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February 17, 2021

Pharmacy Leader Promotes Diversity, Mentorship, and Community Service

Vivian Bradley Johnson, Pharm.D., M.B.A., FASHP

On her 60th birthday, Vivian Bradley Johnson, Pharm.D., M.B.A., FASHP, senior vice president of clinical services at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, performed the kind of selfless acts that have marked her career to date.

“I wanted essential workers to know how much I appreciated the work they’ve been doing during the pandemic, so I gave them certificates and gift cards, and I also prepared baskets for the homeless and the elderly,” she said. “It was a full day all about others, not me.”

A life of service is what brought Dr. Johnson to pharmacy in the first place. Originally from Lake City, Florida, she was inspired by several members of her community, including a couple of retail pharmacists her family entrusted with their health, and a Black community pharmacist within her church whom she admired.

Thirty-five years after starting out as a practicing pharmacist, Dr. Johnson has become an ASHP fellow with a career distinguished by numerous successful initiatives. For example, she helped launch ASHP’s investigational drug service network after identifying a need for such a group.

Since taking up employment at Parkland Health and Hospital System, Dr. Johnson established the health system’s first central fill pharmacy, which processes 6,000 outpatient prescriptions daily. She also developed several medication safety programs, created a variety of pharmacist-led clinical initiatives, and helped bring pharmacists to the patients’ bedside.

Pharmacist Diversity

One of Dr. Johnson’s greatest passions and a principle that has guided her work has been increasing diversity within the pharmacy workforce, among pharmacy leaders, and in academia. That focus on diversity recently earned her a spot on ASHP’s Task Force on Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), where Dr. Johnson said she is eager to help find ways to enhance ASHP’s diversity on every level, from governance to products, services, and member communication.

According to Carrie A. Berge Pharm.D., M.S., vice president of pharmacy services at Parkland Health and Hospital System, Dr. Johnson is the right person for the job, having helped ensure leadership and staff at her health system represent the community they serve.

Dr. Johnson completed her undergraduate pharmacy degree at Florida A&M University, a HBCU.

“Vivian has spoken about leadership development and diversity to the entire organization throughout her career, and she has mentored many students, residents, and college interns and supports her community through extensive work with various charitable and social organizations,” said Dr. Berge.

Something Dr. Johnson hopes to help ASHP do in the coming years is recruit more individuals from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), a source of talent that Dr. Johnson said has been historically neglected.

“There’s a bias and belief that I think some people still carry, which is that the quality of education at HBCUs is not equal to other colleges and universities. I strongly disagree with that, and we need to overcome that bias,” Dr. Johnson insisted, noting that she herself completed her undergraduate pharmacy degree at Florida A&M University, a historically Black university.

While a sizeable portion of ASHP members are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), Dr. Johnson said she wants to “reach out a little further to minority practitioners and students so they know how ASHP membership can benefit them.”

In addition to better communicating membership benefits, Dr. Johnson would like to offer additional services, which include helping students and young practitioners find mentorship opportunities. “I didn’t go from being a staff pharmacist to senior vice president of clinical services on my own,” she said. “It was so important for me to have leaders and mentors to guide me.”

Dr. Johnson recalled that as a new practitioner she would attend ASHP Midyear meetings with the intent of connecting and finding support from others who had been in the profession for longer. She saw this as a benefit of ASHP membership.

“I was very self-motivated and reached out to leaders in pharmacy that I looked up to, but others may not feel as comfortable approaching people, so we need to offer resources and avenues to facilitate mentorship relationships,” Dr. Johnson said.

Diversity and Patient Care

Ensuring more BIPOC community members take pharmacy leadership positions will also be critical to sharing important insights into the culture and the types of challenges that diverse communities face, Dr. Johnson noted. “We need to know where there are health care disparities and how pharmacists can help eliminate those disparities,” she said.

While pharmacists provide direct care for chronic diseases and medication therapy management, she said not everyone gets equal access to this care. “A better understanding of the populations that are at risk of being underserved and the social determinants that affect their access to resources will help us make sure they get the best possible pharmaceutical care,” Dr. Johnson said.

Pursue Your Ambitions

Although there is much more work to do to improve diversity in the pharmacy community, Dr. Johnson hopes her own career growth can inspire BIPOC students and practitioners to strive towards their ambitions, “even when it may not appear that an opportunity is there for you.”

She believes that each person should go after whatever they would like to do within the pharmacy profession. “If that means reaching out to a person you’d like as a mentor, reach out to them,” Dr. Johnson explained. “For example, if you want to write an article, take the initiative and connect with someone who has published, and ask them for help. There are leaders in pharmacy who are willing to help and guide you.”

