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A Clean 2015

November 25th, 2014

December is coming.  That usually means two things for me: 1. The calendar is on complete lockdown until I get my syllabi and class stuff worked out for the spring semester, and 2. It’s time to write annual goals for the coming year.

Look, I don’t like to sugar coat things with my Fab 13….so here it is.  No doubt about it, 2014 was one of the hardest years of my life.  Personally and professionally, it was riddled with challenges–some of which I’m still trying to understand WHY they occurred as they did.  Here’s my holiday card on it (where I did sugar coat it a little more).

While I’m still trying to make sense of the madness, and I fully realize that I have one month left of this tough year to turn the ship around, I’m more interested in putting together my plan for 2015.  Playing victim and pouting will get me nowhere. Instead, I want to wipe the slate clean, shed all the heinous stuff that happened (even if I still don’t understand why it happened) and move on.

Onward. Forward. Improving. Better.

So, here’s what I’m going to do in order to create a clean 2015.  Ready?

Steps for A Clean 2015

1. First, I’m going to set my intentions for the year.  I’m going to use the bottom half of my holiday card to put on paper how I want my 2015 to sound, look, feel and BE.  I need to articulate in writing and in my head who I want to spend my time around.  Synchronicity.  I’m going to throw out my visualization of the best 2015 and let the universe fetch it for me.  This WILL be the year of quantum physics taking over my life – as long as I’m careful about setting the intent for my life rather than sitting back waiting for it to happen to me.  Victim mentality is now over.

I’ll be honest – while I’ve written my goals for every year for a while now, I’ve never set my intentions before.  Maybe this will help?  It can’t hurt!

2. I’m going to write my goals for the year.  On real paper.  This process I’ve shared with you before – I have buckets that I place a few bullets each under – professional, personal, business, spiritual, financial, edutaining brain development.  ONE PAGE.  If it gets any longer, it gets too gangly.

3.  The goals are going in my notebook.  I take 2014′s stuff out of my Moleskine, then put that list in my collection of annual goals (now I have quite the little pile), and then I replace it with 2015′s.  That way, I carry my goals with me wherever I go. It may be time to replace the Moleskine too – we’ll see.

4.  I share my goals (and intentions) with “safe” friends.  This is the hardest step, because you have to find someone who you trust to share your goals with.  This process is powerful, and frankly, some people in your life can’t HANDLE your big goals.  That’s fine.  Just don’t share with them.  Share with people who are going to support you – NOT hinder you.  Even if you can only find one person.  Putting them on paper is important, but reading them out loud is also equally important.  I don’t want to get too Tony Robbins here, but it’s truly creepy how the universe brings you what you ask for – even if it is not wrapped in the package you thought it might be (and those packages can be tricky!)

You’ve just witnessed the future, as this is my coming December.  Regardless of my own year end, do whatever works for you.  While I’m certainly no expert on awesomeness, I would suggest that you begin setting your intentions now for the coming year.  Try it along with me.  Let’s test quantum physics and synchronicity out together!

2014 STEM Holiday Gift Guide for Girls

November 23rd, 2014

One question I’m constantly asked is – hey, Albert, can you tell me what gifts, toys or books you would recommend for girls who want to know more about STEM this holiday season….?  Easy.  Here are a few ideas for that girl in your life who is looking for some edutainment in the STEM realm.

Of course, disclaimer time–ensure you’re considering gifts that appropriate for girls in your specific age range.  We don’t want anyone getting hurt. Read the package information for gifts to ensure they are age appropriate.  (Lawyers always love a good disclaimer.)

The Amazing Adventures of the Princesses from Planet STEM

The Amazing Adventures of the Princesses from Planet STEM

STEM Princess - Well, first off, shameless self promotion aside, maybe you should consider The Amazing Adventures of the Princesses from Planet STEM for your younger girls (ages 5-9) who don’t yet have a favorite corner of STEM just yet.  While there are lots of gifts, toys and books about different corners of STEM, there aren’t very many still that introduce girls to ALL 4 areas – science, tech, engineering and math – like this book does.  We have the free resource guide full of ideas in it as well.  Cost is $14.95 and makes a great stocking stuffer.  Best of all, the girls in your life get exposure to all areas of STEM – not just one.

