Leadership as a New Practitioner: Finding Something Worth Fighting For

Leaders with a clear sense of what they are fighting for, and why, are better able to convey their vision to future followers and help others recognize the importance of their mission.

The profession of pharmacy is in dire need of leaders capable of transforming our practice models and harnessing our ability to provide value in patient care. Fortunately, our next generation of leaders truly does stand upon the shoulders of giants, luminaries in our history who shaped our profession.

Among these is Albert Benjamin Prescott, the prominent chemist and early dean of the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. Prescott revolutionized the profession through his impact on pharmacy education, thereby shaping the future of all pharmacists. He led a movement to establish standardization and formal pharmaceutical-sciences education, which was a change from the apprenticeship model that the profession had historically followed.

Aspirations to have such an effect can sound daunting for a new practitioner. But, it is important to remember that even pharmacy giants started with only a purpose and a passion.

Entering the professional world as a new pharmacist is akin to transitioning from a big fish in a small pond to a guppy in the ocean. Deciding how to traverse this new world as a pharmacy leader can be even more daunting. Leadership as a new practitioner requires humility, hard work, an open mind, and a deep sense of purpose. Of these items, a sense of purpose may be most vital for leaders seeking to ‘change the world’ or become a pharmacy giant.

Finding something worth fighting for is the first step in a new practitioner’s journey to impacting the profession. As Simon Sinek notes in his viral TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, “People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”1

This deep sense of purpose has been highlighted as a key element of successful leadership, even more so than a specific set of characteristics.2

Leaders with a clear sense of what they are fighting for, and why, are better able to convey their vision to future followers and help others recognize the importance of their mission. This clarity is critical for leaders, not only in the process of recruiting followers, but also in moments where the leader must stand alone and forge ahead through stormy seas.

The Prescott Pharmacy Leadership Award is an annual recognition bestowed upon a young pharmacist who demonstrates exemplary leadership qualities indicative of someone likely to emerge as a major leader in pharmacy over the course of his or her career. The award’s first recipient, Walter L. Fitzgerald, Jr., noted in his 1987 award address that leaders must be “willing to stand alone” when required.3

Prescott himself was admonished and ostracized in his pursuit of advancing pharmacy education. In staying true to his purpose and weathering the storm, he revolutionized pharmacy education while transitioning the profession from an apprenticeship model, thereby positively impacting every pharmacist in practice today.

The process of finding a cause will vary for every new practitioner and is not a linear path. It is a complex orchestration of self-reflection, core values, and personal/professional interests paired with energy and drive. It is not a journey for the faint of heart, nor is it one that is completed alone.

Pharmacists should give themselves permission to find a cause worth fighting for, as our profession needs a generation of leaders capable of transforming it, as Prescott and many others did before them.

Devlin V. Smith, PharmD, MS is the associate director of pharmacy at UK HealthCare at the University of Kentucky.


  • Sinek S. How Great Leaders Inspire Action. TED.com. https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action. Published September 2009.
  • Russell E, Underwood C. https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/exploring-the-role-of-purpose-in-leadership. Published June 1, 2016.
  • Fitzgerald, W.I. Jr. Impact of the Winds of Change on the Leadership Needs of the Profession of Pharmacy. Phi Delta Chi Communicator 1987 Fall:2-4

Related Videos
Related Content
© 2023 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.