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Leading Through Change Yields Big Rewards

Mar 03, 2022

Ellen Maddox, PharmD, BCPS

OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEW LEADERSHIP ROLES or training may present themselves during the least expected times. Sometimes it requires some juggling or a reframe in mindset to take them on. In honor of national Women’s History Month, ASHP is celebrating women pharmacy leaders who have found creative ways to lead through life and personal challenges. In this article, the third in a series of three, three pharmacy leaders share their tips to help readers succeed.

Work Through Challenges

No matter how much stability we all desire, there will always be big and small changes to overcome, said Ellen Maddox, PharmD, BCPS, clinical coordinator for Legacy Health System Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver, Wash. “Becoming a leader requires you to work through challenges and be confident that you can overcome the obstacles you might face,” she said, noting some of her greatest areas of growth occurred not only in times of success, but also during periods of change and hardship.

For example, a dream job position as a pharmacy clinical coordinator became available at her organization at a time when Dr. Maddox was just beginning to settle her affairs after going through a divorce, selling her home, taking on a large financial burden, and becoming a single parent. As a then-relatively new practitioner, she first doubted she was ready to step into a formal management role but realized she could do it by making some adjustments. She learned to set a daily routine, adopt a meal-planning program, and dedicate specific time for family. Additionally, she worked with a counselor to talk through her challenges and asked friends and family for childcare assistance. Co-workers helped support her in managing stressors at work.

These small changes helped her become a happier person, mother, and professional, and enabled her to find balance and feel more confident pursuing a new role. While it would have been easy to pass up the opportunity, continue in her comfort zone, or wait until the timing felt right, she forged ahead.

In the path to leadership, surround yourself with people who will support you, Dr. Maddox advised. Have a goal in mind and find ways to move forward. Being efficient, fueling yourself through learning and reflection, and not stressing about things out of your control can help balance your day-to-day decisions as a leader—also, project confidence.

“Lack of skills or experience should never hold you back,” she said. “Be confident in what role you play on your team, in learning, and in challenging yourself to do new things. If you prepare well and have the passion to do something, you should be confident in what you have to offer as a leader.”

Reflect on Lessons Learned

While planning for success, hold true to your values, support those who are less fortunate, practice gratitude, and smile, said pharmacy leader, lawyer and mother of four Julie McCoy, PharmD, JD.

Julie McCoy, PharmD, JD

Dr. McCoy, senior manager of pharmacy, quality, and medication safety at Providence SW Washington, in Olympia, and a partner with Pacific Apex Law Group, said she has learned to overcome challenges by making each success about being a better person.

As a child, Dr. McCoy frequently spoke up for her older brother, who was born with a developmental disability. She has made it a point to advocate for and spend extra time and energy supporting those with special needs. In pharmacy school, she always appreciated professors who advocated for life-changing research projects or wrote recommendation letters. Now, she tries to pay it forward, advocating for her own students.

Find your own work productivity and pace as it relates to your vision, Dr. McCoy advised. She prefers to be busy, and tries to accomplish more each year, keeping as many doors open as possible. As Dr. McCoy moved from the emergency department setting into leadership roles, she found an inner drive to work at the intersection of health care and legal risk or benefit. Then, she pursued a law degree, negotiating a flexible work and class schedule.

She juggled these responsibilities with raising three boys, a dog, two goats, and three chickens. She also gave birth to a baby girl. Dr. McCoy and her husband learned to be more efficient with their time, share responsibilities, and shop online. He took on more of the booking and cleaning duties as well.

“For me, the journey has been about learning to be a stronger person through the process of overcoming challenges and looking back to understand the lessons meant to be learned,” she said. “My lessons are often due to serendipitous conversations with individuals who were facing a challenge on their journey as well.”

Address Fears and Doubts

Chances for growth occur when you are actively thinking and open to new experiences, said Katherine Benderev, PharmD, MBA, a senior consultant to ASHP: “If you are so busy and lack time to reflect, opportunities will pass you by.” No matter how big a new challenge might seem, you can find a way forward by working through fears and doubts that can keep you stuck, Dr. Benderev said.

Katherine Benderev, PharmD, MBA

She relies on a five-step fear-processing technique to help her tackle and resolve difficult personal and professional decisions:

  1. Write down your fears. Be as specific as possible.
  2. Write down what you can do to prevent the likelihood of each fear materializing. If you are rejected from an opportunity, you can take it as a learning experience. If you are doing poorly in a new position, you can ask for help and tap into colleagues for assistance.
  3. Write down options of what to do if fears come true. Could you change professional focus?
  4. Write down the positive consequences of success for both the short and long term. Could a new position move you toward management or other career advancement?
  5. Write down what would happen if you did not pursue an opportunity and left things the way they are.

Dr. Benderev has called on this technique in several scenarios—when applying for a PharmD program and residency, when adjusting to a leadership position in a large hospital pharmacy, and when helping a colleague build a consulting business. It’s helped her avoid dwelling on issues and learn to trust her decisions and take risks.

“We all have had opportunities for growth and learning in our lives,” she said. “Take the time to go back and define what opportunities presented themselves and examine how you embraced them.” Use any fears and doubts, and how they affected the outcomes as a learning opportunity, she added.

Drs. Benderev, Maddox, and McCoy are among 31 contributors to “Letters from Women in Pharmacy: Stories on Integrating Life and Career” published by ASHP. Designed to support successful professional women through the power of personal stories from those from diverse backgrounds and career paths, the book is available for purchase at ASHP’s store.


By Karen Blum


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