A coach, a mentor, a sponsor: Why you need all three

When it comes to professional and personal development, no one should go it alone. The reality is that regardless of your industry or career path, you can benefit from the advice, support, knowledge and perspectives of other professionals you admire and trust. Here’s my take on why coaching, mentoring and sponsorship relationships are critical for professional development – and what it takes to successfully foster each.

The difference between a coach, a mentor and a sponsor – and why each is important

  • Coaching occurs ‘in the moment,’ and can be offered by anyone around you. Like a coach on the sideline, someone who coaches you in a professional setting gives you advice on how to do your job better. A coach evaluates, and shares feedback about, your skillset, in action.

Coaching can come even when you don’t seek it out. It can be delivered by anyone – a person who reports to you, a team member, a boss or a customer. If you’re smart, you’ll use coaching feedback to improve your game.

  • Mentoring relationships are intentional, and usually occur between you and someone with whom you’ve had a longstanding relationship – someone you trust. You can bounce ideas off a mentor, actively seek their advice, inputs and opinions. Your mentor may work in your same industry or at the same organization, but they certainly don’t need to. And sometimes, having a mentor who works in a different organization or industry can be to your benefit – because their advice and counsel can be more objective.
  • A sponsor has components of a mentor – but also serves as your champion, at work or in your community. A sponsor advocates on your behalf – even when you’re not in the room with them. When you raise your hand for a stretch assignment, promotion or role – they’re your support mechanism. To be effective, your sponsor should work in your same industry – and if you need their advocacy at your workplace, it’s a good idea for your sponsor to work there, too.

Need a mentor or sponsor? Actively seek yours out

Finding a mentor or sponsor isn’t a passive pursuit. Actively seek out mentors and sponsors both inside and outside of your profession. Start by identifying people you look up to…people with whom you feel a connection…people who you trust, want to emulate, or admire. If you don’t currently find yourself surrounded by anyone who fits that description, then strategic networking is key. Make time in your schedule to attend workplace, industry and community events where you may be likely to come in contact with potential mentors and sponsors. And know that the gender of your mentor or sponsor matters not. Women and men can both benefit greatly from mentoring relationships with fellow women, and men alike.

Be patient, but don’t delay

A mentor or sponsor needs to intrinsically want to help and support you – and relationships like that take time to grow and nurture. That’s all the more reason not to delay. Don’t wait until the moment you want to pursue a promotion or stretch assignment to find a mentor to offer you advice – or to find a sponsor to serve as your advocate. Start identifying potential mentors and sponsors, now, and know you’ll need to invest time and effort in building those relationships. That time and effort, invested now, will pay off in the future.

Be clear and intentional about communicating your needs

Like any relationship, the most successful coaching and mentoring relationships occur when both parties are clear about what they want to contribute to it – and get out of it. Specifically ask that person you trust and admire if they’d be willing to serve as your mentor or sponsor. Be clear about the support you need – and your goal. Do you need a sponsor to nominate you for a specific role? Ask. Do you need a mentor to help you fill in gaps in knowledge, so you can feel more confident about pursuing a promotion or career change? Ask. The clearer you are about your needs, the more likely you are to find mentors and sponsors who will be successful in helping you reach your goals.

Pay it forward

Coaching, mentoring and sponsorship are two-way streets. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you not only could use some coaches, mentors and sponsors – but you can be a coach, mentor and sponsor, too. Identify high-potential professionals with whom you feel a connection – and ask them if they could benefit from a mentoring or sponsorship relationship. Then, put in the time to nurture that relationship. Chances are – by walking in the shoes of a mentor of sponsor – you won’t just make a difference in the life of a co-worker, community member of colleague – you’ll learn how to work more effectively with your mentors and sponsors, too.

By Cynthia J. Pigg, Vice President of Managed Care and Business Development for Cardinal Health

Interview with RockStar Medical Science Liaison (MSL) Priya Patel, PharmD, BCPS, BCMAS

We are always interested in hearing more about the women making a difference in the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmacist Moms had the pleasure of interviewing one of Chiesi’s rockstar medical science liaisons, Dr. Priya Patel. She is currently in the company’s Special Care Division with a focus on Neonatology and Cystic Fibrosis. 

  1. What is your current role?  

I am currently a Medical Science Liaison for Chiesi USA, providing clinical support for drugs in Neonatology and Cystic Fibrosis.

  1. Where did you go to school and what was your background/training?

I attended the University of Florida for both undergraduate and pharmacy school. After graduation, I completed a pharmacy practice residency at Northside Hospital and continued to work there as the NICU Clinical Pharmacy Specialist for 10 years.  During my time in clinical practice, I also consulted for a device company as a Pharmacy Education Specialist for a pediatric/neonatal smart IV pump.

  1. What are some of the important skills that someone in your role must possess? 

Personality traits include self-motivated, organized, flexibility, and an outgoing personality.  A strong clinical background with the ability to clearly and confidently communicate high level science to top thought leaders is also key.

