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A Tale of 2 MSL Board Certifications.

Author: Jill White PharmD, BCMAS

A Tale of 2 MSL Board Certifications: What You Should Know – Part 1

According to the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs (ACMA) the Medical Science Liaison (MSL)
profession has exploded to over 3000 MSL’s across the country and is still growing. This number is
inclusive regardless of the name du jour from an individual company to include: Regional Scientific
Director, Clinical Liaison, Thought Leader Liaison, Field Medical Director etc. With the growing number
of professionals and one of the most varied entry experience requisites of any career field all funneling
into a single job description it was certain that the time would come that a board certification would be
needed. Several years ago many did not believe that it would be possible to have a certification that
broadly sweeps small and large organizations and everything in between including all therapeutic areas.
However, that is no longer debatable as two companies have found a way to make this board
certification possible, testing examinees on everything but the science. ACMA and The Medical Science
Liaison Society (MSLS) have different board certification credentials and the question becomes which is
the right one for each MSL. This two-part series endeavors to compare both certifications equipping
professionals to make that decision for themselves.

‘MSL board certification is here, testing everything but the science.’

ACMA launched their accredited board certification program over 3 years ago; those who pass will
garnish the BCMAS credential or are deemed Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialists. In contrast the
MSLS made their program available earlier this year following a reported two-year collaboration process
– and after passing the MSL professional will be entitled to the credential MSL-BC.

Certification vs. Certificate
Both are official board certifications, not certificate programs – meaning the idea isn’t to simply learn
about being an MSL the goal is to prove you know what the credential specifically implies, BCMAS
leaning towards overall medical affairs (MA) and MSL-BC focusing on the MSL career specifically. One
credentialing note of differentiation here: there is an amount of verbal diarrhea when it comes to who’s
the first this or which company has the only that, and both credentialing bodies claim to be the world’s
first and/or only ‘fill in the blank’. However, after careful investigation it appears the BCMAS is the only
accredited board certification while MSL-BC does not appear to be accredited – though nearly 2 dozen
respected leaders in medical affairs were apart of the credentialing examination collaboration process (if
you are attached to the organization and have more complete information please don’t hesitate to
reach out for a correction as this specific point was hard to ascertain).

Taking the Exams

ProctorU is utilized by both organizations for proctoring of the exam and both are completed under
timed conditions following an identity verification process. Either way you will be watched and recorded
while sitting for the test. The MSL-BC allows up to 4 hours for the 140-question multiple choice exam (of

which 125 count toward your mark). BCMAS allows up to 3 hours for their four-section exam which
includes multiple choice, true/false, select all that apply and case study formatted questions totaling
between 90-100 questions. Each of the certifications require you to complete CE and/or retest every
few years to keep the board certification current. MSL-BC requires this be accomplished every 3 years
while BCMAS has an every 5 year requirement.

A Note about the Credentialing Organizations

Notwithstanding and beyond the scope of this review but for completeness, both the MSLS and ACMA
are worthy non-profit organizations with outstanding missions, prestigious boards of governors and
either (or both) is a great choice for a professional membership regardless of which board certification
you choose. A yearly membership to ACMA is approximately 2/3 the cost of MSLS ($200 vs. $290), but
the outward appearance is that MSLS is a more active society and the membership includes the newly
published digital MSL Journal. A quick search of Linked In will show a splattering of the newly developed
MSL-BC professionals while a similar inquiry will find a larger number of those with the BCMAS
credential many of whom are in more leadership medical affairs positions (the larger number no doubt
due to the fact that BCMAS is for all of MA not specifically MSL’s and has been around for an extended
period of time comparatively). During this same search you will find a handful of over achievers who
have added the MSL-BC to their already certified BCMAS.

Part 2 of this short series will dive deep into the specifics of each of the certifications, including detailed
descriptions of both programs, cost of the certification and exam fees and who is eligible to sit for each
exam (spoiler alert: it is not the same group of test takers). Individual career development paths is
discussed specific to each credential and how board certification is impacting organizations on a macro
level.

*A note from the author: I penned these articles while waiting for my exam results from BCMAS. It
should be stated that all attempts were made to write an unbiased review article, however, only going
through 1 of the certification programs and exams may have made it more difficult than expected. To be
fair, I will gladly prepare and sit for the MSL-BC if the MSLS would like a follow up article after the fact –
please contact me.

A final note, I am not affiliated nor a member of either the MSLS or ACMA Society at this time but would consider either a great choice.

 

A Tale of 2 MSL Board Certifications: What You Should Know – Part 2

Part 1 of this series demonstrated the Why, What and Who of MSL board certification programs. This
part will complete the story with How, How much and what the impact of these credentials mean to
MSL professionals across the country.

BCMAS Certification
Associated preparation for each exam varies greatly. The Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs'
(ACMA) BCMAS certification fee (more on that later) comes along with access to their learning
management system (LMS) which includes 20 self-paced online training modules. These modules cover
every aspect of the medical affairs organization and include details such as the pharmaceutical
industry’s history (it can be traced back to German universities and organic chemistry) to drug
development and approval process to medical device to pharmacovigilance. Each module starts with a
pre-quiz then repeats this quiz as a post-quiz allowing the user to follow their learning progress. All 20
post-quizzes must be passed prior to sitting for the certification exam with ProctorU. ACMA suggests
that the process can take between 3-4 months depending on the amount of time devoted to studying
the material but provides 6 months access to the program’s contents. Each of the 20 modules will take
approximately 2 hours to complete and a bonus is that a handful of the modules are eligible for CME/CE
for MD’s and PharmD’s.

Who can sit for the BCMAS exam?
ACMA states that all the information needed to pass the BCMAS exam is contained within the 20
modules and they allow anyone who holds an “MD, PharmD, PhD, DO, MBBS, DNP, NP, PA, BPharm,
PsyD, or other relevant degree from an accredited college, university or institution” to apply for the
credential with or without relevant work experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Some test takers
would argue, however, that without time in industry even given the 20 modules passing the exam is not
an easy achievement. However, once passed the BCMAS credential may help those unable to break into
the medical affairs world have a chance at a coveted position.

MSL-BC Certification
Conversely, the Medical Science Liaison Society (MSLS) takes a different approach to exam preparation
and the needed qualifications to sit for the test. There is no LMS that provides an education or question
bank to coincide with your studying as you prepare for the exam. Certainly, this is in part due to the
reduced fee (again, more on that later) required by the credentialing body. The MSLS does provide a 5-
page detailed overview of the “three content areas, 14 tasks, and 60 steps” which will be tested over. In
addition, 1½ pages of reference links accompany the overview referencing websites and include pages
from the FDA, PhRMA, OIG and a couple of their own reference guides.

