The question was innocent but threw me off guard. “You’re a pharmacist? I thought they locked you in the basement!”
I assured my recently admitted COPD patient that we pharmacists are often granted relief from our mysterious pharmacy lairs to spend time with our patients. She laughed, “Now I don’t feel so bad for you.”
As a clinical pharmacist, I find that I am a valued, but not always an understood, part of the team. Traditionally patients have thought of pharmacists as simply counting pills behind the counter at the local drug store—a friendly resource. Physicians may have a broader experience with pharmacists, particularly as interns relying on the pharmacist to call when they are less sure of medication choice and dosage but similarly jaded by longstanding stereotypes of centralized pharmacy models. This feeling of uncertainty on my part was only exemplified as I prepared to take on my role as a junior nonphysician faculty member in a family medicine residency program (FMRP). This time, it was me who was hesitant of my role and how to bridge my resident experience with my future career. Luckily, a fellow faculty member in my FMRP introduced me to the STFM Emerging Leaders Fellowship, a perfect support for new faculty and anyone transitioning into leadership. At the time, he was completing the fellowship and thought I may be a good fit for the program as a mechanism for better understanding the role of a faculty member and in turn setting goals for future professional development.
The biggest component of the program is completion of a Leadership Practicum. My practicum focuses on defining the role of a pharmacist (PharmD) as an educator and clinician within an FMRP. This project will utilize two national surveys to collect information from pharmacists and FMRP program directors. Specifically, I wanted to identify what pharmacists are currently doing as faculty of FMRPs and the motivations and barriers to incorporation of pharmacists as educators from FMRP program directors’ perspective. This project spawned from work with our pharmacy residents; nearing graduation, these residents were looking for the jobs we had emulated as faculty members of FMRPs that seemingly did not exist. I began to ask the questions ”Is my job unique to FMRPs?“ and ”Why would FMRPs not have a pharmacist?“ These questions needed to be answered in order to standardize the utilization of clinical pharmacists within FMRPs.
My enthusiasm for this enormous project was quickly halted when I received my first rejection; CERA had not found my survey of FMRP program directors as innovative as I thought. I was devastated. After a month of licking my wounds, my partner throughout the process, STFM Group on Pharmacotherapy Cochair Jody Lounsbery, PharmD, picked me up and told me to keep moving. By sharing her own challenges and triumphs as a clinical pharmacist faculty member of an FMRP, it affirmed the professional need of the information. This project served as a great introduction to a few veteran clinical pharmacists and physician and educator mentors who brought a historical perspective of how clinical pharmacy has changed over the last 30 years and reframed ideas for the greater good of family medicine. My interdisciplinary team throughout this project has made it easy to ask for help and receive constructive feedback and direction. Leading seems easy when you have a cohesive team of extremely talented professionals. After many conference calls, loads of emails, and endless edits, the team has completed two IRB approvals, two CERA submissions, and a grant submission. Not bad for 6 months of hard work, and I am confident that with my team’s assistance, our second round of submissions will be more successful.
During my time thus far in the Emerging Leaders program, I focused on my own drive as a leader. Initially, my goal for the corresponding practicum was to describe the landscape of clinical pharmacists in family medicine. Instead of simply finding answers, I learned how the virtues of building relationships, asking for help, and working hard directly correlates to success. The Emerging Leaders program is helping me research and pave the way for future pharmacists as educators in an FRMP.
What struggles have you had when transitioning to a leadership or new faculty role? Share your story with us in the comments below.