  1. What are some of the biggest initiative(s) that you are working on?

Bringing value to discussions with clinicians by helping them understand what the pharmaceutical company I work for can do to support their clinical needs. Clinical value includes collaboration on post-marketing research, investigator-initiated studies, and  partnering on real world databases all with the goal of expanding current knowledge and ultimately improving patient care.

  1. What are 3 predictions you have for the pharmaceutical industry in the next 10 years?

Healthcare continues to rapidly evolve and with an increased emphasis on value-based medicine, pricing and reimbursement are affected.  I anticipate that healthcare economics and outcomes research will become a necessity rather than an added bonus..

Precision medicine and the increased use of pharmacogenomic data will drive providers and researchers to accurately make decisions for patient-specific prevention and treatment strategies.  Utilizing real world databases and registries to effectively analyze big data could ultimately decrease the need for costly clinical trials.

A move towards patient centricity. While many pharma companies are working towards this, most remain unsuccessful in empowering and engaging patients. Understanding patient perspective is important for adding value, improving outcomes and quality of life.

  1. What has been one of the bigger setbacks in your career, and what lessons did you learn from that?

I don’t know if this would be considered a setback, but more of a challenge. Two months after switching careers and accepting a MSL position in my desired therapeutic area which covered the Southeast region (13 states), my husband was offered a great career opportunity that would require us to move from the Southeast to New York City.  Not only did we have the usual stressors of moving, selling our home and cars, finding a place to live, and navigating a new city, but I had no idea what it meant for my career. Before moving, I had an honest and open discussion with my manager about what my options were. Lucky for me, she recognized my potential and advocated for me to continue building relationships and working in my current territory. We both knew that this would not be easy. It required more planning, longer flights, and more nights away from home.  Three years later, I am still in the same role. I choose to do this because I am passionate about the company (especially the people), the disease state and the products. Lesson learned:  don’t give up if you don’t have to – not everything is easy, you just need to decide whether it’s worth it to you.

  1. Tell us about some of the biggest successes in your career and why are you most proud of them?

Seeking opportunities and not being afraid of change. As a hospital pharmacist working in the neonatal intensive care unit, I never imagined I would be able to do anything else.  Being the right person, at the right time and place with a strong clinical background has allowed me the opportunities to branch into alternate career paths. As a consultant for a syringe pump, I was able to travel all over the country to educate other pharmacists on the elements of building a safe drug library for the pediatric and neonatal population. Now as a MSL, I have traveled both in the US and internationally to provide clinical support to health care providers in a therapeutic area that I have devoted my career to.  Most recently, my company allowed me the opportunity and support to take the Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist Program Certification.

  1. What is some advice that you would tell your younger self or other pharmacists starting their career?

You will repeatedly hear that the pharmacy world is small – don’t underestimate the power of networking. Make an effort to become actively involved in organizations, attend conferences and make some new friends along the way. You never know who will be able to open the door for future career opportunities.

  1. What does being a woman in pharmacy mean to you? 

Flexibility! As you navigate through life there will be many changes and challenges. These may include starting a family, a new job, relocating or even needing to change career paths.  It is important to believe that you don’t have to do the same thing forever! The opportunities in pharmacy are vast whether they are in retail, hospital, pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy benefits management, or academics.

  1. What is your favorite quote?

“She believed she could, so she did”

  1. How has becoming a BCMAS impacted your career? 

Completing the BCMAS program provides a great foundation and insight into the pharmaceutical and device industry. The in-depth content is not something that is easily learned on the job or simply working at a pharmaceutical company. As one of the first BCMAS certified members of the Medical Affairs team at my company, it has allowed us to set a standard for the future. The credentialing is recognized internally, within our company and hopefully will make me more marketable for future opportunities.

What does 40 years of Pharmacy Advocacy look like? Meet Starlin.


If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Starlin Haydon-Greatting, MS-MPH, BSPharm, CDM, FAPhA, then hold on to your chair. She’s the one at the microphone asking the speakers the hard questions. She’s the one traveling all over this country talking about pharmacists’ skills. She’s a consultant, pharmacoepidemiologist, and director of clinical programs at the Illinois Pharmacists Association ( She was the one balancing babies (twins) with work in the public health office. Now’s she balancing grandbabies with work in professional associations. She’s been on fire for her entire career and she has done more for pharmacists than we will probably ever realize.

She’s a leader for Pharmacist Moms. Here’s what she had to say about 40 years of pharmacy advocacy:

Did you start advocacy work as a student?

Yes, I am from Southern Illinois and my mother was the precinct committee chairwoman for Madison County-so when the Metro-East Pharmacists started a rally for Pharmacies south of I-80 both my StLCOP instructors and my mother fed me the “Kool-Aid!!”  I became one the first students downstate on the IPhA BOD! StLCOP Faculty, Hillary Still, MS, RPh lived in Illinois and challenged his students to get involved because it was their future—a true Philosophy of Pharmacy Practice!  [We named our first-born daughter after Hillary!]

How did it begin and how did it grow for you?