Who can sit for the MSL-BC?
To take the MSL-BC you must prove that you have worked as an MSL or MSL manager for over 1 year.
This is done via an application to test and job history is verified per the MSLS website – this is not a
credential that an aspiring MSL can achieve. However, a terminal degree is not required for the
application to sit for the certification as only a bachelor’s degree is necessary. One caveat is that test
takers should be prepared for the exam prior to submitting their application to receive an authorization
to test (ATT) as once the ATT is provided to the test taker it is only valid for 3 weeks. After taking the
exam it may take up to 3 weeks to have your test results for the MSL-BC vs 3-5 business days for BCMAS.

Associated fees
Many pharmaceutical companies are encouraging their MSL’s to garner one of these certifications for
their own professional development, or credentialing is also being done as a team and when either of
these are the case most organizations will allow the MSL to expense the cost of the program. However,
other MSL professionals are on their own to foot the bill for credentialing and enhancing their own
career marketability which makes cost of greater importance. The BCMAS fee is $1999 and includes up
to 4 exam fees in the case of needing a re-exam while the MSL-BC costs is $550 for non-MSLS members
or $450 for members and does not include any re-exam fees (retakes are $400 and $300 each
respectively).

Which is the best option?
There are many considerations when deciding between the 2 credentials available to MSL’s and though
their approaches are different, both are rigorous and should be respected. If one is an MSL through and
through and the possibility of moving into another role besides MSL manager isn’t appealing then MSL-
BC may be the best choice. Some people, for personal reasons, are not willing to relocate to the
company’s home office and therefore many internal medical affairs positions are not an option. There
are many executive and distinguished MSL’s who are approaching 20 years of field medical work and can
harness this experience to mentor newer MSL professionals; these are certainly candidates for MSL-BC.
Others MSL’s may find cost a factor in which case $550 is more palatable than $1999; or perhaps one
appreciates an organization who will only allow a current member of the profession to sit for the
certification, again another instance that MSL-BC would be a good fit.
In contrast, if an MSL ‘s career development may include other positions within medical affairs then
BCMAS would be a more appropriate choice for the credentialing. Moreover, if cost is not a factor and
an LMS with detailed learning modules to house exam preparation is desired (versus reviewing
overarching objectives and filling in personal learning gaps) then BCMAS is certainly a better option.
Lastly, with no previous MSL experience or if an accredited board certification is preferred then BCMAS
is the only option.
Five years ago, the idea of credentialing Medical Science Liaison’s from varying educational backgrounds
working for dozens of different companies each of which require slightly different activities from the
MSL professional was an unheard-of feat. Now, regardless of company or therapeutic area MSL’s have options of which board certification they would like to carry behind their name. Not only is it not
unheard of, but MSL credentialing is positioned to become the deciding factor for hiring managers
between otherwise similarly qualified candidates — over time it will most likely become a standard in the
field.

*A note from the author:

I penned these articles while waiting on results from my BCMAS exam. It should be stated that all
attempts were made to write an unbiased review article, however, admittedly only going through 1 of
the certification programs and exams may have made it more difficult than expected. To be fair, I will
gladly prepare and sit for the MSL-BC if the MSLS would like a follow up article after the fact – please
contact me.

A final note, I am not affiliated nor a member of either the MSLS or ACMA Society at this time but
would consider either a great choice.

References:

About Us. Available at: https://acmasociety.org/about-us/ accessed 4/20/20.
BCMAS Program Information. Available at: https://www.medicalaffairsspecialist.org/board-certified-
medical-affairs-specialist-program/program-info/ accessed 4/19/20.
MSLS Board Certification. Available at: https://www.themsls.org/msl-board-certification/ accessed
4/20/20.
MSLS 2020 Member Benefits Guide. Available at:
https://cdn.ymaws.com/members.themsls.org/resource/resmgr/member_guide/member_guide_updat
e-march_2.pdf

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Networking and grit help Missouri female-owned pharmacy expand

Melody Savley, R.Ph. has been a pharmacist since 1980. She started out managing pharmacies within grocery stores, and she and her husband eventually opened their own grocery store with a retail pharmacy inside it. They sold their grocery store and started focusing exclusively on growing their pharmacy business in 2004, and eventually expanded beyond retail pharmacy, and into specialty and long-term care. Here, Melody – owner of Alps Pharmacy, Alps Specialty Pharmacy and Alps Long Term Care Pharmacy, all in in Springfield, Missouri – shares key insights into her journey as a pharmacy business owner.

  • Don’t underestimate the power of networking 

Melody, who’s also the immediate past president of the Missouri Pharmacy Association and participates in Cardinal Health’s Women in Pharmacy initiative, says that getting out from behind the counter – and networking with fellow pharmacy owners – is what first gave her the idea to expand into specialty and LTC.

“We have always made it a point to attend industry events and conferences where we can expand our knowledge and learn ways to improve our business. We go to Cardinal Health’s Retail Business Conference every year, and we attend the National Community Pharmacist Association (NCPA) annual conference every year, too. It was through networking at those events that I first learned that specialty pharmacy and LTC were good opportunities to expand our pharmacy footprint,” she said.

  • Understand that different pharmacy models require different approaches

When it came to launching her specialty pharmacy business, Melody started out slow, running it out of her retail pharmacy – but quickly realized that that model wasn’t ideal.  

“Specialty pharmacy requires extreme customer service – when physicians’ offices call us, they want to talk to someone with specialty pharmacy experience, immediately.  We realized we needed highly trained staff with a specific understanding of the unique needs of specialty pharmacy and specialty patients. We moved our specialty pharmacy to a closed door model, and hired a person to help us with marketing. We get a lot of prescriptions through that part of our business now.”

  • Find creative ways to navigate reimbursement challenges

Melody acknowledges that in today’s environment, reimbursement challenges can make starting a specialty pharmacy business a particular challenge. She says that many insurance plans require patients to get their specialty pharmacy prescriptions filled through a PBM – and Medicare DIR (direct and indirect remuneration) fees made it very challenging to cost effectively fill specialty scripts for Medicare patients. 

These reimbursement challenges can certainly be deflating – to a business owner’s drive and to a pharmacy’s bottom line. Overcoming challenges like these takes grit, determination and a good amount of networking and creativity. 

For example, Melody got to work, researching the Federal 340B Drug Pricing Program — which allows healthcare organizations that serve a disproportionate number of uninsured and low-income patients to access outpatient medications at discounted prices.  When she realized that 340B prescriptions aren’t impacted by Medicare DIR fees, she started actively pursuing opportunities to fill specialty prescriptions for patients served by local healthcare providers who participate in the 340B program.

Melody’s diligence in finding a way to grow her specialty business has also paid off in other ways. Filling 340B prescriptions provides Melody and her team the chance to make a meaningful difference in the lives of low-income patients who are dealing with chronic and often life-threatening diseases – patients who can really benefit from a personal, face-to-face relationship with a community pharmacist they trust.  