 

By David Wild

 

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January 12, 2021

Pharm.D. Candidate is a Long-Time Champion for Diversity

Jeffrey Clark is a fourth-year Pharm.D. Candidate at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy.

AFTER GRADUATING FROM a Bachelor of Science program, Jeffrey Clark was torn between applying to pharmacy school or medical school. As fate would have it, that hesitation dissipated when Clark entered the post-undergraduate working world.

While working as a program and wellness manager at the University System of Georgia, Clark was surprised to find out that pharmacists worked in managed care positions. “I’d always thought of pharmacists as being limited to the retail setting,” Clark said.

Discovering the range of options available to pharmacists and feeling gratification from helping individuals achieve better health through the wellness programs inspired Clark to pursue a career in pharmacy.

Diversity Leadership

As a fourth-year Pharm.D. Candidate at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy in Suwanee, Georgia, Clark’s professional interests include pharmacy operations management, medication safety, and quality assurance. His plan at the moment, however, is to pursue a two-year residency in health-system pharmacy administration and leadership.

That choice of specialization is a natural one for Clark, who serves in several leadership roles, including Chair of the ASHP Pharmacy Student Forum Executive Committee and as a student representative to the ASHP House of Delegates.

Clark is perhaps most passionate about being a leader in diversity. This interest was sparked in high school, where he spearheaded the formation of diversity groups, and a task force. “I remember explaining to [my high school’s] administration that we didn’t have a diversity-focused organization and that we needed to hold a conversation around the topic,” he said. After speaking up and voicing his concerns, Clark was asked to start a campus diversity organization.

Clark was called on again to lead diversity initiatives at college, where the campus president asked him to facilitate a task force on the issue, with the goal of finding ways to recruit individuals from underserved communities to college positions. “Those discussions ultimately led us to build awareness among faculty and staff and promote discussions on matters related to race,” he recalled.

Clark’s rich history of diversity leadership has led him to his current position as a member of the ASHP’s Task Force on Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). His mentor, Joshua Blackwell, Pharm.D., clinical pharmacy manager, ambulatory services, at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, is excited to see what Clark will help achieve during his tenure on the ASHP DEI Task Force.

“When the call to action came from ASHP, Jeffrey immediately contacted me and expressed interest in serving as the student voice on the DEI Task Force,” said Dr. Blackwell. “I think one of Jeffrey’s greatest strengths is that he understands and listens to what other students around the country say their challenges and opportunities are within pharmacy schools. He wants to help them at every stage of their journey.”

Diverse Mentors, Leaders, and Students

Clark has reached impressive heights as a leader, but the path as a black male has come with some challenges. “I initially struggled to find a leader in pharmacy that I really connected with and felt comfortable telling my life story to, and I partly attribute that to not having someone who looks like me,” Clark said.

Although he eventually found leaders who supported and guided him, that lack of an early connection may have translated to some missed opportunities, he believes. “There are lots of opportunities available to pharmacy students, but you have to know about them and figure out where to put your time and effort,” Clark said. “If you don’t have a mentor to guide you, that can be difficult.”

Clark hopes to dedicate part of his time on the ASHP DEI Task Force to ensuring that other potential and current pharmacy students do not similarly miss out on opportunities. Promoting awareness to communities and schools that have historically been less of a focus for pharmacy schools is one way he believes this can be done. Sharing the stories and achievements of diverse members of the pharmacy community should also make students feel more comfortable and interested in getting involved with pharmacy organizations, Clark believes.

“People of color sometimes don’t feel like they stand a chance, and they don’t see how they’re going to find a mentor or some kind of connection to break through racial barriers,” he said. “We need to be proactive in seeking out people from diverse backgrounds and to communicate better with them to let them know, ‘Hey, you can do this!’”

Practitioner Diversity Improves Patient Care

Clark is a member of the ASHP Task Force on Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Clark believes that having practitioners that represent the mirror the diverse range of patient backgrounds – whether it is race, sex, or socioeconomic level – can help improve the quality of care that individuals receive.

For example, he recalls finding some patients from minority backgrounds reluctant to share information with the hospital rounding team during some of his patient rounds. While the sheer size of a large medical team may have intimidated them, “in some cases where the patient we treated was black, I noticed that when I went into the room alone, they would be much more open to talking,” Clark recalled. “There are some people that feel more comfortable talking to a person who is like them.”

For all the reasons that diversity is so important to him, Clark is excited about the changes he and his peers stand to make through ASHP’s DEI Task Force. “Diversity is already happening,” he said. “We’re working hand-in-hand with ASHP staff to make sure we find every opportunity to grow, and to develop policies and accountability systems that keep us expanding our diversity, not just once, but on an ongoing basis.”

By David Wild

 

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