In 1976, pharmacy —especially pharmacists—did not have much input about pharmacy practice and as usual we were not at the table to discuss our worth with the expanding insurance plans that just started to cover some medications.  In Southern Illinois, the pharmacists I worked for as a student pharmacist where “rabble rousers” and challenged the Chicago Control over the whole state’s pharmacy practice.  The geographic differences and philosophy of pharmacy practice differed between the Chicago area and south of I-80.  I began telling the stories of the patients I saw in the “corner drug-store” in Wood River that started seeing more and more unemployment and increasing Medicaid population.  Seeing my mentors and the legislatures drink in the patient care stories fed my activist soul!  I realized then, that the true skill of pharmacists is our ability to speak for our patients, our Healthcare team, and ourselves about the healthcare delivery at ground level—WE are the “boots on the ground!”

Why does pharmacy need advocacy now, more than ever?

I have been focused on moving pharmacy forward since 1976!  Today because of the changing health care climate with access to care and the social determinants of health, we have a better chance to fill in the GAPS of care!  With 6-8 years of professional pharmacy education we are MORE than dispensers—we are the “Universal Translators” of complicated and advanced medications and delivery systems. Especially with digital technology—we are ahead of the curve!

What advice/words of wisdom do you have for pharmacists who feel they don’t have the time or expertise?

Time: Make time, at least 15 minutes, to actually listen to your patients and relate their stories to the Decision Makers!  OR the Decision Makers will leave you OUT of the decision.  We are a profession and sometimes owners and bosses lose track of our purpose and the ethical and empathetic philosophy of pharmacy practice.  When I was the Director of Quality Assurance and Drug Utilization Review for Medicaid—I witnessed the lack of respect our profession receives because the wrong representatives were at the table deciding what was best for pharmacy’s future.  Well they were wrong then and are still wrong!

Expertise:  Everyone has a story, your patients’, your family’s, your own and therefore you ARE an expert.  You ARE the boots on the ground in every practice site and are witness of many flaws in the system.  Take those stories and Join a Pharmacy Organization that will teach you the advocacy skills.  We need all pharmacists united to move our profession forward—in numbers we have strength and support—alone we are seldom heard.

What would you say to someone who thinks pharmacy organizations aren’t doing enough?

Did you know there are laws and federal mandates that prevent Pharmacists from Colluding—gathering together in an organized group discussing anything with money, reimbursement or costs is federally prohibited.  We can gather and set standards of practice and opinions on performance measures etc.…. Labor relations fall under the labor laws of each state.  If we want to change the system, we need to participate in the Management of the System.  Just like any relationship we need to proactively communicate the needs and aspirations of our pharmacy purpose.  Surround yourself with negative thinking you will think negative—surround yourself with positive thinking you will begin to think more positive.  Come join the positive path of moving pharmacy forward we need all the boots on the ground we can get!!! After all our profession depends on it….

Any last words of advice for moms who are struggling with integrating their career and home lives?

Stop trying to be “perfect” and strive for excellence and make small reachable goals.  I gave up on housework in the 60’s…Women should pride themselves on their outstanding mothering/nurturing/empathy abilities, communications talents and partnering skills, with family, friends, and colleagues.  The professional pharmacy philosophy that you inherently have will ALWAYS put the patient first and focus on being person-centered even if you only have 60 seconds—our patients are the pharmacists’ advocate!!!!

Thank you, Starlin!


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#WomenPharmacistDay: Why empowering women is good for the future of pharmacy

#WomenPharmacistDay: Why empowering women is good for the future of pharmacy

October 7, 2019

Julie Wilson, Essential Insights contributor

The rising influence of women in healthcare – and in pharmacy, specifically – is a topic that can’t be overstated.

When it comes to new entrants into the pharmacy profession, women continue to outpace men – earning 61.9% of the professional pharmacy degrees in 2017. Looking more broadly, women also comprise nearly three fourths of the overall U.S. healthcare workforce.

While women are gravitating toward healthcare (and pharmacy) careers in record numbers, they’re also taking the lead when it comes to making healthcare decisions for their families, at home.

In honor of #WomenPharmacistDay celebrated on Oct. 12, Cindy Pigg, Vice President of Managed Care and Business Development for Cardinal Health,

talks about why more progress still needs to be made when it comes to women claiming their fair share of leadership positions within the field of pharmacy – especially when it comes to pharmacy ownership.

Wilson: Why is empowering women good for the future of pharmacy?

Pigg: The majority of practicing pharmacists are now women – which means that women now play a truly vital role in the delivery of pharmacy care to patients. Our ability to support and empower the professional growth of female pharmacists is now inexorably linked to the future of the profession. We can’t have a thriving profession if we’re not empowering the more than 60% of practicing pharmacists to pursue leadership roles.

Wilson: Which pharmacy leadership roles are most in need of progress when it comes to female representation?

Pigg: Independent pharmacy ownership is one of the pharmacy leadership tracks with significant opportunity for improvement when it comes to female representation. We know that less than 25% of all independent pharmacies are female-owned – even though pharmacy ownership provides pharmacists the opportunity to drive change in the profession and practice at the top of their license. It also provides pharmacists the chance to have daily interaction directly with patients, and to be reimbursed for delivering clinical services.

