Blogs: Focus on Current Thinking

Establishing Opportunities for Entrepreneurship in Pharmacy

Published Online: Wednesday, August 6, 2014
When pharmacists analyze and categorize their strengths, does entrepreneurship ever make the list?

Entrepreneurs are usually viewed as individuals who take substantial risks to go out and start new companies, but most pharmacists go to work for entities that are already established, such as a community pharmacy or hospital. Such positions are generally considered safe, as they promise a steady paycheck and continued employment. For that reason, entrepreneurship is not commonly listed among a pharmacist’s skill sets.

I recently read The Start-up of You, a book written by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and author Ben Casnocha that starts off with a quote from Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is famous for utilizing microfinancing to help jump-start individual businesses. In his quote, Yunus points out that all human beings were self-employed at the start of human history, but that entrepreneurship was suppressed as civilized societies were formed.

In today’s career landscape, the stability once offered by employers is no longer there. While there are many factors influencing the potential for unemployment, the advance of technology and the use of low-paid employees like pharmacy technicians are the biggest threats to the current pharmacy field. Assuredly, their implementation will shake up the traditional employment needs and model of pharmacy practice.

If you are concerned that these elements are a threat to your career ambitions, then you should ensure you have the skills to prepare for the changing delivery model of health care. As Hoffman and Casnocha write in their book, “If you want to seize the new opportunities and meet the challenges of today’s fractured career landscape, you need to think and act like you’re running a start-up. The conditions in which entrepreneurs start and grow companies are the conditions we all now live in when fashioning a career.”

I believe that pharmacists should view themselves as entrepreneurs throughout their career development. To do so, I suggest incorporating the following 3 recommendations mentioned in the book:
  1. Be paranoid. All great leaders fear that they are one day away from losing their edge or business. Technologies that can impact your standing are being developed and people who can do your job cheaper or better are being trained, so what you offer your employer or customer might not be needed in the future. This scenario should generate fear that drives you to keep changing and learning new things. Staying paranoid will keep your knowledge, skills, and abilities sharp and competitive, as well as prepare you for whatever the future has in store.
  2. Remember that all decisions have risk. Some people say they do not want to become entrepreneurs because making the decision to join a start-up is risky, but they fail to realize that there is also risk in maintaining their current lifestyle and position. All of us are one decision away from not being needed or from getting replaced with someone better or cheaper. Thus, there is risk in staying in a current position, just as there is risk in taking a new one.
  3. Find mentors. Each of us should have a network of individuals with whom we can discuss new opportunities. Engaging with those who have different backgrounds and experiences, in addition to those who are doing what you want to do, is important for achieving success.
Pharmacists need to view themselves as entrepreneurs and examine their individual careers as start-up companies. Those who do so will be prepared to succeed in the future delivery model of health care and achieve professional satisfaction.

I would appreciate any insights you might have on this perspective. You can let me know what you think by email at
Stephen F. Eckel, PharmD, MHA, Pharmacy Times Health-System Edition Editor
Blog Info
Stephen Eckel is an avid reader on issues impacting the practice of health-system pharmacy. His writings discuss recent articles or books he has read, with perspectives on how they relate to the current practice of health-system pharmacy. He enjoys hearing feedback from readers of his work, even if they do not agree with his opinions.
Author Bio
Stephen Eckel received his bachelor of science in pharmacy and doctor of pharmacy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed a pharmacy practice residency at Duke University Medical Center and then joined UNC Hospitals as a clinical pharmacist. Eckel also holds a master's of health care administration from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Eckel is a clinical associate professor in the Division of Practice Advancement and Clinical Education and is the division's vice chair for graduate and postgraduate education. He is also director of graduate studies and is in charge of the 2-year master of science program in pharmaceutical sciences with a specialization in health-system pharmacy administration, which is hosted at multiple sites across North Carolina. He is associate director of pharmacy and director of pharmacy residency programs at UNC Hospitals, where he leads and develops a dynamic group of patient-care providers. He has worked with almost 200 residents in his career. Eckel is a board certified pharmacotherapy specialist.

As an innovator and entrepreneur, Eckel spearheaded the development of UNC Pharmacy Grand Rounds with ASHP and launched ChemoGLO LLC with Bill Zamboni, PharmD, PhD. He is the editor of the health-system edition of Pharmacy Times and a passionate supporter of the role of the pharmacist in patient care. He regularly publishes his research and is frequently asked to speak around the world on these issues.

Eckel has also been very active in the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists. He has been elected chair of the Acute Care Practice Forum and a board member. He has served many years in the ASHP House of Delegates. He was also the chair of the ASHP Council of Pharmacy Practice from 2009 to 2010. His is a Fellow of ASHP and APhA.
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