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A Resident’s Perspective on Women in Pharmacy Leadership

Nov 10, 2017

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a special series examining the growing number of women in pharmacy leadership.

Andrea Arriaga White, Pharm.D.

ANDREA ARRIAGA WHITE, PHARM.D., IS IN HER SECOND YEAR of a PGY1/PGY2 Health-System Pharmacy Administration residency at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. The challenging residency program, combined with earning an M.S. in Pharmacy Administration and Leadership from the University of Houston College of Pharmacy, keeps Dr. White on the go from 7:00 a.m., when she arrives at work until 8:30 p.m., when she finishes her classes.

But working hard is nothing new for Dr. White, whose first role model was her mother, an architect originally from Honduras. Her mother’s strong work ethic enabled her to overcome the English/Spanish language barrier to ensure that Dr. White received the best education possible.

Leadership Starts at Home
“Growing up with a single mother for much of my childhood is the source of who I am today,” said Dr. White, who noted that her influential stepdad came into her life once she was a little older.

Watching her mother achieve success through long hours and dedication inspired Dr. White’s work ethic. “From as early as I can remember, working hard and the satisfaction of earning a living was instilled in me by my mother,” she added.

Dr. White’s mother and aunt were raised by her grandmother, who was also a single mother. “This sense of being a strong female, who is the provider for the family, was part of what was instilled in me at a young age,” explained. Dr. White. “No matter what, every day we made sure to sit at the dinner table together as a family: my grandmother, mother, aunt, stepdad, and me. It wasn’t perfect, but my mother and family were perfect for me. That must be what motherhood is about — the perfection of the imperfections.”

Evolution of a Leader
With such strong female role models, Dr. White has always found the concept of leadership and becoming a female leader and role model appealing. This is one of the reasons she chose to do a residency at Texas Children’s. “I’m a people person. I hope to help others feel comfortable enough to talk about their issues,” she said.

Dr. White discusses a patient’s case with Fadel Ruiz, M.D., and Erin McDade, Pharm.D., Clinical Pharmacy Specialist.

Dr. White values learning from the ground up. Her first rotation at Texas Children’s was in the NICU. “It was truly awe-inspiring to see these little neonates fight as hard as they do despite only weighing a few pounds,” she said.

Dr. White also completed a longitudinal rotation in the Pulmonary/Cystic Fibrosis Clinic, where she used her Spanish-speaking skills to translate complex medication information to patients. By speaking to patients and their families in their native language, Dr. White made it easier for them to discuss medication issues and ask questions.

Dr. White especially enjoys working with people who embrace teamwork and who invest their time and energy into the people they lead. She hopes to move into a leadership position when her residency is finished. “I want to be a positive influence in the lives of others, and I want to propel our pharmacy world forward and advocate for the profession,” she said.

ASHP Supports Women Leaders
In October 2016, Dr. White attended ASHP’s Conference for Pharmacy Leaders in Chicago and found it to be an immensely rewarding experience. During the Women in Pharmacy Leadership networking session, “we split up into groups and talked about children, life, the future,” she said. “We discussed how to keep goals and aspirations.”

They also discussed practical things, like how a petite woman like Dr. White might need to use different tactics to show she is a leader — positive, but not too soft. “It was so refreshing and eye-opening to be able to chat about these things,” she added.

Particularly helpful for Dr. White was a session at the ASHP 2016 Midyear Clinical Meeting that focused on women in pharmacy residencies. It was led by longtime ASHP leader, Sara J. White, R.Ph., M.S., FASHP. “We discussed what residents need during the transition from residency to leadership positions. It was wonderful to address these issues from a resident’s perspective,” she said. “Family and friends do not always understand how demanding a residency is and how work-life balance can get skewed.”

The Future
Although Dr. White embraces any opportunity to interact or learn from all types of pharmacy leaders, she is especially inspired by female leaders. Dr. White is particularly interested in bolstering her communication skills and demeanor so that she can be as effective a leader as possible. “How female leaders react and maintain composure in different settings has always been a great interest of mine,” she added.

In the future, Dr. White seeks to someday balance her pharmacy career and expand her family. Dr. White got married while attending Xavier University College of Pharmacy in New Orleans, La.; she and her husband do not have children… yet. “Having had my mother as a role model, I strive to work just as hard as she did to make sure my children have the best within my capabilities,” said Dr. White.

She hopes that female leaders in pharmacy can help her learn to manage a proper work-life balance. “I look to those women who have accomplished it to show me the way,” she said.

By Ann Latner

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