  • Up-front investments can yield faster, long-term growth

“When we started our specialty pharmacy business, we started small. We took the opposite route when opening our LTC pharmacy,” said Melody. “We made big investments, up front, into all the equipment we’d need to grow our LTC business, fast.”

For Melody, that meant a $400,000 investment in a medication packaging robot; and the investment in a full time marketer to promote Alps Long Term Care Pharmacy directly to local nursing homes and assisted living facilities. And, just as networking first inspired Melody to expand into specialty and LTC, she has found that it’s been instrumental in growing both of those businesses, too. For example, when she attended the Missouri Assisted Living Association Conference, she met a local psychiatrist with whom she created an alliance, to fill his patients’ prescriptions and offer hands-on services to support medication compliance.

The Cardinal Health Women in Pharmacy initiative brings together female pharmacists like Melody – from all career stages – to share ideas, seek inspiration and develop mentoring relationships that can empower them to grow their businesses and their careers. To learn more about getting involved with the Women in Pharmacy initiative, contact womeninpharmacy@cardinalhealth.com or visit www.cardinalhealth.com/womeninpharmacy.

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This Is Not a Post About a Life-Disrupting Virus…And It’s Not About a Couch

We bought a couch!

What an exciting event in an adult’s life, right?  When you think about it, for most families, this only happens a few times. I can still remember the gold couch my parents passed down to me in college. Later when I rented my first studio apartment, my first purchase was a ‘deluxe’ futon. Buying a couch is a special event because we can all bond over having our fair share of hand-me-down couches and convertible sofas.

Buying a couch, in a style and colors that you choose, says something to the world. It says, I have a job! It says, I am ready for company and cozy evenings! It says, I am graduating to another level in adulthood! Why can’t adults have milestones, too?

But this is not a post about a couch. It’s about a family, who in a very simple and complex way, got lost. We drifted from our couch. Being busy became the new norm, we hit bottom, and we had to find our way back to the couch.

Let me take you back to the Fall, loooonnnng before we knew anything about a life-disrupting virus.

Our family is comprised of 2 parents with fulfilling careers, 2 school aged active children, and 1 very large lap dog named Rufus.

We work hard and play hard. We love funny TV shows, family movie nights, and sharing sections of the Tribune on lazy Sunday mornings. 

We also love to be active. All four of us play sports and produce way more laundry than necessary. When our kids were smaller, my husband and I had been very careful not to overextend ourselves. Up until recently, we had been very good about setting boundaries and only signing the kids up for 1-2 activities. We used to have the kind of balance that all of those parenting articles suggest.

Without much warning, our little darlings started having opinions and interests outside of our parameters. None of the parenting books tell you what to do when your child says their interested in everything!

I don’t have to tell you that we were weak and we allowed them to sign up for an embarrassing number of activities each last Fall. The park district staff all recognize me. I’m the one with the purse full of snacks. I’m the one on her laptop trying to send more one email while they swim and skate their laps. I’m the one hustling in the lobby for carpool deals. We were busy every night of the week and most weekends. We stopped watching TV; we rarely had time for family movie night, and we watched the Sunday Tribune form a pile in the corner of the dining room. In early November, we hit our breaking point. We became burned out. It wasn’t fun anymore. My son said, ‘Do we really have to go tonight? I just need a break.’ So we made a pact – we would finish Fall, and take back downtime. Take back couch time.

We only had one problem. Our couch was terrible. 

Let me explain.  

Have you ever had a beater car? A car that only exists to bring you from Point A to Point B? A car that isn’t really your style because you just need it to function?

Well a close friend gave us some advice before we had kids. He pulled us in close and said, ‘You don’t need a beater car, you need a beater couch.’ And boy was he right!

A couch that could withstand the daily abuse of 2 overtired parents, 2 small kids, and 1 large lap dog. A couch that isn’t really your style but you just need it to function? 

Needless to say, we took his advice and 11 years later, our couch really deserved retirement. It wasn’t even comfortable anymore. You would sit on it and your whole body became angry. My husband refused to use it and Rufus chose the floor.

It was time for a new couch. 

We discussed layouts and colors. We made critical decisions like: how big is too big and is surround sound really important? [sidenote: yes, apparently, it is].

We decided to try for a Black Friday deal. We asked the grandparents to babysit and my husband and I mapped out a list of stores, coupons in hand. We had a plan. We were going to get a new couch.

After shopping at the stores and sitting on all of the couches, we found one! It’s a beautiful, long gray couch with chaise at one end. I don’t have to tell you that we fell in love with the most expensive couch we tried at the only store that wasn’t offering a black Friday deal. We chose quality and comfort over getting a good price. We explained to the kids that instead of a family vacation this year, we would enjoy year-round comfort away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. I’m not sure they’re convinced. [sidenote: until recently]

Winter break was amazing. All of our activities halted, except for ice hockey because that rink never closes [exception: life-disrupting viruses]. We lounged. We napped. We snuggled. We watched movies and played video games and made memories. Don’t get me wrong – there were plenty of fights, especially over who gets the chaise, but for the first time in a long time, we relaxed. Even Rufus joined us.

Buying a couch made me think about parenting and the privilege to sign up for multiple activities. Buying a couch reminded me of how lucky we are to have 2 healthy kids who want to be off the couch. Buying a couch made me incredibly thankful that our savings didn’t need to go towards a new furnace or appliances. Buying a couch made me question, Who are we kidding? We may fall into the same busy trap. After all, we want our kids to be involved. To fall in love with an activity or an art. We want to be active adults, too. I surmise that when we hit our breaking point again, at least we’ll have a comfy place to land. [sidenote: or when we encounter life-disrupting viruses].

This is not a post about a couch. It’s about a family who got lost and found their way back to their couch.    Well, at least until next Fall.

Brooke Griffin

Be.superheroic@gmail.com

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An Interview with medical affairs and medical science liaison leader Dr.Monica Gautam

  1. What is your current role?  

After a long, successful career as a leader in the biopharmaceutical industry at Amgen Canada, I became an entrepreneur. Currently, I am the president and owner of COMPASS Medical Affairs Consulting Inc and Co-founder of Medical Affairs Canada. I also teach at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto.

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

I completed my BSc in Pharmacy from Dalhousie University in Halifax then worked as a community pharmacist for a few years. I then went on to complete my PharmD at the University of Toronto at a time when there were less than 20 PharmD graduates in Canada. Afterward, I worked at the Hospital for Sick Children and set up the pharmacy services for dialysis and Nephrology.

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

Above any specific skill, I believe being honest, transparent and authentic is important to establish credible, trusting relationships. In my opinion, being kind and willing to assist others are investments that will always be beneficial.

