Because like we said, $21,000 worth of meds for a big public hospital like that, it’s a bandaid. I mean, realistically, we gave them maybe a week’s worth of stuff, but it’s just not, that’s not something sustainable that a group of pharmacists and doctors are able to from here are able to coordinate and do every day.

Michael Daher:
So then we started, I started getting calls after people had seen what we’d done. And I’m, I was told about three separate convents that have opened up their doors and our housing people of every religious background. So one convent for instance, has about 50 families living with them. One has about 30 and there’s another convent that has a, I believe it’s about 40 or 50 also. So the requests now are a little more simple. The other thing we learned is we got reached out to, by a nonprofit clinic. That’s also seeing patients from everybody that is not receiving aid internationally. They have asked us for a couple items that might be a little more difficult to obtain. They asked us for a Holter monitor and electrocardiogram machine and a transesophageal echo machine as well. So we’re, we’re working on our context there to see if we can get any of those.

Michael Daher:
But our thought was it’s time to help the people that are not receiving federal aid. So our focus now is to work with these convents. And they’re asking for simple things, they’re asking for water, food, blankets, clothing, and medications, and these are just simple maintenance meds. We’re talking blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid, things like that. Our focus now is we want to make sure the meds get on the ground, make sure that everything takes place with repeat HETI. And next week, we’re going to begin our efforts to start accumulating these simple supplies so we can get those debate route as well. But I mean, again, the fact of the matter is the mayor opened up their homes. Every, I think you and I had already spoken. So just for, just for context, Lebanon is about 4,000 miles, 4,000 miles long. It’s about that’s that’s about it.

Michael Daher:
It already had 450,000 refugees living in it because of this blast. It has now displaced another 300,000. So we have almost a million out of 4 million people displaced, which is frightening. It’s, it’s, it’s sad, it’s devastating. And while we keep thinking, we know that we’re not going to be able to help and heal everybody. The fact of the matter is if we can help and heal somebody, I think that is saying a lot. And I think we sleep at night knowing that although we’re thousands of miles away, we’re able to make a, we’re able to do something. And I think that’s our call to action. Let’s do something. And for all your listeners I hope, you know, I, I was once told at a, at a wedding, I gave a speech for one of my best friends. The bride’s uncle came up to me and told me, son, you talked way too much.

Michael Daher:
And this was a gentleman that had dementia. So he, this was a gentleman with dementia who told me that. So the fact that he remembered my five minute speech, I hope, you know, I just wanna apologize. I hope, I hope it’s an interesting topic. I hope I didn’t bore anybody, but we’re excited. We’re passionate. We want to offer aid. Lebron, I mean, Lebanon is this country that was already in an economic downfall. There’s no money in the banks. There’s inflation on all the products. There’s no meat or chicken in the, in those, in the grocery stores, the world bank estimated it was going to take $93 billion to bail Lebanon out. And that was before the blast went off. So now let’s double it, maybe two, $300 billion to get the country back to where it was. I mean, it’s, it’s it. When I say that the conditions were dire prior to this blast, going off this blast has only made things worse and to have so many refugees and so many displaced people that, you know, let’s, let’s do what we gotta do. Let’s help. And let’s do what we gotta do. Let’s help.

Michelle Sherman:
Absolutely. And you know, to all the listeners out there, it is extraordinary. You know, like, like Mike said, you know, we can’t help everybody, but to that one person, those multiple people out of these thousands, tens of thousands of people that are displaced, that difference you make to one person is the world. So it’s the world. So it matters. It matters. And we, as pharmacists, we do extraordinary work in our communities day. And to me, the world is a global community. What happens in Lebanon happens to all of us, those people being displaced, displaces us, and it matters. And we can, and we must make that difference. We have to, because in order for us to make our communities better, all the communities have to be better. Just the fact that you sit there 450,000 refugees in Lebanon, just think about the country of Lebanon that he has been through so much hell and destruction they are taking in refugees. They are literally accepting refugees constantly. That tells you the spirit of the Lebanese people that we as Americans owe it to the country of Lebanon, to do everything we can to help, to give donations, to give meds, to give blankets, to give foods. It is

Michael Daher:
It’s like here, I wanted to share one story when my mother was when my mother was immigrating from Lebanon to the United States. So this again, so Lebanon has a big population of, of everybody. I mean, we have, there are more Lebanese outside of Lebanon. There’s an estimated 14 million Lebanese outside the country. I mean, it not only refugees and not only war with everything else. When my mother was coming to the country, she was on a bus going to the airport with a bow, with a lot, with a lot of Armenian people that spoke Arabic, but they had been displaced because of their war. So they were coming to the United States. And my mother was actually the only one that was able to speak English and Arabic. So she talked to the government officials in English, in an Arabic, and then she started translating it to them in Arabic.

Michael Daher:
They were translating one another Armenian. So she was literally the one. I apologize. She was talking in English with the, with the us customs officials. And she was the one filling out all the paperwork for the 50 people on that bus to allow them into the country. This was back in the seventies. I mean, when I say displaced, I mean, we now have 750 that almost a million people have lost their homes, never had a home or are in need of direct aid. Another thing I wanted to bring up is we’ve had donations of diapers, baby formula. I mean, we have not only just think we don’t only have adults that are starving and hungry. We have children. I mean, we have, we have babies. I mean, we have you see everybody, you see everybody and there’s a big need for just about everything.

Michael Daher:
So whatever you can spare, I know that times are tough. Financially. Tufts are tight. The times are tough on us. Given our COVID given our experience has given everything we’re going through. I know we have things that we need to fix here in America as well. But if there’s anything that you can spare, we will gladly accept it. And just believe that it’s going straight directly to aid the people of Lebanon, who, if we have a house and we’re able to sleep at night, we’re doing pretty good. Keep in mind. There’s almost a million people that don’t so whatever we can do to assist them, you’ve done a good thing in this world.

Michelle Sherman:
Oh, absolutely. And echo that and to all the pharmacists out there you know, I’m always preaching to be the change, be the change. I want to tell you everybody out there and the extraordinary work you do, and to Mike and you know, all your colleagues doing this work, we are the change. We don’t need to be the change. We are the change. So I want to thank you for coming on the show. We’re going to share all these links on here and ways you can get ahold of Mike donating through the center for advanced pharmacists care and all the other GoFundMe things. We as pharmacists, we are going to mobilize and we are going to help Beirut. I want to thank you again, Mike, for being on the show and all the amazing work that you’re doing. Thank you. I just want to tell your listeners, you are so lucky to have somebody as influential and inspiring as Michelle to listen to Michelle and I, a quick background on the show.

Michelle Sherman:
And as we gave a, we co gave a lecture at a conference maybe a year, two years ago, I think. And not only was I floored by the immediate teamwork that you and I had and the slides that we made and the presentation that we gave. But you, I mean, we always saw eye to eye right off the bat. So thank you for welcoming me on again, on behalf of the middle East pharmacy association, the American Lebanese medical association on behalf of all the people of Lebanon, my family, especially that I can speak for and my brothers and sisters on the ground there. Thank you to you, Michelle. Thank you to your listeners. And if you guys have any questions, I, like we said, we’ll put my stuff and reach out. I’d love to talk to you. I’d love to tell you more, whatever you can do. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Great. Thanks. Thanks Mike. Thanks so much.

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