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Pharmacy Leadership Academy Opens New Horizons

New Program Allows Participants to Waive Credit Hours toward Master’s

Jun 14, 2011

Participants in the ASHP Foundation's Pharmacy Leadership Academy discuss aspects of leadership.

FOR MICHELLE CORRADO, PHARM.D.,  the creation of the ASHP Foundation’s Pharmacy Leadership Academy (PLA) in 2007 came at the perfect time. A year earlier, she became the system director of pharmacy services for Hallmark Health System in Medford, Mass., with responsibility for a staff of about 50. Always on the lookout for opportunities to hone her skills, Corrado discovered a game changer when she enrolled in the PLA in 2008.

“I was a new leader, had a new team, had managers under me, not to mention a cadre of staff,” she said. “The course opened my eyes to a whole world of resources and gave me the confidence and basic skills at an important point in my career.”

Empowering Pharmacists to be Leaders

 The PLA is a rigorous, Web-based distance learning program for aspiring pharmacy directors, newly appointed directors, and any pharmacists who want to elevate and polish their leadership skills. Developed by the ASHP Foundation’s Center for Health-System Pharmacy Leadership, the course consists of nine six-week modules stretched over 15 months. Each module covers a specific area of competency. Elements of the program include prerecorded video presentations by distinguished leaders in pharmacy, interactive live discussions in which students can speak directly to faculty and one another, small-group projects, and readings from a range of sources.

The Academy exposes pharmacists to the possibilities of what they can achieve and empowers them to grow into effective leaders, said Richard Walling, R.Ph., M.H.A., director of the Center for Health-System Pharmacy Leadership. Corrado agrees with Walling’s appraisal.

Michelle Corrado, Pharm.D., system director of pharmacy services, Hallmark Health System, Medford, Mass.

“What I learned is readily applicable to situations and challenges I deal with all the time,” she said. One of the recurring themes from the PLA is how important it is for leaders to engage with their staff. She wasted little time putting the idea into practice by initiating an annual retreat for her department’s leaders.

Over three days every February, Corrado and her managers meet off-site to gauge their progress toward department goals, refresh milestones, reassign responsibilities, and consider budgets. “It’s worked phenomenally well,” she said. “Our plans have fallen into place. Everything links to everything else, and everything has a purpose.”

Finding Effective Approaches

Lynn Eschenbacher, Pharm.D., M.B.A., began the PLA in January. Soon after beginning the course, she noticed a shift in her mind-set about her work.

“I began thinking more about how I led and what approaches were most effective,” said Eschenbacher, who oversees 70 employees as assistant director of clinical services at WakeMed Health & Hospitals in Raleigh, N.C.

From interactions with other PLA students, she also realized that every problem usually has multiple solutions. “When a question comes up in class, it’s exciting to see how many different answers come back. That’s broadened my viewpoint,” she said.

Recently, the ASHP Foundation announced a big dividend for PLA students. Graduates are eligible to put credit hours toward advanced degrees at two accredited colleges: a master of health administration at Simmons College, and a master’s degree in management, public policy, or health information management at New England College.

All of the PLA programs are distance learning. The credit waiver applies to students who complete the 2011 and subsequent PLA courses. Pre-2011 alumni (whose PLA programs were shorter) can qualify for the exemption by completing two capstone modules.

The potential savings in time and money are significant, said Walling. Simmons College, for example, will waive 28 of the 48 required credit hours toward its master of health administration track (each hour costs more than $1,000). PLA students are also eligible for course credit from the University of Florida’s master of science in pharmacy program, provided they apply before beginning the Academy curriculum.

The PLA, observed Walling, “is the only program I know of with the opportunity to delve into the leadership aspect of pharmacy and then go on to a master’s level program and come out with a comprehensive set of skills required to lead a pharmacy enterprise.”

Corrado is taking the capstone modules in preparation for a master’s degree. Janice Glascock, Pharm.D., completed the PLA in 2009 and also began the capstone courses to make her PLA certificate creditworthy toward a master’s program. Glascock is the assistant director of clinical and educational services at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta and manages a staff of 27.

The Academy “opened up options for how I behave as a leader in ways I’d never considered before,” she said. “Sometimes it’s as simple as being a better listener or being more empathetic to others’ concerns, and finding approaches that satisfy needs beyond my own.”

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