Wilson: What more can be done to increase the number of women-owned pharmacies?

Pigg: Simply put, more female pharmacists need to be aware of pharmacy ownership as a career option – and they need more support when it comes to pursuing that career path. It’s also important to remember that representation matters – and the truth is that pharmacy ownership has always been dominated by men. Female pharmacists also need to see, and hear from, more female pharmacy owners.

That’s why Cardinal Health launched the Women in Pharmacy initiative in 2012 to help support women pharmacists on the path to ownership, dispel the myths around ownership and partner with organizations leading change.  We’re connecting female pharmacists and student pharmacists with the support, encouragement, mentoring and guidance they need to pursue leadership in pharmacy, including pharmacy ownership.

Wilson: What role does #WomenPharmacistDay play in empowering female pharmacists?

Pigg: #WomenPharmacistDay is an inspiring and easy way to recognize the significant gains that women have made in pursuing careers in pharmacy, and to honor the trailblazers who have made such progress possible. It’s also a great way to celebrate important contributions that women pharmacists make, every day, to deliver quality care to patients nationwide.

Call to action: #WomenPharmacistDay Oct 12th

Check out these quick and easy ways to support #WomenPharmacistDay

Get involved

You Could Hear a Pin Drop: Meet One Brave Pharmacist

You Could Hear a Pin Drop: Meet One Brave Pharmacist

In July I was invited to attend and participate in the following conference, “Enhancing Well-Being and Resilience Among the Pharmacist Workforce: A National Consensus Conference.”

These are the 2 things you need to hear:

  1. Your story, told by a brave practicing pharmacist, was heard by all
  2. The RxMoms voice was impactful, and we still have a lot to work to do

Suzy asked me to attend the conference on behalf of this group. Details about the conference including conference objectives, attendees, and background can be found here:

Recommendations from the conference can be found here:


Meet One Brave Pharmacist

She was a panelist who was asked to share her story from her community practice. I don’t remember which company she works for, but you should know that this woman bravely and eloquently spoke the hard truths about this role, all while sitting next to an executive from a large retail chain.

*While she was comfortable sharing at the conference, she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her position from retaliation. No one should have to lie about what working conditions are like, which is exactly why we need to keep this conversation alive.*

While she was talking, you could hear a pin drop. She was professional, poised, and passionate. Her story reminded me of all of your stories that I read on this page. How hearing about one pharmacist’s experience has the ability to hold your heart and your throat at the same time. How the stories remind us that underneath the hard shell we wear for day’s survival we also have the capacity to feel for our patients, but more importantly, for each other. We see the altruistic and precarious PharmD and we see our futures in the headlines.

I asked her if she would be willing to share her story in this blog, so that the Pharmacist Moms Community could read what she so courageously spoke on that day. I would like to thank her and remind her that she has 25,000+ pharmacists behind her. What a thought that just by describing her day, it would make someone’s “skin crawl” as commented after she finished her speech. Thank you, Brave Pharmacist. (Please scroll down to read her speech)

Briefly, I would like to mention what I learned from my experience at this conference: the Pharmacist Moms Group is an influencer in this space. Our stories and posts are gaining national attention and people wanted to hear what “the moms are saying.”  We have a lot of work to do, but I wanted you to know that this group has the ear of many. Thank you, Suzy.


Panelist Speech:

I am a retail pharmacy manager for a chain.  After graduating, I completed a residency in community pharmacy practice and have spent most of my time since then as a pharmacy manager.

I went into pharmacy because I love helping people, and specifically retail pharmacy because I love a sense of community. I love getting to know my patients, their families, their stories. For any business, developing relationships with customers is a driver of good customer service. In health care, being more than a number is powerful for patients struggling to connect with a healthcare system that is faster and more digital than ever before.

Accessibility of retail pharmacists is what drives these relationships. People can call me or stop by the pharmacy for any reason at any time (and they often do!). And I like being the person someone can call when they need to talk. A couple of weeks ago someone asked me where an auto body shop was in town. They apologized for calling me, but she said, “I just knew the pharmacist would know.” And I did. A month ago a woman called me just to tell me that she had an MRI scheduled, was worried that her cancer might be back, and asked me to pray for her. Just last week my partner climbed through the drive thru window to administer Narcan to the passenger of a car.  She saved his life.

But even though I love accessibility, it is also one the main factors that is driving burnout.  I am pulled in multiple directions at any given time- someone waiting to ask you a question, the antibiotic that needs to be mixed, the doctor’s office calling in a script, people waiting on their prescriptions, and a counsel at drive thru.  For years, companies have driven into customers minds that all prescriptions can be filled in 15 minutes or less and the pharmacist is to drop what they are doing to help patients. I have learned to respectfully ask someone to wait when needed, whether it’s a patient, my district admin, or a nurse, and it has made a huge difference. But pharmacists need support in pushing back against speed and striving for safety. 

The second main factor, for me personally, in driving burnout is workload.  I would like everyone to get out a piece of paper and a pen and write down the number of prescriptions you think it’s safe for a retail pharmacist to fill per hour.