Next, I’ll provide some suggestions based upon the 4 areas.  First, Science.  There are already a lot of really cool ideas around this concept for girls, but here are just a few that I dig.  First, Molecular Jewelry.  While admittedly, organic chemistry was never my easiest subject.  However, I love the beauty of molecules–like caffeine, theobromine, and dopamine.  Girls can actually wear the molecular loveliness now.  Check out the molecular muse at Etsy, or even the larger retailers online.  I also dig Nancy B’s science club.  Never had a microscope as a kid, but if I did, my first microscope would have been this one.  Also, the periodic table T-shirts are all the rage right now – here’s one of my faves for girls.  If you have a pharmacist in the making, check out the children’s book, Pharmacy and Me.

Let’s move on to Technology.  Tech, at least in the STEM Princess book, includes professions like database administration, computer programming, computer science, etc.  Again, if your girl likes the tech bling, I’m a fan of techcycled.  If you have a girl who wants to be more hands on, check out Girls Who Code.  If you’re near me in Indy, check out Scott Jones’s new company for older girls in your life to learn how to code (after all, what better gift is there than education), Eleven Fifty.  A lot of professionals from SEVERAL professional domains argue that we all must be coders now to some extent…so sooner rather than later!

Next up, Engineering.  I’m a huge fan of A Mighty Girl, where parents can pick up a lot of different games, toys and books to support girls engaging in STEM.  On the engineering page, I dig the SnapCircuits series.  And, although this isn’t really engineering per se, Fat Brain Toys sells one of my favorite all time toys as a kid, Spirograph.  And, let’s not forget Tinker Toys!  If your girl wants something a little more sophisticated, check out the robotics page at Edmund Scientifics.  Clean water is going to be one of, if not the biggest crisis in the 21st century globally – have your daughter understand water filtration with the Green Science water filter kit.

Last, Math.  While the anti-STEMmers out there claim there are too many professionals in science and math professions relative to STEM, I do think much like coding, we all have to be proficient at math in order to be better professionals in whatever fields we have chosen.  With that in mind, I almost view math in tandem with sciences–like physics, gen chem, etc.  That being said, my favorite Shero of this class is Marie CurieHere’s her doll over at The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild.  If your girl is super smart and into quantum physicists, of course you can get her Schrodinger’s Cat over at the same site.  Also, The Big Bang Theory is popular with a lot of math/sci geeks, and they have a pretty cool line of atomic jewelry, believe it or not.  Personally, this category is most important to me, because I’m STILL waiting for a girl to invent a teleporter!  Teleporter inventors are going to need to know math and science like the backs of their hands.

There you have it! Some creative out of the box STEM toys/gifts and sites for you to get a jump on that holiday giving for your girls. I didn’t share the obvious, hopefully, but helped point in a little different direction if your girl likes a specific area of STEM, or just needs to know more about STEM in general.

Merry STEMidaze!


The 3 Most Important Leadership/Management Skills…Of All

November 12th, 2014

Travel and soul-crushing paperwork.  This is the stuff I’ve been buried under for the past couple of weeks.  Forgive my tardy post.

However, I was asked just recently about what I think is key to great leaders and managers.

I think I had it boiled down to three skills/attributes/qualities. See if you agree with me or not…

1. Coach – I think the best managers and leaders are first and foremost coaches. They coach everyone around them. They don’t cajole and focus on negative and weaknesses of those who they lead, but rather focus on helping their direct reports maximize their strengths, and help them get to their “best” career lives. I think the Japanese use the term of “ikigai” for the idea of finding your “reason for living.” I really like that term, because we are all here for a reason. Leaders help you unearth what that is within you, in order to maximize what you bring to the universe.

2. Advocate – The best leaders and managers go to bat for their peeps–all day, every day. Whether it is time, money or other resources to make things happen, the best managers persist in asking for resources to help their team achieve maximum output. That could mean salary. That could mean a complete re-writing of a person’s job description. It could mean working from home one day a week to care for family. Whatever the employee needs, I think it’s the manager’s job to match those needs and keep the best situation for all parties in a scenario. Persistence is an offshoot of this quality here too–great managers never, ever give up on their peeps. Whether it takes 5 minutes or 5 years to make something happen and create a win-win, great leaders and managers keep plowing ahead. Even when the answer is no, because they already know that no today = not right now, but maybe later.

3. Walk the talk – The best leaders and managers don’t just talk. They act. The very best live their best lives through action–not just talk. Talk is cheap. We all need a hero, and when a manager/leader is someone to emulate, look up to, and overall admire–that’s a sign that they are great at what they do. They also get results through others. “Do as I say and as I do” go hand-in-hand for great leaders. This also means that a great leader goes with the flow, keeps an open mind, and always adds to a conversation rather than detracting from it. Flexible leaders walk the talk of creating the “best case” scenario, because they realize that the only constant is change itself. They also know of the mantra “change or die.”

