I have opined about leadership in previous commentaries, but I have never been more optimistic about our future leaders than I am now, having just returned from the American Society of Health-system Pharmacists Midyear Clinical Meeting in Anaheim, Calif. My optimism stems from our recruitment efforts at the Midyear Meeting. The University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy, in collaboration with 3 nearby academic medical centers, has re-established its master of science degree in health system pharmacy and will be enrolling 4 new residents/graduate students in the fall of 2007. Several other new programs, including those in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, have joined the longstanding programs from the past. I was quite impressed with the number and quality of students interested in pursuing a master's degree in pharmacy. In talking to my friends and colleagues from the other programs, my sentiments were shared by all.
Sara White presented a compelling case for the need for future leaders in her recent article entitled, "Will There Be a Pharmacy Leadership Crisis?" Admittedly, with the decline in the number of master's programs over the past decade or more, many pharmacy graduates have pursued a master's degree in health administration, public health, or business. Most of these programs are extremely reputable graduate level programs that prepare their students to assume leadership roles in health care, but they fall short in terms of focus on our professional issues and do not enable the development of camaraderie and lifelong friendships among peers as do 2-year programs which have multiple pharmacy students. I also wonder about the mentoring that is available to round out their pharmacy-specific expertise and engender a commitment to lifelong learning. Finally, they do not emphasize the need for a commitment to serving the profession (which supporters will tell you is an advantage for upward mobility in hospitals or the industry).
These excited, enthusiastic young people who are interested in staying in pharmacy and practicing servant leadership are critically necessary for the future. Health-system pharmacists need to find ways through involvement in schools of pharmacy and among their new recruits to continue to identify pharmacists with leadership potential and interests. Mentoring them will be critically important, not only during their program, but after they graduate as well. All of us need to help them get the fundamental experience they need, and support them as they assume entry-level leadership roles. It helps all of us to remember that they may well be our future leaders, so it is in all of our best interests to ensure that they have the skills and interests to effectively represent the entire profession.
Mr. McAllister is director of pharmacy at University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals and Clinics and associate dean for clinical affairs at UNC School of Pharmacy, Chapel Hill.