In the month of June, my pharmacy dispensed 11,101 prescriptions and gave 86 immunizations.  We are open 84 hours and get 8 hours of overlap each week.  For anyone that is trying to crunch the numbers, that’s an average of 33 prescriptions each hour.  On Monday, I filled 505 prescriptions in 10 hours. Fifty prescriptions an hour. June and July are the slowest months of the year.  I’ll see at least a ten percent increase in script volume by August or September. 

There have been many changes that have helped with my workload over the last five years- new technology, automation, electronic prescribing, verification sharing. However, with every rollout comes a decrease in labor.  While I’m not sure a cap on prescriptions filled per hour is the answer, I do know that the pace that I am required to maintain is neither sustainable nor safe.  I simply cannot provide the highest level of care for every patient that walks through the door. 

And it’s not just my employer. Every pharmacist, no matter who you work for, is asked to do more with less. Multiple companies, both drug store and grocery store chains, have made announcements about reductions in pharmacy manpower, decreasing pharmacists’ base hours. The need for lower labor costs is a direct result of lower reimbursement rates a decreased margin from generic drugs. 

In addition to the workload, the actual work environment itself is exhausting. No one tells you when you are in school that you might be in physical therapy for neck pain from being on the phone so much. Or that you’ll need compression socks and orthotics in your shoes or learn to hold your bladder. I was on crutches for six weeks after fracturing my tibia this winter. I had a stool, but it was nearly impossible for me to sit down for long. It was miserable. While I have been cleared to run, my leg is still healing and part of me can’t help but wonder if I would be 100% if I had a job that wasn’t physically demanding.

According to state law, I am allowed to take a 30 minute lunch break for every 6 hour shift worked. My employer’s policy matches the law state, citing that the pharmacy is to remain open and I am to be available for counseling. While I sat on the floor eating my salad at 3 PM, I was interrupted 6 times in 20 minutes. At some point, you just give up on lunch and move on with your day.  In a 12 or 13 hour workday, I do not think it is unreasonable to close the pharmacy completely for 30 minutes to account for a break for the pharmacist. Doctor’s offices and other businesses close for lunch- what excludes retail pharmacies from doing the same?

Work life balance continues to also remain a challenge.  Several years ago I was a district supervisor, but after a 18 months decided to step down to have more time for my family.  I’m not sure it’s that much better when you don’t work in middle management. As a pharmacy manager, I am expected to complete paperwork and oversight for running the business, yet I am given no additional time or resources.  I am expected to attend company meetings unpaid and often contacted on my days off about work-related items. Companies should Be required to provide compensation and uninterrupted time ‘off the bench’ to any pharmacist in a managerial position.

I am in a unique location that has a shortage of pharmacists, so I am asked to pick up extra shifts to cover my store on my scheduled days off. When my store’s pharmacist hours were cut, I asked to have my base decreased from 40 hours to 38 hours and was denied. I have a family member who works for another chain who was told she must increase her base hours from 32 to 40 or she would not be guaranteed a job, even after she has not worked a 40 hour base since graduating 25 years ago.  When I graduated, I never anticipated wanting to work less and not being able to do so. Companies should not be able to force pharmacists to work more hours than they want to.

Am I proud to be a pharmacist, to serve my community and impact health care? Absolutely. But my well-being, our well-being, is at stake. Thank you.


Brooke Griffin, PharmD

Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

What To Do When You Feel Shame?

Sherry Brown PriceWhat To Do When You Feel Shame?

We are humans.

And, by nature, humans are not perfect.

Humans make mistakes.

We do things that we wish we didn’t.

This goes for every human.  No exceptions.

We get stuck in certain patterns of being and doing that we can’t seem to find the way out of.

Like with our drinking.

We can feel helpless.

And powerless once we start drinking.

We feel shameful about not being able to stop and about who we are.

We compare ourselves to others who seem to have no problem with stopping.

Our shame makes us feel like we are bad humans.

It makes us feel diminished and unworthy.

Hanging on to the shame does not allow us to embrace our humanness and make the necessary changes to move forward.

Shame leads to more of the same.

A continued pattern of drinking.

How do we break the shame?

With acceptance of it and with self compassion.

We can choose to accept that we are a human that has learned and practiced over-drinking.

And we can bring in self compassion for our trained behavior.

Embracing self compassion moves us into a place of peace.

We make peace with what is.

Full acceptance and self compassion open us up to move into taking action.

Making a change that enhances the new script of our brain.

Your journey to cutting back may need to start with a hefty dose of self compassion.

In love and health,


Sherry Price, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, APh

As an accomplished pharmacist, business owner, wife and mother, I used wine as the way to relax at night and to cope with the day’s stress.  When drinking that first glass of wine, I immediately felt relief and began to relax.  My anxiety level came down.  And the day seemed better.

But, I started to desire more wine to achieve the same effect.

One glass became 2……then 3……then more…..on most days.  And then daily.

The mornings became unpleasant and my sleep was not restful.  I gained weight and made poor food choices when I drank.  I tried to cut back over and over; only to white knuckle it for a few days until I gave in and started right back up again.  I still desired it.   It seemed impossible to cut back.  My willpower didn’t last.  And I craved the relief and pleasure the wine brought.

