Thinking Outside The Pill Bottle: Forging Your Own Path


By venturing beyond the traditional, you can not only shape your own fulfilling career, but also contribute to the future of pharmacy practice and improve patient care for generations to come.

The traditional career paths in pharmacy are well-established, but for some, the existing models might not resonate. That's not a roadblock; it's an opportunity to forge unique paths and become a new kind of pharmacist.

The pharmacy landscape boasts a rich history of established roles, including community pharmacists, hospital pharmacists, and clinical specialists. These careers offer stability and well-defined career paths. However, the health care landscape is constantly evolving, driven by technological advancements, shifting demographics, and growing public health needs. The profession of pharmacy has been central to all these dynamic fields in which innovation and adaptation are key to success.

Hand holding pencil. Concept of the path to business success at choose your own. Vector illustration.

Image credit: NWM |

As the oldest of 5 children, my father instilled in me the spirit of a pathfinder. He emphasized the importance of taking calculated risks and making bold moves, paving the way for my younger siblings to become trailblazers themselves. This instilled in me a lifelong principle: never shy away from unconventional approaches and always seek creative solutions. It's a philosophy that has guided me not only in my career but in life itself.

In my role as a clinical pharmacist at a community hospital, I implemented programs that resulted in significant improvements in patient outcomes. This success stemmed from my relentless pursuit of innovative solutions to common medication management challenges. This problem-solving mindset also sparked an entrepreneurial spirit within me, a side I hadn't yet discovered. Ultimately, I've come to realize that a fulfilling, exciting, and purposeful career requires the courage to forge my own path. Below are a few things I have learned along the way that I hope help other pharmacists forge their own paths.

Why Forge Your Own Path?

There are several compelling reasons to chart your own course in pharmacy. These can range from unleashing your passion or untapped potential, to pioneering a new idea. Traditional roles might not fully align with your specific interests or vision. Creating your own path allows you to focus on areas that truly ignite your passion, ensuring your career is not just a job but a fulfilling journey. By venturing beyond established roles, you can identify unmet needs and develop novel solutions, contributing to the advancement of pharmacy practice. Becoming a pioneer allows you to leave a lasting impact on the profession. You can create innovative models of care, shape new regulations, or inspire future generations to follow suit, becoming a role model for those seeking a unique path in pharmacy.

Skills for the Pioneering Pharmacist

So, you've decided to forge your own path—fantastic! The next step is to equip yourself with the skills necessary to navigate uncharted territory. First, sharpen your analytical skills. Identify issues in current health care delivery models, medication access, or public health interventions. Frame your career around becoming a solutions-oriented pharmacist, proposing innovative approaches to address those problems.

Next, develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Explore opportunities to create new pharmacy-driven services or products that fill existing gaps in health care delivery. Consider taking business acumen courses or workshops to gain valuable skills in market analysis, business planning, and venture development. Then, invest in becoming an exceptional communicator, able to articulate your vision not only to patients but also to other health care professionals, policymakers, and potential investors.

Lastly, engage in leadership and advocacy. As you carve out your niche, be prepared to advocate for its value. Develop strong leadership skills to inspire colleagues and build trust.

The Challenges & Strategies

The path of a pioneer is rarely paved smoothly and venturing into the unknown can be intimidating. Loneliness may arise as you forge a new path, but embrace this as part of the journey. However, don't isolate yourself entirely. Maintain strong connections with colleagues and mentors, seeking guidance and fostering a supportive network. Creating a new role or service might require navigating financial and resource limitations. Be resourceful, explore grant opportunities, and consider partnerships with existing organizations that share your vision.

Another challenge to prepare for is skepticism and resistance. Innovative ideas can face resistance from those comfortable with the status quo. Be prepared to demonstrate the value proposition of your new approach and showcase the potential benefits for patients and the system. Gather data and patient testimonials to build a strong case for your vision.

About the Author

Saley Traore-Uwalaka, PharmD, BCPS, is a visionary leader and trailblazer in the profession of pharmacy. She is an alumna of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) School of Pharmacy and Health Professions. She completed a pharmacy practice PGY1 residency at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, a Health Policy and Ambulatory Care Fellowship at Howard University College of Pharmacy and is a Board-Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist (BCPS).

Dr. Traore-Uwalaka is the driving force behind Rezi Prep 360, a groundbreaking career planning program designed to prepare aspiring residency candidates for a successful Phase I match. With a deep-seated commitment to inspiring the next generation of pharmacists, she encourages thinking outside the box and cultivating innovative solutions that challenge traditional healthcare paradigms.

Find Inspiration

The world of pharmacy is already home to trailblazers who have redefined the scope of practice. Some examples include pharmacists in direct primary care offices, pharmacy-based behavioral health providers, pharmacy led pre-exposure prophylaxis initiatives, and community pharmacists fighting food insecurities. These examples showcase the diverse possibilities within pharmacy when individuals dare to break the mold. If you find yourself struggling to get guidance within your system, reach out to others for support. Pharmacy is a small community, so the best person to help you is just one email or phone call away.

Be a Pathfinder

The landscape of pharmacy is brimming with opportunity. Although established roles offer stability, the true potential for growth lies in forging your own path. Don't be afraid to break the mold and become the kind of pharmacist you haven't seen before. Embrace your unique talents, hone your skills, and harness the spirit of innovation. By venturing beyond the traditional, you can not only shape your own fulfilling career, but also contribute to the future of pharmacy practice and improve patient care for generations to come.

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