Getting Ready to Retire? The Pharmacy Leadership Academy Can Be a Crucial Part of Your Succession Plan

Jeanne Ezell, M.S., FASHP, has been a pharmacist at Blount Memorial Hospital (BMH) in Maryville, Tennessee, for more than 24 years. As the director of pharmacy and of the residency program, she oversees 59 staff members. Hers is an important position with a multitude of major responsibilities – and so although her retirement date is just one year away, it is a transition for which she has been planning for several years. Her most critical decision was choosing whom her successor would be.

Dr. Ezell felt that Rob Lucas, Pharm.D., BCPS, a pharmacy clinical coordinator and PGY1 residency coordinator who has been on her staff for 10 years, was the perfect replacement.  “Our hospital administration began encouraging succession planning several years ago, and I had already identified Rob as a possible successor to me because of his interest in leadership and his very effective performance as Residency Coordinator,” she said. “Rob had shown excellent initiative since coming to BMH, and had progressively assumed more and more leadership roles, such as coordination of Formulary Committee and Tennessee Society of Health-System Pharmacists president-elect. He had also inquired about earning an M.B.A. as he believed he needed that degree if he were to fill the role of pharmacy director in the future.”

But Dr. Ezell had another suggestion: The ASHP Foundation’s Pharmacy Leadership Academy. “I encouraged him to consider the ASHP Leadership Academy as I felt it would more specifically enhance his leadership and management abilities than an M.B.A. because the Academy is focused on pharmacy and healthcare.  I also knew that the Academy would be of the highest quality, knowing many of the course leaders/presenters. “

At first, Dr. Lucas still believed he could only gain the leadership and administrative skills he needed from an M.B.A. program. But the second time that Dr. Ezell sent him information about the Academy’s upcoming application cycle, he took a closer look. “I became convinced of the quality of the program, and I realized it was a very attractive option to obtain the knowledge and skills I was looking for,” he said. “Jeanne is the reason for my successful integration and completion of the Academy. We have been working on succession planning for several years now, and the Academy was an excellent part of this.”

According to both Dr. Ezell and Dr. Lucas, the Academy prepared him for the pharmacy director position in several ways, including:
1) greatly expanding his knowledge in many different areas (human resources, financial, regulatory, quality, etc.) for which a pharmacy director is responsible
2) allowing him to get to know many leaders in the health-system practice and pharmacy profession, several of whom he now feels very comfortable contacting for advice and information, when needed; and
3) exposing him to a large variety of resources (such as books, articles, periodicals, websites) readily available to help him continue to learn/grow as well as use in his daily responsibilities.  

“Rob sought me out almost weekly throughout his Academy experience to share what he was learning or to get my input/feedback on his readings/discussions/thoughts,” said Dr. Ezell. “I really enjoyed these sessions, and I also gained useful information from what Rob was learning and sharing.”
“I was able to see how current leaders think and process information, because the module faculty members are exceptional in their respective fields,” said Dr. Lucas. “The Academy introduced me to details of current tools, such as Lean Thinking, change management, how to best lead others, which all contribute to being a successful leader and pharmacy director.”

“Although Rob probably could have filled a pharmacy director position without the Academy experience, he will clearly be a much stronger leader and manager because of the Academy experiences and the lasting impact,” said Dr. Ezell.

And as for the dream of earning an M.B.A.? The Academy provided an avenue toward achieving that goal as well. The Academy is affiliated with five different master’s degree programs. Dr. Lucas was able to apply his Academy coursework for graduate credit transfer and will complete an M.B.A. in healthcare from New England College next month, in May 2015.

Without a formal leadership training program for pharmacists, such as the Academy, the two might have proceeded with succession planning as many pharmacy directors and their replacements have in the past: on-the-job training when time allowed. “Without the Academy, I would probably have continued to expand his responsibilities and tried to include him in more management/leadership activities in a gradual, ongoing manner, sharing as much of my knowledge as possible along the way,” said Dr. Ezell. “Since completion of the Academy, we have continually expanded Rob's management responsibilities, all of which he has ably fulfilled.  The subsequent M.B.A. program has provided new and different learning for Rob, which he has utilized and I expect will enhance his leadership/management roles, but not nearly as much as the Academy has.”

“If the Academy did not exist, I may have been able to pick up some skills through my M.B.A. program, but the M.B.A. is not heavy on the leadership aspect and has not been as ‘pharmacy specific’ as the Academy is,” agrees Dr. Lucas. “And I have been able to pick up skills from Jeanne, but not everyone is as fortunate to have a thoughtful and forward-thinking established leader as I have with my director of pharmacy. Besides the Academy, there is no other program available that provides a concise and comprehensive toolbox available to current or aspiring pharmacy leaders.”