While I know there’s volumes of books, articles and publications out there on what makes a great manager and leader, these 3 key ingredients are what I’ve found in a best leader/manager brew. You can certainly add other ingredients to the mix; however, if you are lucky enough have these 3 skills in your current manager, hold on to him or her. Even if you leave your company. Even if you move on to other things–you need great managers and leaders in your life. If for no other reason: to help you become the best you that you can be, and in turn, make the world a better place!

More on..Failure

November 7th, 2014

Thanks to my friends at Inside Indiana Business today for letting me talk about my old friend, failure!

And don’t forget, there are 2 events coming up in the Indy area for celebrating the FAIL:

1. – Nov 19

2. #SMDames14 #Indy #FAIL – Nov 20.

Get that fail on! It will get you that must faster to success!!!!

5 Biggest Issues in Pharmacy….and the Law

November 5th, 2014

So…I’m heading to the American Society for Pharmacy Law soon.  It’s an interesting group.  We talk about all the legal stuff that is related to…pharmacy. Shocking…!

Anyway, after the elections last night (the Republicans took Congress back, yet pot is now legal in Washington, D.C…(not sure what to make of all this…) I wanted to throw down 5 issues I think are really important to pharmacy right now, and hope to get answers to when we talk at ASPL.  Here we go.

1. Provider status for pharmacists – Right now under federal law (at least the Social Security Act) pharmacists are NOT legal healthcare providers.  This is pretty silly, considering pharmacists can give immunizations now, and even can prescribe in some states some classes of drugs.  There’s a big push on to get pharmacists legal provider status.  I wrote about this for law school.  However, there’s a strong argument on the other side to NOT gain provider status, as it would restrict reimbursement rates potentially and create even more administrative headaches than we currently already have (and let’s face it, pharmacy is highly regulated).

2. #of Pharmacy Schools, # of Pharmacists, and Jobs – I beat this dead horse a lot already (about the number of pharmacy schools, the number of pharmacists, etc.) I’ll leave this alone for now, but I’m still worried about it.  We did this to ourselves with that workforce study a while ago that said there was a shortage.  Now, we’re paying the price.  Rant. Over.

3. PDMP Use – Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are most states’ ways now of tracking doctor shopping and overuse of controlled substances.  Pharmacists and all healthcare providers are strongly encouraged, if not legally bound to use the database to track controlled substance use.  However, there was a recent disturbing case in Indiana I saw of a pharmacist who was fined and disciplined for looking in the database for a high profile patient that her pharmacy may have served in the past–and even kept that search confidential.  Frankly, I found this case disturbing because the pharmacist was trying to figure out if her pharmacy was going to be dragged into a lawsuit, among other reasons.  But who cares what her reasons were, if she had an established relationship between the pharmacy and patient?  I don’t like this case…and I’m worried that pharmacists may be d*mned if they do use these PDMPs, and d*mned if they don’t use them, and worst of all–will be judged on their INTENT or mens rea for using the database.

4.  Marijuana – While I don’t think pharmacies will be dispensing pot, now that it’s legal in more and more jurisdictions (including now ironically, the District of Columbia itself), I wonder why this drug, which hasn’t really been studied very robustly is just given a free pass to be legal.  What if or how will law enforcement determine if someone is driving under the influence of it?  What does pot do to the body and brain long term?  I don’t really know answers to these questions, and as a pharmacist, I think healthcare professionals should have more data on this new drug sweeping the nation.

5. Controlled substances, overall – Now with new pain regulations in Indiana and several other states, some good, solid, legitimate pharmacists are petrified of filling a bogus pain med script, or filling too many pain medication scripts in their pharmacies to warrant attention of federal regulators.  On the other hand, prescription opiate abuse has skyrocketed in this country, and with the new regulations on hydrocodone combination products and other drugs, we have to do something to not create and maintain a country of addicts.  We have pharmacy robberies all over this country each and every day.  Furthermore, we now even have addicts moving over to heroin, because it is purer than its ever been on the street, and cheaper than buying prescription drugs on the black market.  How did pharmacists get in the middle of this? Is there a safer way to distribute controlled substances? It seems this area is a mess, and I hope we can work on ways to clean it up….literally and figuratively.

This is the stuff of which my ears will perk up at ASPL.

Is the Joke on Pharmacy?