Creative problem solving has been a skill that I have developed over the years and continue to utilize daily. It has helped me immensely in strategic functional and brand planning, team leadership and as an entrepreneur focused on uncovering and addressing biopharmaceutical companies’ complex problems.

Communication (verbal, written and active listening) has been critical in every role I have had over my 25-year career. It is an essential skill to establish meaningful, professional relationships, to effectively navigate difficult conversations and to positively influence others. As an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Toronto and instructor at Medical Affairs Canada, being able to be an engaging presenter and to effectively tell memorable stories, help learners understand new concepts and master content.

Flexibility and resilience have been important skills, especially during ambiguous times as a business owner and innovator. Being able to quickly adapt to new situations and bounce back from setbacks and disappointments are essential to move my ideas forward and have the courage to take risks.

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

Over the past 3 years through COMASS Medical Affairs, I have been involved in several national Medical Science Liaison (MSL) Benchmarking initiatives to characterize operational norms, trends and challenges within Canadian biopharmaceutical companies.

Recently, Medical Affairs Canada partnered with the ACMA to bring BCMAS certification to Canadian experts. Additionally, I am continuing to develop engaging and practical training to develop industry knowledge and critical skills for Medical Affairs professionals. We recently launched the Accelerated Training Program as well as a contract Medical Affairs service. Forging new ground at a national level can be daunting at times, but more importantly, it is exciting and truly addresses a need in the marketplace.

  1. What are the 3 predictions you have for the pharmaceutical industry in the next 10 years?
    1. Medications will become increasingly complex and personalized
    2. Machine learning to identify new medications or therapeutic options
    3. Big data will be essential to enable outcome-based patient care
  1. What has been one of the bigger setbacks in your career, and what lessons did you learn from that?

Several years ago, I was asked to take on a field-based management role and I really didn’t understand the need for me to make a lateral career move as I felt I was ready for the more senior opportunity. I saw this as a setback and reluctantly accepted the opportunity.

What I did not realize at the time, was that senior leaders had a career plan for me that was beyond my own expectations. This was a very important lesson and one that stays with me today. I was stuck on achieving my own plan at my pace and failed to slow down and be open to different opportunities. I learned that no experience is a bad experience and that lateral moves within a business are an essential way to increase your professional value.

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

I am most proud of my decisions to move from hospital clinical practice to the biopharmaceutical industry as well as the decision to start my own companies. These stand out to me because I had the courage to take a risk while I was happy with my role in order to explore a completely new career path. I did this without the fear of failure.

As I reflect on my career, I am also proud of being able to grow a high functioning and well-respected Medical Affairs team from 4 to almost 40 professionals. Above all else, I am honored to have mentored many individuals and helped to launch and develop the careers of so many wonderful and talented people.

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

Pharmacy is such a wonderful profession and offers such diverse career opportunities. However, when I was a new graduate, the career path I expected to follow was not the same as the one I achieved, mainly because I was unaware of all the possibilities.  I now have the great fortune to regularly interact with pharmacy students, residents and recent graduates. I urge them to seek mentorship, explore their options, be willing to try new things and take calculated risks. Finally, I strongly encourage them to explore and understand their differentiating interests, talents, and strengths and to create and practice their personal value story.  You have to be your own advocate!

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

To me, being a woman in pharmacy is more than just being able to balance career and family. It is about having the confidence in my clinical skills to be willing to learn and develop related business skills. The combination of clinical and business is powerful and can lead to many challenging and highly fulfilling pharmacy career options. Sharing my career stories and learnings may inspire other women in this profession and to me that is a success.

  1. What is your favorite quote?

 “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

  1. How has becoming a BCMAS impacted your career? 

I just recently earned BCMAS and I am so excited to be a part of setting a high standard of excellence for Medical Affairs professionals. I believe the full impact of BCMAS and the goals of Medical Affairs Canada have not yet been realized which is exciting for the future!

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Guidelines for Pharmacists in Community Pharmacy

COVID-19 Pharmacist Moms Group Special Task Force

TASK FORCE COMMITTEE

  • Hillary Blackburn, PharmD, MBA 
  • Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
  • Brooke Griffin, PharmD, BCACP
  • Sandra Leal, PharmD, MPH, CDE, FAPhA
  • Bhavana Mutha, RPh, BCMAS
  • Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS 

TASK FORCE GUIDELINES

Background

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are front-line access points for patients in the medication use process. They calmly fulfill their roles optimizing medications at every juncture of the health care journey; yet, in times of an unprecedented medical crisis, pharmacists also need to care for themselves and their teams. Their vitality is crucial in order to keep providing high-quality direct patient care to their beloved communities. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Report, the public is most likely to trust health care professionals and authorities — like doctors and hospitals and the World Health Organization (WHO) — to handle the virus effectively, followed by employers. Pharmacists are in a great position as one of the most trusted and accessible healthcare professionals to help educate patients about coronavirus. Staying up-to-date with CDC and WHO guidelines are imperative to provide the most accurate drug information to patients and other healthcare professionals.

Guidance

The Pharmacist Moms Group put together a multi-stakeholder Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) task force, including community, health-system, industry, academia, and associations to create a guidance document for pharmacists who are providing direct patient care in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The following measures are intended to protect the pharmacy team and their immediate families from spreading COVID-19.

The following are recommendations of the task force:  

  • Operations: 
      1. It is highly recommended to temporarily halt in-person pharmacy transactions if possible. Limiting contact to drive-through, delivery, or curbside service, if available, is also highly recommended. 
      2. For in-person pharmacy interactions, it is best to maintain at least a 6-foot distance with patients, when possible.
      3. Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your face. (https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html)
      4. If available, use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and a mask (any protection is better than no protection).
      5. Disinfect all surfaces frequently including door handles, credit card machines, and counters.
      6. Keep the door of the pharmacy closed or limit the number of customers in the store at the same time.
      7. Do not touch the keypad at the pharmacy until it is disinfected. Encourage patients to complete their entire keypad transactions themselves. If the patient requests help, wear gloves for any keypad assistance.
      8. Provide proper spacing between patients. Make sure patients are 6 feet apart. 
  • Personnel:
      1. Create back-up personnel plans if team members are not able to come to work.
        1. Be aware of how to contact any floater pools for your company (pharmacists or technicians).
        2. Identify local “PRN” staffing companies in your local area and establish a connection before you need one.
        3. Inquire management about procedures when there are work absences
        4. If possible, consider hiring a temporary part-time cashier.
  • Encourage Patients to: 
      1. Use a drive-through, delivery, or curbside service, if available.
      2. Use their own pen when signing for a pick-up of a prescription. 
      3. Obtain 90-day fills and med sync to avoid additional trips to the pharmacy.
  • At the end of the workday: 
    1. Wash your hands before leaving the pharmacy.
    2. Use hand sanitizer when you enter your vehicle.
    3. When you come home from the pharmacy remove your shoes and change your clothing before entering the main living areas in order to protect your family. Wash and disinfect your clothing and hampers as per CDC guidelines.
    4. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as soon as you come home after removing clothing.
  Additional Guidance:
  • Stay informed of the COVID-19 outbreaks and status in your area.
  • Stay up-to-date on the management of COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html
  •  Be flexible with other pharmacies who are low in supplies and with patients who are requesting transfers.
  • Be aware of other local pharmacy’s actions (change in hours, precautions, etc).
  • Create an emergency contact list for who needs to be reached if the pharmacy is exposed that includes the state board of pharmacy.
  • Communicate with your pharmacy team and patients about any updates – do not assume they are aware as recommendations are changing rapidly.
  • Help your pharmacy team and patients understand their upper respiratory symptoms. Fever, cough and difficulty breathing should require them to stay at home.
  • Create a list of back-up child care and reach out to them before you need it. 
  • Think about your own wellness. What does that mean to you? Now is the time to ask for support from friends and family. Enlist the help of businesses that could supply meals and groceries. Outsource tasks that would cause additional stress (yard work, house maintenance, dog-walking). Make sure to take breaks at work to eat, try to get enough sleep, and exercise when you can.
National Resources
  • U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest federal disaster loans up to $2 million to manage revenue loss and expenses in states that have declared a state of emergency. https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19
  • WiFi. Some companies have announced that they will offer free WiFi services to help cope with education, work, and health needs. Using a search engine, search “Free WiFi COVID-19” for companies in your area. https://www.everyoneon.org/find-offers

