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A Dream Job that Marries the Best of Two Careers

Mar 23, 2023

Dr. Elyse MacDonald, PharmD, MS, BCPS

IN HONOR OF NATIONAL WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH, ASHP is celebrating women pharmacy leaders who have taken non-traditional career paths and blazed their own trails in the profession. This article, the third in a series of three, features Elyse MacDonald, PharmD, MS, BCPS, director of pharmacy services and the Investigational Drug Service at Stanford Health Care in California.

Pharmacy as a Second Career

For Dr. MacDonald, an ASHP member since 2006, pharmacy is a second career. She first worked as an analytical chemist in research and development, and a clinical supplies project leader for GlaxoSmithKline in the Philadelphia area. When Dr. MacDonald’s husband was applying to medical schools, she wasn’t sure where they would wind up living. She asked her graduate school mentor for other career ideas that would be more universal. He recommended she pursue pharmacy as a good complement to her technical background. “It definitely seemed like something that fit my personality,” she said.

Dr. MacDonald earned her PharmD through a distance-based program at Creighton University while continuing to live in Pennsylvania, then completed a pharmacy practice residency at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. When her husband pursued a health economics fellowship in Utah, Dr. MacDonald pivoted again for her PGY-2 year and started as a drug information specialty resident at the University of Utah Health.

Investigational Drug Specialization  

Next, she spent two years at Intermountain Medical Center helping to establish an investigational drug service (IDS) and co-chairing the pharmacy safety committee, where she reconciled and conducted an inventory of investigational medications in accordance with study protocols. She also served as a drug information specialist for the University of Utah, focusing on drug shortage management, formulary management, policy development and managing an active call center to triage drug questions from other healthcare professionals.

In 2018, Dr. MacDonald became the pharmacy manager of the University of Utah’s IDS. She also created hybrid work processes for IDS pharmacists and technicians during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few years later, a recruiter contacted Dr. MacDonald about a position directing pharmacy services for the IDS at Stanford. On the fence, she contacted the administrative director of pharmacy, whom she had met at an ASHP Midyear meeting, to thank him for thinking of her but letting him know she wasn’t prepared to relocate. He surprised Dr. MacDonald by asking her to consider taking the job remotely, with periodic visits to California. She readily accepted.

Since 2021, Dr. MacDonald has served in that capacity, leading research pharmacy efforts across the Stanford Health Care enterprise, working with principal investigators and study coordinators as well as clinical research organizations and trial sponsors so the pharmacy is ready to go when investigators begin enrolling study participants in trials. She said the work perfectly marries her two careers, from the sponsor side to the investigator side.

Dr. MacDonald has also been active in ASHP and the Utah Society of Health-System Pharmacists (USHP) for the past dozen years or so, serving on ASHP’s House of Delegates, the Section Advisory Group on Emerging Sciences, Section Advisory Group on Clinical Leadership and Commission on Affiliate Relations. She also has served as president of USHP and chair of its Historical Committee. Being part of the organization has kept her energized and helped her learn about different opportunities.

When it comes to career opportunities, she advises others to keep an open mind.

“I’m not saying you should say yes to everything,” Dr. MacDonald clarified. “But if it’s of interest to you, even if it stretches you a little bit, that’s when I find we often learn the most…You might think, ‘Do I really qualify for that? Why are they asking me?’ That person thinks you can do it, so don’t be your own worst enemy and talk yourself out of it.”

By Karen Blum

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