November 1st, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 9.36.51 AMAs you know, I went to Washington D.C. this past week to discuss the future of pharmacy education, and the profession itself.

A couple of attendees mentioned this Phineas and Ferb cartoon of a nightmare of pharmacy – in that characters in the cartoon touch unsuspecting people and suddenly they turn into pharmacists.  It’s kind of hilarious and sad all at once.

Of course, pot stirrer that I am, I went right for one of the main issues I think could make or break the profession in the future, which relates to the cartoon mentioned above–i.e., the number of pharmacy schools growing like weeds in the U.S. It seems that no one in pharmacy wants to put their foot down and state that we have ENOUGH pharmacy schools, but I will right here, right now.

I think we’re good on pharmacy schools right now…even if no one else will say it.

Two stories on this:

1. Of a pharmacy educator also in D.C. who remarked that the woman on the plane ride sitting right behind her had a daughter who just graduated from pharmacy school and now…doesn’t like the work that she’s doing as a pharmacist.

2. Of a district manager at a pharmacy (larger chain) who remarked that s/he loves the flood of pharmacists right now, because s/he’s offering lower salaries than previously, and pharmacists are accepting those lower salaries – happily.

Look, I’m not typically whiny and/or doom and gloom.  But, I’ve written about the trajectory that we’re on in pharmacy being much like law schools if we don’t stop this soon.  And, I want to help with this challenge.

Today, I started the Social and Administrative Pharmacy group over at LinkedIn, which I hope will be a safe place to have these frank discussions on where pharmacy is moving.  And, I also started this group because while there are tons of pharmacy groups around clinical pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, there really isn’t much around the area of practice that I think could make or break the future of the profession–social and administrative pharmacy.  So, if you’re in pharmacyland, I hope you would consider joining this group and help get the moose on the table when it comes to sticky situations like with Phineas and Ferb.

Otherwise, the joke will be on pharmacy–and that won’t be funny anymore.

Where’s Miles Larson (Lawson) When I Need Him?

October 31st, 2014

So, for those of you not 18-22 and/or not on Yik Yak following Butler University…there’s this running joke on the Butler Yaks that Miles Larson (or Lawson – I can’t remember how it’s spelled)  is running the show.

Who is Miles Larson?

I have no idea.

But, it appears that if he is in fact running the show, he’d be handy to chat with over a few things.

Yesterday, as you know, I presented the BU Well project to students.  We had a pretty good turnout – and already some students have signed up. Below are the slides on what I shared with them at least in part.  Honestly – I don’t have all the answers in building an open-access journal yet, but that’s part of the fun.  This is also a co-curricular opportunity here – it’s not necessarily a formal class (which, our accrediting body, ACPE, is really into for our 2016 draft standards for pharmacy schools.)

On the other hand, I warned students that because this project is being built, it’s not for everyone.  There will be gray zones.  I don’t have a rubric for everything.  But then again – do our bosses have rubrics? Not really – they just expect us to get stuff done.

Does Miles?  If he’s got one for how to build open access journals, I’m all ears…maybe I should pop back over to the Yaks. Better yet, maybe I’ll just be Miles for Halloween. At least that way, I can pretend I have all the answers…


BU Well: A New Healthcare Review Driven by Students at Butler University COPHS from Erin Albert

Building a Culture of…Failure

October 30th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 9.43.16 AMI’ve been thinking about my annual holiday card, now that it’s practically November.  This is what got me thinking even more about one of my obsessions this year, my old friend, failure.

On the way into work, I saw that ISBDC has put together a Fail Fest for Indianapolis coming up.  Kudos to them (although, I would respectfully submit for consideration a little more diversity in their panel speakers).  Also, of course at #SMDames14 #Indy we are talking all about our social media blunders, disasters and outright failures, in hopes that we can prevent others in the audience from outcomes that are less than ideal.  (I’ll be chatting about the Kickstarter fail.)

The only way a society or a culture is going to get really good at rocking success is by understanding, appreciating and yes–discussing–even celebrating–failure.  We have to fail in order to get to success.  There rarely if ever is a way around it.  Besides, it’s not the failure itself that is the problem–it is the guilt, shame and hiding of it that presents challenges, and the crippling fear of trying something and NOT succeeding that we must get over.

What if Edison gave up at try # 4,999 or 5,342 or 9,999 when finding a filament for the light bulb?  What if the Wright brothers never got in that plane?  What if that doctor hadn’t swallowed H. Pylori?  What if they each suffered from crippling fear of failure instead of just plunging ahead?