Other Resources (variable by state): http://www.211.org/services/covid19

·        Unemployment Benefits & Utility Service Assistance
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Owning an Independent is Possible with Financing from First Financial Bank

Interested in opening up an independent pharmacy but not sure about financing options? Suzy Soliman, Founder of Pharmacist Moms, sat down with Drew Hegi of First Financial Bank, to discuss Pharmacy Ownership Opportunities.

SUZY: Hi everybody! Welcome to this week’s episode of Live with Pharmacists Moms. I am super excited to have Drew Hegi here.  He is from First Financial Bank and he is going to introduce himself to you guys.

I was really interested to have someone come on and talk about independent pharmacy and talk a little bit more about different career paths that pharmacists can take, different opportunities that are out there. I think it is really timely. So let’s welcome Drew to our show.   

DREW: Thanks Suzy, good be here. Glad to be part of the show. 

SUZY: Thank you. Why don’t you introduce yourself to everyone and give them a little bit of your background? 

 

DREW: Sure. So Drew Hegi, as you said, I am a loan officer for First Financial Bank which is a small community bank that is based in Arkansas. I live in Jackson, MS,  and I am a loan officer in the pharmacy division so that means I work exclusively on pharmacy loans and help independent community pharmacists obtain financing for their businesses and have been doing this for the past 8 years so it’s been a good run. 

SUZY:  That’s nice. So it is interesting that you are not a lender but also a pharmacy owner, right? 

DREW: Yeah that’s true. I am more of a silent partner in the businesses that I own, but I have had a specialty pharmacy for the past seven years and recently I started a retail pharmacy this past April that’s coming up on a year. So I  have those two businesses with business partners, and they have been going well. It has been extremely helpful in my day to day working with pharmacists. It provides that perspective and I may see things differently dealing with some of the opportunities and challenges. So yes… definitely I’m a  pharmacy owner as well. 

SUZY: I think that’s great because that is a unique opportunity for anyone who is interested essentially in owning a pharmacy, that you have that experience you can serve as a different kind of resource, different kind of lender since you have experience owning a pharmacy.

Now you have family members that are pharmacists too right? 

DREW: Yes, my sister-in-law is a pharmacist and my best friend from college, Wade, is a pharmacist. My best friend from college did not want to work for a chain (ie Walgreens or CVS) and had a background in home infusion,  and so we started a home infusion specialty pharmacy with my brother and Wade. Wade is a pharmacy manager there and my sister-in-law works at the store as well. The three of us are business partners and we expanded from there. So pharmacy had been a part of my life.

SUZY: That is great. I believe this is really helpful especially for people who might have questions about pharmacy ownership and partners, etc.. Can you show how someone who is maybe interested in opening up their own pharmacy how they can start?  I can start with my own path. In 2015, I was looking to open up an independent. I had to move out to the east coast from the midwest, and I was looking to do something different. I knew I needed a small business administration (SBA) loan and did apply and eventually got one to help open my pharmacy.  For me, affordability was the biggest obstacle.  How am I going to do this, and how would one get started with this, you know especially if they didn’t even realize financing was an option.  

DREW: It is a unique industry.  Pharmacy has some complexities that make it more challenging to obtain financing for various reasons. Small business administration loans are a great fit for pharmacy because of leasing your space which is the most typical. You also have drug inventory, shelves, and computers, but from a tangible standpoint, there’s really not a lot within a pharmacy that is very valuable from a bank perspective. Most of your value is from your customer, your patients, your goodwill which I believe is tangible. 

So SBA offers banks sort of a collateral supplement guarantee, a large portion of the loan, and it makes the loans more doable for banks because there’s not that collateral shortfall. First Financial Bank is a preferred SBA lender which means we do have a long history of doing SBA Loans in a variety of different industries and we take that experience and couple it with our pharmacy division. We built a team that understands a little bit of pharmacy. So we feel like we bring sort of a strong approach to help independent pharmacies to get started. 

We have SBA expertise which a lot of banks don’t.  Also, we have a vision that focuses on community pharmacy. I have ownership experience so I can always help and coach people in the way that I’ve seen it done personally or through other customers. So that’s where I’ll start if you are thinking about getting into pharmacy ownership. I will find a bank that understands what you are aiming to do and use as many resources as I can to gain knowledge so you take the right steps to get started. Obviously, it is just financing can be hard to obtain so find a bank that is willing to with you as key we can start the process from here but that’s sort of what makes unique from a lenkes 

SUZY: Can you tell our listeners what an SBA (small business association) loan is and how that can be different from any other loan that can be taken? 

DREW:  So it looks similar. It is a 10-year term and typical repayment. There is no prepayment penalty. It has a very reasonable interest rate. It is backed by the Federal government. It is a program that the government puts out there to help small businesses. Essentially, you are doing exactly what that program is intended for when you get an SBA Loan to start businesses help your local economy. 

It is more difficult to get a conventional loan locally because of the lack of collateral with independent pharmacy so if you can get locally great. If not, I would move into a preferred SBA lender that has pharmacy experience such as First Financial Bank Blogphoto3.4.20great partner it is a great fit  all the way around for pharmacies 

SUZY: I think that having a bank that focuses on pharmacy is so important because you guys understand pharmacy, so when you open up a pharmacy especially from scratch it is critical to work with someone who understands pharmacy.  Can we discuss the difference between opening a pharmacy from scratch and purchasing one that already exists? 