All of the programs I knew about focused on an all-or-nothing approach.  Abstinence programs.  Treatment centers.  Meetings.  Declaring a problem.  Sponsors.  That wasn’t for me.

I didn’t want to stop drinking.  I just wanted to be a normal drinker.  And to not think about drinking so darn much. 

I needed a solution.  With my pharmacy training, I understood the biology and how the brain works, the neurotransmitters involved, and how the wiring of the brain occurs.   I desperately wanted to figure this out.  Through my life coach training and additional courses, I have created tools where I blend the science and the behavioral application to cut back on drinking permanently.

STEM Panel: Engineers, Africa, Straws, and Drugs

STEM Panel: Engineers, Africa, Straws, and Drugs

Do anyone of these statements resonate with you?

“If I’m feeling out of place when I walk into a room – then I need to be there.”

“Push yourself to be your best – always.”

“Don’t work too much.”

“Say your crazy idea.”

Let’s go outside of pharmacy for a moment. Read below about a few rock star women who are killing it in their STEM fields. In lieu of an interview this month, read on about what they had to say – AND – what the female students asked.

Recently I was invited to be on a panel of women at our local high school for a “Women in STEM Day.” All female students were invited and were excused from their classes. There was a career fair with booths representing organizations and colleges. There were presentations from women who work in all STEM areas. The event I participated in, the STEM Panel, was offered three times over three periods. I was on the panel with 6 other women who I’d like to introduce you to. We each had a few minutes to introduce ourselves and then the students asked questions. The questions from these young women were fascinating! Typical me, I took notes furiously as my fellow panelists spurted wisdom and encouragement. True story: the woman to my right, Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf, PhD, showed a YouTube clip to showcase her work – and everyone needs to watch this 1:30min video: Try following that with, “I’m a pharmacist.”  Selfishly, I was thankful that I introduced myself before the students became mesmerized with this video clip (ha!); you’ll understand after you watch the video.

Here are my takeaways: all of these women are amazing and each brought their story into their answers. Stories that high school females need to hear. Stories about a jagged career path, filled with lions, tigers, and bears. Stories about finding mentors and finding themselves. Stories about men and kids. Stories about their dreams.  Here is a snippet from that day:

Dr. Stacy Kowalczyk: Director of the Information Management Masters program in the School of Information Studies at Dominican University. She talked about information architecture, systems analysis, and human-computer interactions. My favorite thing about Stacy’s story is that someone recommend she should become a coder LONG before this was a thing, and she went back to school at age 50 to get her PhD. Also, we loosely decided we’re going to coauthor a book about encouraging students in higher education. It’s going to be called, “Points or Pizza.”

Emily DiFrisco: Director of Communications for Plastic Pollution Coalition. She helps organizations become aware plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on waterways, oceans, and the environment. Her advice, “Make time for hobbies. Put the work in and then be confident in yourself and abilities.” Emily won us all over when she told us that she brought stainless steel straws for every.single.person.

Dawn M. Rose, JD, CHHR: She is a self-proclaimed “STEM-wannabe” who pursued other avenues when she hit roadblocks. She became a lawyer and worked in HR. Her life always brought her back to STEM and now she works at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and supports the research and leadership efforts of neurologists in the practice. My favorite story Dawn told was that she won 1st place in an elementary school leaf collection project and she said repeatedly that she always wanted to be pharmacist. In my opinion, the world needs her exactly where she is.

Davorah Bowen: Project Engineer at FedEx Express. She stated she’s “driven by her belief that quality is a standard and a byproduct of intentional, thoughtful and skillful planning and execution.” She designs/executes all of the maps for the FedEx drivers. The maps, you guys. All.Of.The.MAPS. My favorite thing about Davorah’s presence was that she thoughtfully and respectfully answered all of the student questions about engineering and robotics and she showed us how to do it with eloquence and authority and respect for their dreams.

Leslie McKinney, MS: She is the Chicago Director of Black Women in Science and Engineering (BWISE). The students in the room were not shy about speaking up and saying they have not found a role model in robotic engineering, marine biology, or a dermatologist who was a woman of color. Leslie not only spoke of the benefits of her organization in STEM, but also had a personal connection for EACH one of those students. Those students left with a name and an email address. It made me think: who do we know that can help someone? Are we sharing that enough?

The students – all in high school – asked the following questions:

  • Have you ever experienced sexual harassment?
  • Is there male entitlement at your job?
  • What are the social aspects of your job?
  • We’re smart and not “cool” – will this be a bigger struggle in college?
  • What if we pick a STEM field, then want to switch?
  • How can we incorporate more STEM in elementary and middle school?

Staring into their young eyes, we took turns answering these questions. In summary from the group: reminding them that they have great ideas!  If a man is ever upset about something to do with YOUR career, it’s their problem, not yours. Don’t see enough females around? Stop complaining and do something about it!  Like Tanya, who started the first computer science club for women. If you don’t have a mentor, find one. And make a commitment to mentor others. Ask for more of what you’re interested in; don’t wait for someone to offer it. And remember the feeling of your brain being so happy – that’s being intellectually stimulated.