Today, I’m launching the concept of BU Well with students here at Butler.  I keep giving the disclaimer up front that this may be either a spectacular success or an epic failure.  But either way, our students and the university win, because we are daring to TRY something new, regardless of the outcome.

This I challenge all of you to ponder today.  Join me in this obsession to understand how to maximize, discuss, ponder and manage failure all the way to success.  It’s a fun challenge.

Throw Stuff to the Wall…

October 29th, 2014

…see what sticks.  Sometimes, that’s the approach we need to take.

Thus as it went this week thus far.  Spent a couple of days in D.C. trying to solve all the pharmacy educators world’s problems.  But seriously, it was fun to try and think ahead to the future of pharmacy education.  Thanks to AACP for hosting a thought-provoking meeting.

Second, my last article in the series for Pharmacy Careers came out today – and it was an honor to hi-light the 4 pharmacists featured in it, as they have really owned some cool niches in pharmacy practice.  Besides, you can be what you can see – so if this article or any in the series inspires just one pharmacy student or pharmacist to try something new, GREAT! Goal achieved.

(But, I’m still working on some ideas for future articles.  Stay tuned.)

I’m also trying to get the BU Well journal up and running.  This continues to be a fun challenge–i.e. create something that never really existed before.

While I thought November was going to be a little less crazy than October, it’s turning out to NOT be the case.  But–crazy is as crazy does–let’s hope the rest of this mayhem called 2014 finally settles down in December…

…a girl can dream…!

Why I Wanted to Fail on Kickstarter…the Second Time Around

October 25th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 7.49.30 PMWell, last evening, I just successfully completed my failed attempt at a second Kickstarter campaign. But this, the second campaign on Kickstarter, I really wanted to fail.

Wait. What?!? Why?

Welp, I think the second time on Kickstarter with the same brand or series of products–the objectives should be different.

On the first campaign, I focused on raising all of the funds to get the first project done (and to those of you who backed #STEMPrincess, the original project, thanks!)  I really needed to raise all the funds necessary in order to get the book to life and start the series and ensure there was a large enough audience to build a brand over the long haul.  The 100+ backers on the first project are in on the series, and I delivered the first book to all of them on time and under the conditions I originally promised in the first campaign. Great.

However, I approached the second campaign differently (#STEMPrincess2).  First off, I didn’t want to stalk my first round of backers.  I know they’re already in, and most if not all of them will buy the second book in the series once it is available.  So why then, would I harp on them to fund the project online where I only get 50% of the money raised to allocate to the second book project, when I already had them in my Rolodex, and who already have my back?  It doesn’t make sense to; hence, I did not.

Instead, my strategy with this second campaign was to target BRAND NEW STRANGERS TO THE BRAND to back the book.  While I did send a couple of emails to the first round of backers, I really didn’t pound them much.  (If you are reading this and you DID back both times, I sincerely want to THANK YOU for doing so.) Instead, I wanted to garner NEW backers to the project series, and NOW, when the book IS ready, I have even more people ready to purchase it, without the 50% hassle of paying Amazon/Kickstarter (the first 10% raised) and then holding back 40% for the tax man.  Most of my backers this time were new to the brand–so I really did meet my goal with this second campaign. Yay! And, I don’t have any time constraints on delivery of this second project now either. Bonus!

Now, some may argue that I should have chosen a different platform for this second campaign strategy, like Indiegogo, if I only wanted to keep a portion of my funding raised.  I suppose that could be true and I probably would have gone that route had I more time to start another platform (as those who have run campaigns know, you have to set up a pretty elaborate bank account payment process on the back end of the campaign before it even begins, which frankly is a pain in the neck.)

Also, there’s a hidden benefit of having essentially a free digital billboard preview of the work that is to come for this brand.  It’s important to think about the fact that the campaign remains up online, whether or not the crowdfunder was successful or not.  Here, I inserted a photo at the end that keeps everyone informed on where to look for the book when it IS available.

I’m not sure if the folks over at Kickstarter have thought about this, but on second campaigns for similar products or the same brand for those successful on the FIRST campaign, there’s not very much incentive for crowdfunders to meet their financial goals, if they really want to raise more money for a project.  Am I suggesting that crowd funding platforms need to lower what they charge the second time around for crowdfunders with first successful campaigns?  Maybe.  I just think the objectives the second time around are different than the first, and I don’t know if anyone on the crowdfunding platform side has really thought through this or not.

Something for all the crowdfunding experts out there to ponder.  In the meantime, I’m going to get cranking on my next STEM Princess book…!