DREW: That is a big question that we often receive. “Is it better to start a pharmacy from scratch like you mentioned or  is it better to buy an existing one”? The answer to that question is that it depends, every market is different, every situation is different. 

I have experienced starting two stores personally, and we also helped a ton of those other pharmacists start their own pharmacy and end up very successful. Of course, the riskiest thing that we can loan money to is a start up. It is just because you are starting at zero prescriptions from day one. You hope to build and gain momentum and you hope it rams up but you don’t know that and so you can mitigate your risk by purchasing an exciting store that has a good cash flow that’s doing 200-300 prescriptions a day and you know what you are getting at this point. 

If you can find a store to buy, even if it is going to cost you more money, you’re still gonna pay it off in 10 years. You know you are buying a business that is going to cover the loan payment for you. It is not like we are asking you if you are borrowing a million dollars that you have to pay it back personally it’s all about the business. An average start up loan is around four hundred and fifty thousand dollars usually with the pharmacist owner brings in about fifty thousand dollars of cash and put that into themselves so you have around half a million to work with. 

Your average acquisition deal, if you are buying an existing store,approximately a million and half to two million and can go all the way up to 5 million which is the SBA cap.   There are some stores out there that do have enough value and are worth 4-5 million, and we are fine with that but it depends. It is important to get your valuation correct, but I think both can be successful. 

If you  have the opportunity to buy an existing store that may be safer you are not gonna put your family at as much of a risk as if you are doing a startup; however, I have seen plenty of start ups do really really well. 

SUZY: Exactly, I think it depends on the area too, your location. So I started one from scratch and it was definitely nerve-wrecking.  Day one you open and you are like “wait we only filled four prescriptions today” but you know you eventually it does build up and I think you made a great point when the owner comes to the table with fifty thousand dollars so you really get the rest financed.  

I think a lot of pharmacists I know, even myself, I was not aware of the financing option which helps to open the door for many of us. I thought I would have to come with all this cash on my own or borrow from family or friends because I didn’t think a bank would back up a new pharmacy.  

DREW:  There are some opportunities right now going on in a lot of different markets toward starting a pharmacy and they can really be a home run with the way (chain) stores are buying independents.  Oftentimes that may open up opportunities for independents to open back up and capture some of those customers who prefer independents. A lot of stores started back up to filling that void for any independents who were purchased.  You want to have that strong business plan. You have to have done your homework as why would people enter your store if you’re gonna start one because you’re gonna do that 4 prescriptions the first day and how you gonna look up in 12 months and be doing 104 prescriptions is key.

SUZY:  Exactly, when you can get to that magic number 100, it is critical!

So tell us a little bit about the structure of your bank? Where are you guys located ? Do you have to be located in your state to get the loan to work with you guys tell us more about your bank?

DREW: We are a community bank so it is nice that you are dealing with a loan officer without a lot of layers in terms of a relationship manager and others.  We are structured that a loan officer sticks with the pharmacists, the buyers, the borrower from start to finish even when the loan closes. It is easy with just one phone number, one email that you need to sort of manage your relationship with your lending institution. 

Our pharmacy division has 4 people. We have a director, wholesaler, and two loan officers.  

SUZY: So anyone can live anywhere and work with you?

DREW: Yes, it doesn’t matter where you live.  The world is small today because of technology. We can collect all the information we need over email and do it this way. We do a site visit to make sure the store looks good. We want to lay eyes on where your location is and for the most part you call me and we get the process started.  We are a nation wide SBA pharmacy lender. 

SUZY: That’s great. How can someone contact you if they are interested in learning more?

DREW: Our website is FFB1.com or just call me or email us. We are quick to follow up and we can tell you if it is a good fit as far as working with us and what you want to accomplish or if there is a better option. We are in this industry so we love to work with everybody. We understand that we may not be the perfect fit for everybody so we will give you what might be the best fit if it is not us. 

SUZY: This is great information. I think it is valuable for all the pharmacists who are looking for something different, trying to do something on their own, or trying to buy a pharmacy. For example, they might be working in a pharmacy and thinking about actually buying the pharmacy as well. 

I would like to ask you an additional question,  probably a little more personal. What is your favorite thing about ownership? 

DREW: Since we started the retail end, it is definitely the community impact. We started  with a closed door (home infusion) which is a great business and very interesting. It is a great service to give to patients when they are out of the hospital and allow them to get their medications in the comfort of their own home and it is a better alternative than being  in a hospital. The retail has definitely been community involvement. It is how people just stop in to say thank you for starting that retail pharmacy because some chains do not provide the same service or experience. They appreciate the service and the friendliness that the staff provides. That’s been rewarding.

 Also it is just the fact that you have control of your own destiny is something great. When you work for a lot of chain environments  and there is wage depreciation, this is easier to control. Of course, you can hear how pharmacists are getting paid now $40 per hour you sort of just take all that and push it out and say no we are going to own our own store and can do things differently. We can take care of patients the right way and it just feels like the way pharmacy should be done. 

SUZY: Yes, you want to do it the way you want it done and you do not have someone telling you how to run it which no one tells you what to do and what not to do.

DREW:   I think there are different challenges that you might not have seen 4 or 5 years ago, but I feel like there is still some good in the horizon as well. So I still strongly believe in independent pharmacy and the advantages it  can provide for both your family and your career,

SUZY: I 100% agree with everything you said today. Thank you so much for doing this episode with us.  We would love to have you back again. I’m sure we’re going to have questions from the group so I will send you any questions we receive. 

DREW: I am looking forward to answering all of the questions. We enjoy helping people.  We are happy to provide any follow up.

SUZY: Perfect thank you Drew.  

DREW: Thanks Suzy. 

First Financial Bank is one of the nation’s leading small business lenders, originating over $250M in pharmacy loans over the last few years. Their lending team has over 80 years of pharmacy experience and includes pharmacists and current/former pharmacy owners. They have the industry-specific expertise and knowledge to help you finance your pharmacy.

 

As a preferred Small Business Administration (SBA) lender, they offer financing solutions to help practicing pharmacists meet a wide range of business needs:

  • Acquisition & Real Estate
  • Equipment financing
  • Expansion & remodeling
  • Business refinancing
  • Start-up loans

 

Contact them today at www.ffb1.com or find them on social @PharmacyLender.

Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.

 

  

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Letter to the Editor: New York Times

 

The Pharmacist Moms Group is comprised of 32,000+ women pharmacists in the United States, the largest in the country.  The group works to advocate for women in the pharmacy profession. As founder of Pharmacist Moms, I support the views expressed in the recent New York Times article written by Ellen Gabler and stand behind it.

