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Careers in Pharmacy

Pharmacist Entrepreneur

Dennis Cada, B.S., Pharm.D.,
Health Systems Editor
Facts & Comparisons, Dana Point , California

Dennis Cada worked for a year in community pharmacy after receiving his B.S. in pharmacy. He then went back to school for a Pharm.D. degree, after which he entered hospital pharmacy. He moved into the management track and became director of professional development for a hospital corporation. Searching for new areas to explore, he turned to computers and developed a system to computerize clinical functions “from the ground up.” He became director of pharmacy at South Coast Hospital in 1982 and eventually was assigned administrative responsibility for several hospital units.

In 1986, Dennis and a physician who was in charge of the hospital’s pharmacy and therapeutics (P&T) committee joined forces to form a new company: Formulary Service, the Formulary Information Exchange (FIX). They spent two years developing their service, which is an electronic bulletin board that helps hospital pharmacists solve issues that arise from P&T committee deliberations. (The P&T drugs are called the hospital formulary.) The project was a success. In 1990, Facts and Comparisons bought out the FIX, and Dennis became its health-systems editor.

Dennis is convinced that his single best career decision was to become involved with computers. “Get to know computers,” he says, so that you can apply what these programs do to pharmacy practice. Students should have an “entrepreneurial spirit” and look for a market niche. They should continually be looking outside the profession to “system wide” issues.


Donald A. Dee, B.S., M.S.,
President
Donald A. Dee Consultants, Bloomington, MN
Minnesota Pharmacy Practice Act Project

Donald A. Dee holds a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and a master’s degree in pharmacy administration. He’s worked in a community pharmacy, but his major focus has been pharmacy association management. For 20 years, Donald was the chief executive officer of a state pharmacy association. A brief hiatus from the field provided new “vision and detachment.” He’s now a consultant to pharmacy associations.

A pharmacist doesn’t ordinarily set out to be a consultant, Donald notes. But if you’ve earned a good reputation in a well-defined field, sense that there’s niche for your services, and are somewhat of a risk taker, consultancy is a “natural.” High levels of energy and self discipline, the ability to work independently, organizational and communication skills, as well as a supportive family, are also prerequisites for success.

Donald believes that opportunities for newly licensed pharmacists are “unlimited.” Hospital and community pharmacy continue to provide challenges; however, pharmacists don’t have to limit themselves to traditional settings. Managed care, patients counseling, long-term care, system analysis, and a pharmacoeconomics will pose new challenges in the 21 st century.


Michael J. Groh, Pharm.D.
President and CEO
Care Point, Inc., Charleston , South Carolina

Michael J. Groh was an undergraduate student in the 1970s. He started out majoring in marine biology. Having become discouraged with that field, he sought advice from a friend who just applied to pharmacy school. Michael consulted a pharmacist, who gave him some sound advice: “Get into clinical pharmacy!” Michael earned a Pharm.D. degree with emphasis in family practice from the Medical University of South Carolina. The program was unique in the country at the time.

Michael’s initial experiences as a member of an outpatient health care team convinced him that pharmacists had much to share with physicians. He believed in pharmaceutical care before the term had been invented! Michael set up a business with several physician colleagues that enabled him to be reimbursed for counseling and drug information services. Later, Michael accepted a position at the Medical College of Virginia, where he was eventually promoted to associate director of ambulatory care.

The next step in his career path was a position at National Data Corporation, where he was involved in the development and application of clinical databases.

Seeking yet another opportunity to apply his entrepreneurial, administrative, and technical skills, Michael along with two pharmacist colleagues, founded Care Point, Inc. The organization provides computer software and training to pharmacist. Established only five years ago, Care Point now has a staff of 19, including 9 pharmacists. Michael emphasizes the need to experiment with different positions before finding the on that’s best. Today’s students should concentrate from the start on disease state management and pharmaceutical care. For pharmacists with these skills, the future is a “golden age.”


Brian J. Isetts, Ph.D., BCPS,
Assistant Professor
Peters Institute of Pharmaceutical Care, University of Minnesota
President
Community Pharmacy Specialists, Red Wing, Minnesota

Brian J. Isetts had a number of positions in his early career. He was in the clinical scientists program at the University of Minnesota and in community pharmacy. He also worked with the Minnesota Pharmacists Association. During this time, he became involved as a research associate with the Minnesota Pharmaceutical Care Project, which was centered at the University of Minnesota. “I saw pharmacy practice being revolutionized, and I wanted to be part of that revolution,” Brian recalls.

An opportunity soon presented itself. Isetts joined the staff of a large community pharmacy practice. In this clinical post, he helps patients identify and solve problems associated with medication use. The experience gained in this work, Brian believes, helped him pass examination to become a board-Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist (BCPS).