Here’s the superheroic takeaway: the kids in our lives are watching us. They are young and eager and hungry for STEM. They are 15 and 16 and 17 and asking about work/life balance and respect in the workplace. No matter how hard our days are; they need to see us with science and math, with jobs and babies, with good days and bad.  They are watching us.



Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist


Finding A Happy, Sustainable Pharmacy Career

Finding A Happy, Sustainable Pharmacy Career

Written by: Gunda Siska


I have been brainstorming for an alternative pharmacy job that is less stressful than retail and hospital work.

I currently work in a busy hospital. The medical and pharmaceutical questions, problems and tasks come at me so fast I cannot resolve one problem through, before the next problem presents its self to me. I end up with brain fog and migraines. I know I should change jobs to something more sustainable. I’m unable to do anything at home for my family after a long, hard day at the hospital. Living with chronic migraines is not my idea of success and so I often think about going to work at Walgreens…in the COSMETIC department, cuz retail pharmacy seems to be even more stressful.

I know I could NOT work retail pharmacy. I had glimpses of it during pharmacy school, and at the end of a busy day I would be shaking with frustrations from all the interruptions that occurred. I have so much respect and admiration for the cool, calm, smart retail pharmacists. HOW DO U DO IT?

Anyhow, I have been brainstorming for a better way of life.

I think pharmacists should double as health care coaches to solve our health care crisis. I think our hospitals are over run with patients who have illnesses that can be solved with lifestyle modification. I also believe we don’t have enough doctors to take care of all the sick people. I know at my hospital during flu season we end up in code black, which means we have overflow patients in the hallways and storage closets! There is literally no room for all the sick people.

So the win-win solution that I have come up with….have all the highly educated retail pharmacists, and any other pharmacists looking for a change to come out of the woodwork and become health care coaches.

The money part sort of slowed me down, but I have thought that through. I see two solutions.

Money solution #1, become affiliated with selling natural products and get a commission from the products you recommend. Pharmacists will never be an average sales representative. Our health is too complicated and individualized to just recommend the same product for everyone.

I believe only pharmacists should be selling and recommending OTC products, vitamins, minerals, and natural products of any kind.

I am currently writing a book about when natural products yield good results. Healthy people don’t need any pills to stay healthy, but many people are not healthy. Many people are looking for improved health, better energy, and improved appearance.

In my articles for Pharmacy Times Magazine I have been slowly telling the readers when natural products will yield good results. These articles are actually excerpts from my book that will be coming out soon, hopefully July.

Don’t let your customers read this book before you, cuz they will be asking you questions that will blow your mind.

Combined with the years of college education, and work experience I anticipate that this book will give pharmacists a clear view of how to slow the aging process down with natural products, and how to optimize health in unhealthy people. (more on my book later)

Money solution #2, Become a pharmacist clinician and expand your recommendations even more. Not only will you be recommending natural products, but you will also be recommending drugs.

I believe that our health care crisis can be solved with medicinal diets, natural products, and drugs. We need all three to restore health…and then keep us healthy.

After my first medical book is out in July, I’m going to immediately start working on my second book. It will be called Curing obesity through medication management. In that book i will explain how to use drugs as a catalyst to develop new, healthy lifestyle habits. Will power and drugs only work for a short period of time. We need to take advange of that opportunity to create new automatic habits and lifestyle choices. THAT is what the book is about. It’s about ending obesity. It’s about having the next generation of people automatically being thin because their parents instilled wellness in them as children.

So for now, I have to highly recommend that pharmacist who are looking for a change follow me on twitter, facebook, Pharmacy times magazine, and this blog. I will be telling you everything I know as I walk through the process myself. I am thinking this thing through for me, so that I can have a better life…and I’m telling you my trials and errors so that you can do the same if you chose to.

I am wishing you the best in life: success, happiness, health and love

Mother’s Day 2019 aka 5/12/19


What I liked about mother’s day 2019, compared to previous mother’s days, is the emergence of literature (social media and my trusty newspaper) that not everyone is happy on happy mother’s day. I needed this reminder. For some people, it really sucks. “Be careful about your boasting” was the message I received. So hard when I live and breathe and sometimes gag over their every movement. So hard when I spend 364 days trying to shape them into thinkers, doers, college-bound, and nice-to-Mom and on day #365 I get a card that says MOM upside down is WOW. So hard not to share. But I deeply respect the silent sadness that is out there. How I wish I could say I-SEE-YOU to all of you.  Today was 5/12/19. Call it what YOU want.