We strongly feel that patient safety may be compromised due to the overly stressful working conditions at chain pharmacies. Pharmacists work in difficult and demanding conditions and are often unable to voice concerns over patient safety. In an effort to support full transparency, we are asking chain pharmacies to publish all of their metrics for calculating pharmacist and technician hours and ultimately error rates. We also encourage pharmacies to publish how many prescriptions are filled each month and how much staff they have so that patients can make an informed decision as to which pharmacies provide adequate staffing to suit their needs.

In addition, the larger issue that must be explored is the fees pharmacies are paying PBMs. The PBMs are ultimately putting patients at risk. Pharmacists need to be paid when they render a service rather than for dispensing medication.

Pharmacist Moms has reached out to CVS and other chain pharmacies on multiple occasions over the past year, simply asking them to provide a stool for all pregnant pharmacists, who often work 12-hour shifts (standing and without a break), and we have not yet received any response.*  Many other pharmacy chains do not provide a place for pregnant women to sit or for nursing women to breastfeed and have yet to respond to the needs of our 32,000+ women pharmacists.

In 2020, this is simply unacceptable.

*exception HyVee Pharmacy

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Pharmacy Ownership: Today and Tomorrow?

The last thing on your mind when you open or take ownership of a pharmacy is, “What do I do when I want to get out of ownership?” This doesn’t have to be your first thought, but it shouldn’t be your last! This thought process is known as succession planning.  Let’s explore this…

A large number of pharmacists never put much thought into their succession plan. Most of them run their pharmacy on a day-to-day, year-to-year basis. This is fine, but not thinking about your exit strategy can lead to a lot of frustration and headaches down the road.

To get started with your own succession plan, simply about where you want to be this time next year. Now, what about five years? Do you still see yourself owning and running your pharmacy in ten years? What happens not if, but when, things change? More competition changes in regulation/ reimbursements, your health? As you think through your potential timeline, consider those unexpected changes. Once you find a time where you don’t see yourself as an owner, you can start planning backward from there.

Now that you have an idea of when you want to get out of the ownership, how do you see this happening? Do you want a complete sale or did you picture it as a slow earn-in arrangement or buy-out situation?

Most pharmacists end up doing a complete sale. The pharmacists that don’t thoughtfully plan their exit usually end up getting underpaid for their business. Those who do not have a succession can fall victim to a quick and or emotional, situational decision, and they want out now! This leads to making hasty and often ill-informed decisions. As we have all heard before, it usually is better to do it the right way, instead of right now. 

When it comes to a buy-out arrangement, this is often done by a partner or family member that also works for the pharmacy. These arrangements are usually drawn out over several years. Keep this in mind when planning your future – especially in the case of junior partnerships. Also, keep in mind that these deals can change or fall through at any moment. Don’t let this frustrate you and make you jump at the first sight of freedom and make a business decision. You will need to build this possibility into your succession plan. If things change and your plan falls through, what options remain? 

Next, of course, you want to make sure you have the correct value of your pharmacy. There is no “one size fits all” formula when it comes to the valuation of your pharmacy. Many different factors can affect the price of your pharmacy, some don’t even directly pertain to your business.

  • How are the community and population trending?
  • Does your area see growth? 
  • How many pharmacies are in the area?

If you do decide to cash-out and sell your pharmacy, get perspective from industry advisors. There are many groups that can help with the process and valuations: banks who know pharmacy, wholesaler transition groups, CPAS, etc. These groups will take these mentioned factors, and many others, and give you an average market price on your pharmacy.

Another time-consuming aspect that needs to be taken into consideration when selling is finding a buyer. Do you want to sell your business to another independent pharmacist or do you want to go with the big-name chain pharmacy? What does that choice mean for you, your employees, your community? Depending on your choice, it can take as little as a couple of weeks to find a buyer, or it can take years. This long stretch of searching, when you want out, can lead business owners to sell when the first offer comes their way. Make sure to give yourself adequate time to find a buyer that is willing to transfer ownership the way you’d like, while paying a competitive price for the business.

At this point, you should have a rough idea of how and when to start planning your exit strategy. Succession plans can be as flexible as you need them to be. If you change your mind, or things change and you want to move on sooner, you simply take your end plan and move the time frame forward. The same can be done if you want to remain an owner longer than you originally thought you would. 

As long as you have a plan, don’t get emotional or rush the process, and communicate well-you can set yourself, your staff, and patients up for a smooth transition.

If you or someone you know is interested in expanding, buying into, or opening their own private pharmacy, please contact First Financial Bank Pharmacy Lending team. With 80 years of combined pharmacy experience and a staff of current and former pharmacy owners, we know what it takes to run a pharmacy. You can Like/Follow us on social media @PharmacyLender or visit our website, www.ffb1.com/loans/pharmacy-loans/  to find more info resources. 

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Career and Mom Talk: Meet Suzanne!

Hello RxMoms!  I was very honored to interview Suzanne Feeney, who is a member of our group. Read on to hear her interesting career journey. She has a free trial offer for you and will be at the APhA meeting (go to her booth!). Connect with Suzanne and take advantage of her resources.

Know a pharmacy mom I should interview next? Email me: be.superheroic@gmail.com

  1. Tell us where you graduated from and where you worked right after graduation?

I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.  After graduation, I moved to Chicago and completed a PGY1 Community Pharmacy Residency program with Albertsons and the University of Illinois at Chicago.  My residency year was the cornerstone of my career.  I had amazing preceptors and was able to experience incredible opportunities.

After my residency, I accepted a position with Albertsons.  In this role, I was able to continue to partner on work that advanced community pharmacy practice across the country.  I had a split role where I spent about a quarter of my time staffing in a downtown Chicago store and the rest of my time working as an “MTM Pharmacist”.  Being an MTM Pharmacist meant I was assigned to about 20 stores on the South Side of Chicago to meet with patients and train pharmacies to provide services.

As an MTM Pharmacist, I was able to see patients for CMRs and monitoring (BPs, A1cs, and lipid panels) under an agreement where the pharmacy was reimbursed for my time.  I worked with prescribers to adjust medication regimens and also trained local pharmacists to provide services to their patient populations.  I loved this role!  It was a great job to have right out of my residency year. I learned so much about collaborating with patients and prescribers.  I really loved that I was able to split my time between patient care and training – I enjoyed sharing how to provide services within a workflow and by appointment with other pharmacy teams.  There is so much we can do within the community pharmacy setting to lead a fulfilling career and impact quality as well as patient outcomes and quality of life.  It’s something I remain passionate about to this day.

  1. Tell us about your current role and what led you here?

In my current role, I wear a few hats – which is part of what makes my career so much fun.  My passions are lifelong learning, improving care for patients and community pharmacy practice transformation.   What has lead me to my current role?  Following the work I’m passionate about.

