2013 Rising Star of the Year Finalists

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Rising Star of the Year




Julie Liska, PharmD
Methodist Willowbrook Hospital
Houston, TX


When Dr. Julie Liska began her first job, she was not always supported by all of her peers. Through her diligence, she proved just how important pharmacists can be.

Shortly after earning her PharmD from the University of Houston College of Pharmacy in 2012, Dr. Liska started her career at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital. Her position as a medication reconciliation pharmacist was a new one, and many staff members were opposed to the change. Some physicians felt they did not need a pharmacist to ensure patients received the correct medications, and were wary of working with another staff member to coordinate pharmaceutical care for discharged patients.

Despite being a recent graduate with limited professional experience, Dr. Liska was not intimidated by the position, demonstrating her passion for her work and her patients every day. She helped to design and implement the pharmacist reconciliation program, significantly reducing medication errors and core measure failures related to discharge medication reconciliation. She also educated both physicians and nurses in effective reconciliation processes as well as strategies for preventing medication adverse events during transitions of care.

Dr. Liska also improved patient education for the hospital’s stroke program, helping the program to receive the Stroke Gold Plus Award from the American Heart Association. She personally counsels every stroke patient, a service that nurses do not want their stroke patients discharging without.

She has proved herself to be a vital and competent member of the hospital staff. After collaborating with nurses, pharmacists, and physicians, she was able to help them realize the importance of an accurate medication list and of the pharmacist’s role in discharging patients.

Through her efforts, she has also become an essential part of the nursing units, as nurses rely on her to handle discharges for Core Measure patients and patients with complex medication regimens.

Dr. Liska has also been nominated for the Methodist Willowbrook Hospital ICARE Award and was the recipient of the 2012 Health Systems Pharmacy Internship Award for outstanding performance in the hospital pharmacy rotation and excellent communication skills. She is involved with the Member Clinical Advisory Group at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital and the American Pharmacists Association.



Grace Thacker, PharmD, AAHIVP
Walgreens Pharmacy
New Orleans, LA


By increasing the clinical role of retail pharmacists, Dr. Grace Thacker hopes to improve patient care while representing pharmacists as valuable additions to the health care team.

Dr. Thacker has been committed to patient care since her days as a pharmacy intern, helping to reopen a pharmacy following Hurricane Katrina. She also helped develop health information technology protocol as a pharmacy technician at St. Tammy’s Parish Hospital. After graduating with honors from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2009, she began her career as a Walgreens pharmacist.

As a pharmacy team member, she worked to increase the use of robotics by 400%, acquired a contract for influenza vaccinations with a large regional Medicare HMO, and also directed a medication therapy management (MTM) initiative that was awarded with an Outstanding Pharmacy rating from Outcomes MTM.

Her accomplishments prompted her promotion to her dual role of pharmacy manager and store manager. In this position, she opened an onsite pharmacy in Tulane Medical Center, the first Walgreens of its kind in Louisiana. As a Tulane Medical Center committee member, Dr. Thacker has designed and implemented a bedside delivery medication program, helped to develop a new discharge design to decrease hospital readmissions, and participated in daily rounds, addressing pharmaceutical problems and questions. In addition, she also coordinates a comprehensive patient counseling service for the medical center’s abdominal transplant unit, hepatitis C division, and the solid organ transplant unit.

Dr. Thacker is also active in the HIV community, serving as a patient advocate. As a certified HIV pharmacist, she has lobbied for an improved AIDS Drug Assistance Program, providing clinician education and discussing the clinical and financial outcomes of the current program with Louisiana state leaders. These efforts helped push the state to change the model, specifically directing patients to HIV-certified pharmacies, including in-network Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies.

As a result, more than 30,000 HIV prescriptions in Louisiana will be filled at specialized stores, allowing counseling with HIV-trained pharmacists. She has also implemented more than 40 Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies and has fully trained their staffs. She continues to train HIV pharmacists as well as organize volunteer efforts within the community.

Outside of the pharmacy and her community activities, Dr. Thacker teaches a prescription writing class at Tulane School of Medicine.



Randy Steers, PharmD
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
Talihina, OK


An ambitious and passionate worker, Dr. Randy Steers has shown himself to be a leader in pharmacy innovations, patient care, and education throughout his young career.

Dr. Steers started on his career path when he entered his post-doctoral residency in pharmacy practice at the Choctaw Nation Health Center in Talihina. Combining the work of a staff pharmacist and resident, he implemented a tobacco cessation clinic with the guidance of senior staff. His work on the clinic, which combines medications with follow-up counseling, was recognized by his superiors and he was selected to be the manager of the clinic before he completed his residency. Initially a clinic for tobacco-using patients of the Diabetic Wellness Center, the program expanded to include all patients in the general health system. In 2011, the clinic added a cessation program for employees.

After his residency, Dr. Steers was selected for his current position as assistant chief of pharmacy-inpatient manager, in which he oversees more than 9 pharmacists and 8 technicians. He has strived to improve inpatient services, remodeling the department to reduce clutter, decrease errors, and increase efficiency. He has also reduced inventory, increasing turnover and saving money, and developed more effective scheduling, which allows staff to be more involved with both patients and physicians.

In addition to improving patient care, Dr. Steers has also worked to increase the role of the pharmacist within the hospital, helping to develop procedures for the hospital’s Antibiotic Stewardship program. This program not only reduces costs and improves care, but also gives pharmacists greater involvement in antibiotic selection. He has also worked to create a pharmacy-based vancomycin clinic, which, under his supervision, performs creatinine clearances on all antibiotic patients.

Although he was a student himself not that long ago, Dr. Steers is also the student training specialist for the health system. Each year, he coordinates student schedules, provides orientation, manages the curriculum, and teaches 25 to 30 doctoral pharmacy students from the University of Oklahoma, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, the University of North Carolina, and the Drake University College of Pharmacy. He educates residents as well, developing and teaching curricula on subjects such as infectious diseases and adult medicine.

As a member of the Choctaw Nation Hazardous Materials Response Team, Dr. Steers trains, attends meetings and drills, and informs staff on local emergency response efforts.