2019 also had a plethora of articles on “How To Spend Mother’s Day.” Every article had the same message: “Any way you want.” Sometimes it said: “Any way you f@#$-ing want.” Either way, message received. I had the day off, so my requests were: sleep in, long run, chill with kiddos (with tag-out privileges at any moment), then dash to a store or two or three. For the most part, it worked out! Handmade gifts and cards are just what the doctor of pharmacy ordered and it was perfect. I even found myself alone with my coveted Sunday Chicago Tribune with a hot coffee for 30 minutes. And then it happened: I read a story that I shouldn’t have. I saw the headline and knew better – I should have turned the page. But I read the darn story. Chicago-land recently lost a young child, at the hands of his parents, and it’s been heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching and makes me want to scream and shout and let it all out. I’ve purposely been avoiding the updates and NPR in the car because I just can’t handle those kinds of details. Especially not on my commutes. Because if I listen, I won’t be able to hold back the sorrow for this child that I’ve been pushing down inside. But today, on mother’s day 2019, I read the full article. And I let the sobs come. The kind which causes shoulders to shake, nose to run, and dogs to come lean. I was alone with the heavy Tribune, my heavy luke-warm coffee, and my heavy dog. Everything was heavy and I was alone and the moment eventually passed.

My daughter returned from gymnastics and remembered she forgot one more gift in her backpack: a glass jar filled with 20 reasons why she loves me. Happy tears. (Who gives young children glass jars?) Soon the tribune article was in my rearview mirror, my coffee forgotten, and the dog disappeared. So many times as pharmacists we get a glimpse into someone’s home life. We hear how loved ones talk to one another, we squinch at the humiliation, and pray there’s no fear. We know that with trust comes stories. From patients, students, and technicians. Everyday we make the decision whether or not to engage, inquire, and invest our emotional and professional reserves.  The reserves saved for our own stuff and our families’ stuff. Some of us are brave and scared and go in anyway. Some of us skate along the line we’ve drawn in the sand.

We often don’t know what to do if we suspect neglect, abuse, or mistreatment. My colleague and I have been teaching a women’s health elective for years and we always include a class on domestic violence. We invite a guest speaker from a local shelter or support agency to speak to the pharmacy students about how we can help. She gives us tools, such as conversation starters and resources, to use when the time is right. I’ll write more on this in the future because it deserves more time and space but fittingly for today, we are reminded of those mothers who don’t have choices. I’m so freaking thankful that I am celebrating mother’s day 2019, because it reminds me that love overcomes hate and the good tears overcome the sorrowful ones. I’m thankful that I was able to choose how I wanted to spend mother’s day 2019, not just the activities, but because it served as a reminder of a real choice that stems from an equitable partner team. I’m thankful that my parents made this visible for me and in turn, I hope my own children remember this. For moms of fallen children, for the moms who feel helpless, for the moms who feel boastful, for the moms in prison, for the moms without partners, for the moms in our hearts – today was 5/12/19 – you get to call it what you want.


Superheroic: A Blog for Moms with a Pharmacy Twist

Pharmacist by day…but by night?

Pharmacist by day…but by night?

Gunda Siska



For years I lived a double life to escape the monotony that was my reality. As a pharmacist, drugs/alcohol was not really an option, at least not with all the drug testing going on in the work place. It led me to my guilty pleasure, my escape, my way of checking out mentally. That led me to writing fictional novels.

 I often wrote when I was on vacation at my lake house. Of course everyone was having a good time frolicking in the sun, swimming etc. But after decades of growing up in that environment, I had been there done that. That too was boring. Everything was boring. 

Even playing Candyland for hours was boring. I love spending time with my children and family but I needed something more.

While doing these mindless activities, I would be concurrently day dreaming about the next chapter in my novel. My mind would fill up with scenarios for the book. At night when everyone was a sleep, I would write. I lived my life like this for years, on and off.

However, I never had the courage to publish my novels, until now. This novel was a mental escape to the happiest time of my life=college. I turned the fictional scenario into a learning experience. This story is what I wish I could have told my younger self. It’s about finding happiness (book description below)

I also went on to write a salacious political novel. It is about how I would run the country given the opportunity to improve it. I wrote that novel after I had read 50 shades of Gray. I wondered, why is this author a multi-millionaire and I’m an unappreciated pharmacist feeling abused. I thought I could write a better novel than 50 shades of gray, and so I attempted to do so. I allowed myself to go down the path of erotic scenarios. But when the book was completed, I felt like I had sold my soul. 

The main character in the book was not how I was. Maybe portions of me were in the main character as well as the other characters, but it definitely did not represent my life.

I still contemplate deleting that novel. No one has read it in its entirety. I’m not sure it would be well received. We’ll see how the first novel does. But until then, I have completely given up my secret life of writing novels. I now live in the moment. I pay attention. I live and learn and make corrections. I now solve my problems instead of ignore them and hope they go away on their own. 

And the good news is…that once I started living in the movement, paying attention to my life, and solving my problems….my life became better. Happier. More successful in every. way.

I now write medical articles, and my pharmacy career has never been brighter. I think it is become I’m now more engaged with my career. I’m more connected with the other pharmacists around me. I am able to empathize and understand the people around me better.

Question: Should I use my real name when publishing this book? or a penname? I don’t want it to discredit my medical articles and books in anyway. Karen Berger has read my book in its entirety and says I should be proud of my book, and not use a penname. Karen believes honesty is the best policy, and the truth always comes out in the end. IDK. Any thoughts?


Update: Gunda has published her novel under the name of GK Siska and it can be found at this link: