Although John Darnell, Pharm.D., is just embarking on his pharmacy career, he already can see how easy it would be, a few years down the road, to fall into a pattern of professional inertia.
“One of my biggest concerns is that I won’t continue my education and professional growth beyond the minimum I’ll need to practice,” said Dr. Darnell, who is finishing up his first residency year at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Portland, OR.
An antidote to his qualms arrived in the form of ASHP Past-President Sara White, M.S., FASHP, who visited the medical center in March to meet with residents and share insights that she has gained during a long and distinguished pharmacy career.
“To meet someone who never became complacent in her career and still continues to strive to make pharmacy more progressive is inspiring,” said Dr. Darnell. “It was also humbling to meet a person whom my own mentors look up to.”
Challenging and Inspiring Residents
White, now retired, is the former director of pharmacy at Stanford Hospital and Clinics in Palo Alto and clinical professor at the University of California-San Francisco. Her visit was arranged through the ASHP Foundation’s new Visiting Leaders Program (VLP), a program that offers pharmacy residents a chance to engage with some of the most highly accomplished and esteemed leaders in their discipline.
Among the program’s goals are to challenge and inspire residents to become leaders themselves. The details and structure of each visit vary according to the needs of the host facility, but each two-day visit typically involves a blend of conversations and mentoring among the pharmacy leader and small groups of residents, meetings with preceptors and department directors, and a lecture. Often, the host institution invites residents, preceptors, and pharmacy leadership from nearby programs to participate in some of the activities, as occurred in Portland.
White’s advice centered on the fact that residents must embrace the idea that leadership is an inevitable process even if they never assume an official leadership title.
“I tell them they are the CEOs of their own career, and that even pharmacists who do not hold managerial positions still need to become what I term a small ‘l’ leader,” said White. “Every pharmacist on every shift has a responsibility to lead, because they’re accountable to their patients and colleagues to continually search for a way to improve the quality of care. That’s a kind of leadership.”
The residents won’t soon forget White’s blend of wisdom and optimism, according to Kate Farthing, Pharm.D. , BCPS, pharmacy clinical specialist for quality & patient safety at Legacy Good Samaritan, who coordinated White’s visit.
“The residents were able to connect to her and visualize how they will fit into the profession,” she said. “Even as great clinical practitioners, they still need to prepare for the challenges of leadership.” Dr. Farthing’s relationship with White goes back several decades; White hired Dr. Farthing to her first job at the University of Kansas in the early 1990s. “Sara truly is someone who embodies the Visiting Leaders Program,” Dr. Farthing noted.
Residency directors around the country quickly realized the value of the VLP soon after it was launched early in 2012. “All the slots were filled within two and a half months after we announced the program,” according to Richard Walling, R.Ph., director of the Foundation’s Center for Health-System Pharmacy Leadership. By the end of the year, about 450 residents will have taken part in the program, either directly through their residency programs or as guests of host institutions. Walling hopes to renew the VLP for 2013.
In April, the residency programs in the greater Cincinnati area welcomed visiting leader David A. Zilz, M.S., FASHP, an emeritus professor of pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and past president of ASHP. (The VLP is supported by an educational donation from Pfizer to the ASHP Foundation’s David A. Zilz Leaders for the Future Fund.)
Bonnie Hui-Callahan, Pharm.D., who is nearing the end of her residency at Kroger/University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy, was immediately struck that Zilz seemed to know the residents so well even though he’d never met them before. “He asked us to send him our bios and photos, and it was clear that he studied all of them beforehand,” said Dr. Hui-Callahan. “That level of concern from someone so highly regarded in the profession was very powerful.”
Zilz assured the residents that the very fact of their residency gives them distinct advantages in reaching their goals. “As residents, they already have a unique set of skills that puts them in a strong position,” he said. Yet, he also counseled patience and flexibility and the need to pivot away from what he considers the entitlement mentality that pervaded residency programs a few years ago, when job options were plentiful and placement was usually assured.
“I’d like to see residents broaden their perspectives and be willing to move in directions they may not have previously considered,” he said. That might include pursuing additional degrees in fields as diverse as engineering, journalism, or business, which can provide a young pharmacist with a novel blend of qualifications that may lead to unforeseen opportunities.
“I encourage them to put together a holistic life plan and think carefully about how they can integrate their careers with their wider life goals,” said Zilz. “I believe they really enjoyed that.”
All told, Zilz met with several dozen residents from six different residency programs in the Cincinnati area.
“The residents were impressed by the level of personal interest he displayed,” said Marianne Ivey, Pharm.D., MPH, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati, former vice president of pharmacy services for a health system in Greater Cincinnati with a large residency program, and former ASHP president (she also is among the VLP’s slate of visiting leaders).
“It meant a lot to them that an honored colleague was so interested in helping their careers. Residents are so busy learning the practice of pharmacy and how to take care of people that they rarely have time to pause and consider the big picture with someone like David Zilz.”