Currently, I lead Business Development for CEImpact (https://www.ceimpact.com/), a pharmacy education company.   CEImpact provides continuing education, consulting services, learning management solutions, and learning experiences that engage pharmacy professionals and support their lifelong learning journey.  For the individual pharmacist and pharmacy technician, we really want to change the way CE is experienced.  We recently launched a product called qFriday that has received great feedback.  qFriday provides pharmacists a quick way to stay up-to-date weekly through case-based learning, the topics are current and have immediate application to your practice.  Here is access to a free trial for qFriday.  We are launching a community pharmacy education this spring and will be linking it to podcast education too. Lots of exciting ways to experience CE and I love being part of a company that is focused on creating a better experience.

I’m also a co-founder of ThriveSubscribe (https://www.tptransformations.com/).  ThriveSubscribe is specific to community pharmacy practice transformation and support.  We focus on guiding Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians in community practice to change by helping them discover their team’s capacity to practice patient-focused pharmacy, develop a new successful business model, regain purpose to a fulfilling professional career.  Last fall, we launched a podcast, ThriveSubscribe, that interviews community pharmacy leaders to share ideas, hope and best practices with our audiences.  We also have a free online community with peer-based resources and will be adding some master classes this spring.  I was involved in creating both concepts from the ground up.

We’ve also recently partnered as a consultant on the  Flip the Pharmacy initiative.  Flip the Pharmacy is about transforming community pharmacy practice to move beyond filling the prescription at a moment in time to ensure teams have the means to provide patient-level care over time. I help create the implementation guide, or Change Package, by partnering with subject matter experts and practice transformation leaders across the country.

 

  1. If a pharmacist was interested in this type of career, what kind of skills/training would they need?

For someone to be successful in a role like mine – they would need to be solution-oriented.  I have problems thrown at me all day – big and small.  I LOVE problem solving and innovation.  I have to be creative and have a growth mindset.  My mind never really turns off and is continuously open to possibilities and partnerships.  I do have to temper this quality to ensure I am realistic in my goals – something I’ve learned from many great mentors along the way.

Teamwork and strong communication is also critical to success.  And, to be in a role like mine, you can’t be afraid to fail – failure is what makes us better.  I’m also hopeful – and I think this is a need in a role like mine.  I use Brene Brown’s definition of hope, which doesn’t classify hope as an emotion but instead as “a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and belief in our own abilities”.

  1. Tell us about your kids – ages, activities, anything you want to share.

I am just so fortunate to have 2 great and healthy kids, they truly are the light of my life.  They both have big personalities but in very different ways.  It is so much fun being their mom!

My kids spent time in the NICU and that is really a tough thing.   Besides the obvious – how scary a NICU stay is – looking back you can see the impact it leaves. Being in the NICU is like being on a roller coaster all day long.  It was emotionally exhausting and I felt powerless in helping my children.  I didn’t really realize it at the time but the impact of my children’s NICU stays was really tough on me for years after – and going through it multiple times, well, it really just takes a toll.  I think we can do so much more to support moms who experience time in the NICU.  I hope to become more involved in change here in the future.  I saw an article not that long ago that links PTSD to parents who have been through NICU experiences – it really hit home for me.  My children received amazing care but I think, as the mom, I was a bit forgotten about. I’m not someone who asks for help (and that isn’t a good thing), so while my kids eventually thrived, it really changed me.  I am very thankful to have a strong support system.

  1. What was the best piece of advice you received from another working mom?

As a working mom, I don’t try to achieve balance – stresses me out too much because I’ll never get there.  Instead, I try to focus on each task, activity, person or event I’m engaged with at the moment and let the rest go.  It’s working for now!

A friend of mine introduced me to Brene Brown’s work a few years ago. Something that stuck out for me from her work is to be mindful.  I’m quoting directly from her work here because this is so powerful for me and something I try to live by each day (because I’m not perfect and that’s ok).

Take a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.  Mindfulness requires that we not “over-identify” with thoughts and feelings so that we are caught up and swept away by negativity.

 

  1. Where can we connect with you?

I’d love to connect!  Find me on LinkedIn!  https://www.linkedin.com/in/suzanne-feeney-cei/

Or send me an email – Suzanne@ceimpact.com

I’ll also be at APhA this year and would love to see you at our ThriveSubscribe booth – stop by, say hello and introduce yourself!

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The Medical Device Industry: A frontier for pharmacists that Regina is taking head-on

 

 

What is your current role?  I am a Consultant at BD in their UXD department within the Medication Management Division (MMS) focusing on Human Factors Engineering.

Where did you go to school and what was your background/training? I received my PharmD from the University of the Sciences (USP) and my MBA from Northeastern University (NEU). I also received a certificate in Nuclear Pharmacy at Purdue University.

What are some of the important skills that someone in your role must possess? Being able to pull from my knowledge base in Medical Affairs,   Regulatory and Informatics has proven beneficial in my current role.

What are some of the biggest initiative(s) that you are working on? I’m working on Human Factors work for MDR, 510K, MDSAP.

What are 3 predictions you have for the pharmaceutical industry in the next 10 years? The pharmaceutical world is evolving and I believe that in 10 years personalized medicine will be the norm, Device/EMR integration will be more seamless and there will better data management solutions that will result in better patient outcomes.

What has been one of the bigger setbacks in your career, and what lessons did you learn from that? One of my biggest setbacks has been not being able to make that leap from middle-management to senior management in Pharma despite my interest in leading, my experience and education. I learned that I had to look inward and work on certain areas in order to be catapulted into a senior leadership position. Also, being a mom I realize the importance of work-life balance.

Tell us about some of the biggest successes in your career and why are you most proud of them? I’m proud to have launched Clinicians Touch Healthcare Solutions. I’m most proud of this because I’ve always wanted to be an Independent Business Owner, and being able to offer services in the areas that I’m so passionate about,  is a reward in itself. I’ve based Clinicians Touch on the 3 Tiers of my expertise:  Clinical Informatics, Regulatory, and Medical Affairs. To me, these disciplines intersect a lot and will continue to do so as we move to the next generation of patient care.

What is some advice that you would tell your younger self or other pharmacists starting their careers? I would tell my younger self and others to keep an open mind, listen to those who may be trying to mentor you and give back through volunteerism.

What does being a woman in pharmacy mean to you? Being a woman, and a woman of color brings a perspective that can help to inform the science of pharmacy and patient care in ways that are not maybe traditionally thought of. This is extremely important, nonetheless given that we now compete in the global emerging markets where women and people of color play a great part.

What is your favorite quote? Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail- Ralph Waldo Emerson

How has becoming a BCMAS impacted your career? I only recently became Certified in Medical Affairs and so far, it has solidified my knowledge in Medical Affairs. I think it also adds to my credibility and I market myself as a subject matter expert in this area. I am looking forward to what the future holds as a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist.