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Focus on Current Thinking: Nurturing Pharmacy Innovators

Stephen F. Eckel, PharmD, MHA, BCPS, FASHP, FAPhA
Published Online: Thursday, November 1, 2012

The goal of this new section of Pharmacy Times Health-System eNews is to share thought-provoking readings that I have encountered and explore their relevance to pharmacists and the practice of pharmacy. I have always believed that it is important to regularly conduct “environmental scans” in order to recognize changes that are approaching on the horizon and react to them before they catch you and your business by surprise.
 
The topic here is an article that was recently published in the American Journal of Pharmacy Education on innovation and adapting to changes in health care.1 While the article focuses on pharmacy education, innovation in all areas of health care is getting an increasing amount of attention. This article left me wondering whether pharmacy education is adequately preparing students for the future delivery model of pharmacy. An astute response to this concern would be that we have no idea how health care reform and other factors will impact us over the next few decades, so there is no way to prepare students for the precise details of their future practice. Indeed, my own career path supports this statement, as what I am doing currently is not what I originally thought I would do.
 
In recognizing this dynamic environment in which we work, our profession needs to make sure that we produce flexible, extroverted, and innovative communicators. While I wish that I could say this is the personality type currently drawn to the profession, years of personality tests administered to pharmacy students testify to the contrary.
 
If pharmacy attracted professionals who were willing to shift gears quickly, embrace the unknown, develop meaningful relationships with patients, and educate patients about their health care needs, we would be a long way toward developing a workforce capable of thriving in the future—no matter what it may hold. Schools of pharmacy have a responsibility to admit and train these types of students, but the workforce also has the responsibility to embrace these types of pharmacists and provide a professional environment in which they can thrive. This includes nurturing their creative ideas and allowing for them to be tested, in order to determine whether they can improve outcomes.
 
There is a growing body of literature on developing innovators in business and society more broadly, but there has so far been little discussion of how to develop innovators in pharmacy. Our profession has an opportunity to lead health care in this endeavor. We all need to be in it together, from educators to practitioners, to make sure pharmacy is positioned to succeed in the future.
 
I would appreciate your opinion on how to best accomplish this. Please post a comment below with your ideas.
  1. Svensson CK, Ascione FJ, Bauman JL, et al. Are we producing innovators and leaders or change resisters and followers? American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. 2012;76(7):1-6.
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