Brian stresses that the practice of pharmacy doesn’t always come easy. “Pharmaceutical care is difficult. You have to work hard. [Patient] noncompliance can be a big problem. You have to figure out a way to work with each patient.” Flexibility is key; pharmaceutical care means being there for patients when they need you.

Pharmacy students have the responsibility for “moving the rest of the profession forward.” That includes the difficult issue of reimbursement for cognitive services (that is, counseling and providing direct patient care). Each pharmacist has a role in improving practice. “If your goal is to help patients, find a good pharmacy and join it. Or find one that is ‘almost there’ and help take it tot he next level.” Brian sees community pharmacists of the future participating in research to a greater extent. Areas to be explored include patient-outcome and quality-of-life studies.


Anna Kowblansky, B.S., M.S.,
President
AK Pharmacy Consultants, Santa Barbara , California

Anna Kowblansky has a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy and master’s degree in management of public services, with a specialty in health care. She’s always been involved in pharmacy association work. As a student member of APhA, she participated in career days and other activities, believing that such involvement had a major role in “tying the real world” to pharmacy school.

Immediately after earning her B.S. degree, Anna worked for a hospital pharmacy. She decided to enter association work and for a while worked for both the Illinois Pharmacist. That led to a stint at APhA, where she worked with state relations and students. Then it was on to the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, where she worked in state government affairs.

After moving to California a few years later, Anna launched her career in counseling. Early clients included the California Pharmacists Association, the state board of pharmacy, and a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Anna advises students to “work hard and get as much experience as you can."” Experience will help you find out what you like and don’t like about a certain career. Networking is also essential; this is where organization membership really helps out.

She believes that the future belongs to pharmacists who can apply the knowledge they acquire in school and work as team players in the interest of patient care.


Leo J. Sioris, Pharm.D.
Vice President and Senior Clinical Toxicologist
PROSAR International Poison Center, and
Assistant Professor,
University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy , St. Paul , Minnesota

Before immigrating to the United States, Leo’s father was a pharmacist assistant in Greece. Soon Leo enrolled in pharmacy school at the University of Minnesota. He came to his specialty – poison control – by a totally unplanned route. Having broken and ankle, he was unable to complete a scheduled rotation on the hospital wards and ended up being assigned to the Poison Control Center! After receiving his Pharm.D., Leo worked in the center for several years and helped build many new programs. He was also on the staff of the Emergency Department.

Hospital downsizing forced Leo to seek work elsewhere. He became a clinical pharmacist in a small hospital and remained a consultant to the poison center. Three years later, a new Poison Control Center was about to open in St. Paul. Leo took the job, and he remained there for 13 years.

The work was continually challenging. Among his chief duties was consulting with representatives of chemical manufacturers. This responsibility came about because Sioris recognized an opportunity to apply his pharmacy training to help these manufacturers decrease their liability, produce safer products, reduce patient risk, and comply with federal and state laws and regulations. Leo developed student externships and internships as well as a residency and fellowship in poison control.

Leo emphasizes the importance of mentoring. Trying to find a mentor who “excites you,” he advises. Leo himself had no mentor; as a result, he learned many lessons from the “school of hard knocks.”

Leo believes that the background students receive in pharmacy school prepares them for a wide range of careers. No other degree offers so much knowledge in “basic science, clinical science, business, and regulatory affairs.” The key to success is to train not only in your area of specialty but also to cross-train. “The profession of pharmacy will move in any direction that enthusiastic and passionate pharmacists want to.”


Lynn F. Williams, B.S.,
Vice President,
Learning Solutions, Inc., Boulder , Colorado

Lynn F. Williams started out majoring in math and science. She then switched to pharmacy and worked as a pharmacy technician as an undergraduate. Because she enjoyed working with older patients, she took a position with a company as staff pharmacist in a nursing home.

The business grew, and she grew with it. After the company was bought out, she was named a regional manager then vice president of operations for the southeastern United States. During that time, she also gained experience as a surveyor in home infusion and long-term care for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Lynn left the company in 1991 to start Solutions, a business that consults with companies providing home infusion therapy. The company soon branched out to offer training for pharmacists and pharmaceutical representatives. She also developed training programs in areas such as reimbursement, legislative trends in long-term care, and disease state management.

Now she shares the responsibilities for the company, renamed Learning Solutions, Inc., with a business partner. And Lynn makes time for other activities. To maintain patient contact, she does consulting in a long-term facility. Her longstanding contributions to association work were capped by a recent term as chairman of the board of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists.

Lynn’s career path, as she puts it, led her from focusing on management, in which she “impacts patients by impacting others.” She emphasizes the importance of mentoring in career development. Association membership is also important because of the contacts and networking opportunities it affords.

Clinical care is key to the future of pharmacy, Williams believes. Pharmacist involvement must be continuous, not episodic. Technology can make prospective care and disease state management possible. Finally, pharmacists must increasingly document the economic impact of the services they provide.