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As “family doctors” disappear, can pharmacists fill the gap? Pope’s thoughts


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 11/15/22

Pope Francis encouraged pharmacists to be close to the people they serve and to promote a culture of care.

Pope Francis encouraged pharmacists to cultivate “a personalized relationship” with their patients, in an audience with members of the Apoteca Natura pharmacy network on November 14, 2022, at the Vatican. He suggested this as a way to help revive “the figure of the family doctor,” which has now “almost disappeared.”

“The risk is that, in order to privilege ‘excellence,’ the good quality of territorial health services is neglected; or that these are so bureaucratized and computerized that the elderly or poorly educated find themselves effectively excluded or marginalized,” the 85-year-old Pontiff stressed.

In some countries, including those served by this pharmacy network, state health care is provided by regions, such that members of a certain neighborhood all correspond to the health center of that community.

The Pope called on pharmacists to “meet a real need of the people by compensating for certain shortcomings” in the health system, and developing a “capacity for listening in order to be able to advise and to guide.”

For Pope Francis, a great danger of our highly technical health care systems is that the human person is effaced.

In 2019, for example, he noted:

Care for the sick appears, therefore, as one of the constitutive dimensions of Christ’s mission; and for this reason it has remained thus in that of the Church. … For Jesus, to cure means to draw close to the person, even if at times there are some who would prevent Him from doing so, as in the case of the blind man Bartimaeus, in Jericho.

Culture of care

The head of the Catholic Church also urged pharmacists not “to remain neutral” between the “culture of consumerism and waste” and the “culture of care.”

“A choice is imposed, because the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor demand responsibility,” he insisted. 

During his speech, the Pope also advocated for the model followed by the Indigenous populations of the Amazon, who, thanks to “natural therapies,” know the art of “living well” with creation and the environment, he explained. Not to be confused with the “dolce vita,” he added. 

Apoteca Natura has a thousand affiliated pharmacies in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, serving 250,000 people. The network focuses on natural therapy advice.

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