Celebrating Pharmacists: The Evolution of Pharmacy From Beyond the Counter


Vanessa Campbell, PharmD, the director of Clinical Pharmacy at UPMC Health Plan, discusses her role and responsibilities, which include managing a team of pharmacists involved in patient outreach and clinical disease state management.

In this conversation, Vanessa Campbell, PharmD, the director of Clinical Pharmacy at UPMC Health Plan, discusses her role and responsibilities, which include managing a team of pharmacists involved in patient outreach, clinical disease state management, quality strategy, and provider strategy. She also shares her journey into the pharmacy profession, emphasizing the influence of a mentor and a passion for helping others and working with medications. Vanessa reflects on the evolution of pharmacists from being primarily behind the counter in retail settings to becoming integral members of care teams, providing clinical recommendations and patient interactions, including telehealth and social determinants screenings.

pharmacist selling medications to senior patient | Image Credit: Ivan - stock.adobe.com

Ivan - stock.adobe.com

Q: Can you introduce yourself?

Vanessa Campbell: My name is Vanessa Campbell. I'm our director of Clinical Pharmacy here at UPMC Health Plan. I've been here about 11 years, and some of the things that my team works on is a lot of patient outreach. I manage a team of pharmacists, that does a lot of outreaches, the post-acute space, so members like getting out of the hospital, clinical disease state management. We do a lot with quality strategy for all different lines of business, so like [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] Stars, [Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set] marketplace. Then we also have some pharmacists in our provider strategy area that I oversee, where we work closely with our providers, making sure that they're just connected to all the health plan initiatives and how we can help from like a quality perspective.

Q: How did you get into the pharmacy profession?

Vanessa Campbell:My principal in high school, his wife was a pharmacist. She eventually became my mentor throughout college, and she was such a big influence on my career. I actually ended up starting to shadow her while I was in high school, and that was actually a part of my senior project that I needed in order to fulfill graduation requirements. I really fell in love with learning how medications worked, engaging with people at the pharmacy counter, and overall helping others. I think that that's really where I got the passion for loving the whole patient interaction and even leading a team and kind of helping them through like workflow processes and things like that.

Q: How have you seen the pharmacist change and evolve throughout your career?

Vanessa Campbell:I really think that it's moving towards positions more so from behind the counter and evolving into these care team members to help aid in clinical recommendations for members because back like even when I came out of pharmacy school, we were counseling at the counter there was a lot more than if you wanted to be interacting with members and helping them from that perspective, like you went into retail, so that you are able to see them face-to-face and interact with them. I think that now it's moving towards these like ambulatory care like positions where you're able to interact telephonically telehealth. We have our pharmacists that are performing social determinants screens. Even outside of medication related discussions, they're being able to link members and patients to other non-medication related programs. I'm really excited about the future of pharmacy and kind of how it's heading in that direction.

Q: What is the value of the pharmacist?

Vanessa Campbell:I think the pharmacists are one of the most trusted resources to patients, and even providers, and maybe I'm a little biased, but I see all of the things that my team is able to help patients with. Pharmacists are really evolving in so many areas, like I already talked about, whether it's like the post-acute space, ambulatory care settings, disease state identification as a few examples, but they're really helping to improve pharmacy adherence and medication use, while also helping to decrease overall medical costs and total cost of care, which I think in this time period that we're living in is very huge. I think that their collaboration is so important with other providers in the health system. I can honestly say that even after all this time being in pharmacy, it's definitely one of the most rewarding professions.

Q: How are you celebrating American Pharmacists Month?

Vanessa Campbell:At the beginning of this week, I sent out individual notes to every single pharmacist on my team. We have a team of close to 40 pharmacists, I send them all individualized notes, just to thank them for their contributions to our members and to the pharmacy profession in general. I'm truly blessed to work with such an amazing group of pharmacists that really look to advance the profession, continue to care for our members, and provide the most exceptional care. I definitely wouldn't be here, and I don't think we would be as successful, without the group of caring pharmacists that we have here.

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