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Archive for December, 2014

The 12/31/14 Challenge

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

I just finished the 12/31/14 Challenge.

What, exactly, is that?

Well, as I’ve said repeatedly, 2014 wasn’t my best year.  BUT–on this very last day of this challenging year, I did one thing to set up my 2015 in a bright and exciting way.

What did I do?

Well, I can’t really talk about specifics.  BUT–I can tell you that I used a few guideposts to do it – and I’ll leave you with those, so perhaps they will guide you into taking the 12/31/14 challenge yourself:

4 Questions to Ask Yourself: The 12/31/14 Challenge:

1. Is there someone who had a huge impact on my life in 2014 that I need to thank?
2. Is there something I can do TODAY to meet one of my goals that I wrote for 2014?
3. Is there something I can do today to meet or start any of my 2015 goals?
4. Is there something I can easily to help someone ELSE wrap up one of their 2014 goals, or start one of their 2015 goals today?  (And if you don’t know, reach out to your best peeps and ask…)

Good luck, and hope your 2015 will be stellar!  Happy New Year.

Why Hand Written Thank You Notes Still Matter

Monday, December 29th, 2014

photo(13)This time of year, at the end of the year, we all work on creating our goals for the coming year, shovel out our offices and hope that we can start with a fresh, clean slate, right? Right.

But also at this time of year, I try to take a little time to reflect on the past year.  One way I do that is taking a stroll past my wall of fame.  This is a wall in my home office where I plaster a bunch of bits from the year – lanyards from meetings I attended, cool swag from friends’ businesses, and my most highly prized and coveted items on the wall: the thank you notes.

Those who know me well know how much I’m a sucker for a hand written thank you note.  I wrote about this as the FIRST thing a newly licensed pharmacist needs to do in 46 Doses.  Also, I just read this article recently on how the power of thank you notes actually built a business.  I actually think they are more important now than they’ve ever been, for several reasons.

First, because we live in a digital world.  Email is worthless.  Totally disposable.  And, lacks any type of significant staying power.  While I suppose a digital thank you is fine for an immediate hit, it does not endure.  Same deal on texts – all of them can be wiped away with the touch of a button.

On the other hand, hand written thank you notes DO endure.  How many of you keep that shoebox of the hand written notes you either received from pen pals or the notes you passed in high school?  I do. (And if you didn’t grow up in the era of hand written notes from across the room in school, I honestly do weep for you.)

Second, the thank you note is actually a long term relationship builder, as demonstrated by the Forbes article above.  You become stickier in the person who received your note’s mind.  Where else are you going to be sticky in someone’s mind for under a buck in this attention deficit age?  Exactly. Advertisers pay millions of dollars to get that type of attention from people.  You did it for less than 50 cents. Rock on.

Third, you get to express in writing that something someone else did MATTERED to you.  How often do we get feedback in writing that we’re doing a good job?  Maybe, if you’re lucky, annually on your performance review.  A hand written thank you expresses this gratitude at any time during the year – not just once a year on the job.  Think about it – how many people affect your life OUTSIDE your job?  Are you telling them that they are having a positive impact on your life? There are 4 different thank you notes just in the picture in this post, and only 1 of them came from someone from my day job.  The other 3 were from projects and people outside of the work that I get paid to do.

Fourth – and most important to me, thank you notes are part of my office decor.  While I’m joking about this (to some extent), leaders have their thank you notes posted in a place of honor in their offices.  You should too.

There you have it.  If you’re not in the habit of writing hand written thank you notes, start.  Here’s a nice little post from Hallmark, of all places on the art of writing a thank you.  And right after this post, I’m heading to my office to drop some postcards in the mail on people who influenced me the most in 2014–just across from my wall of fame.

Has Pharmacy Specialization Hurt the Profession?

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Long Term Care
Social and Administrative
Community Practice
Managed Care
Generic Manufacturers

What do these all have in common?

Well, they’re all different types of pharmacy practice settings.

Great! We have some variety in the profession – and I’ve always said different flavors of any profession are usually a good thing.  They give us variety, and help us shine in ways that make us stand out.  We can find career niches that make us passionate about practice, develop ourselves professionally, and show the world that variety is a great thing within our profession.

However, after a twitter conversation yesterday – I’m starting to wonder if we’ve shot ourselves in the foot as a profession by specialization.

Allow me to explain.

First, I tweeted my recent query on why there was no pharmacy leadership association.  After all, the nurses and docs have one, so why not pharmacists?  The response I got via twitter was that perhaps pharmacy is so scattered and disjointed now that different sub-specialities of pharmacy actually think that if one area wins, another area of pharmacy loses.

I of course then threw out the “a rising tide lifts all boats” argument to that (around the context of provider status), which the tweeter replied, “not necessarily.”

This isn’t good, people.  If the 90K pharmacist pool in the U.S. can’t agree on what is good for the profession at a wider lens, or starts uniting only within sub-specialties and adopt the “us vs. them” mentality within the profession, this is going to hurt pharmacy.  And candidly, I’ve always personally felt there was this unwritten “hierarchy” of pharmacy practice, where some sub-specialties thought they were “better” than others.

This. Must. Stop. Now.

If we want to be taken seriously as a profession, we need to unite on the big picture items.  Provider status is an example (and I at this point in my career think it is a good choice, but I understand there are strong counterarguments against it–but as a profession, let’s pick a side and stick together!)  Leadership development is yet another example–EVERY profession needs leaders in a VARIETY of practice areas.  And there certainly is no one magic bullet that is going to make pharmacy practice “better” or “stronger.”  But, I can tell you that if we are divided on the big picture items, we’re doomed as a profession.  Without supporting each other and the different flavors of pharmacy practice, we’re only hurting ourselves and our profession in the end.

Why isn’t there a leadership association in pharmacy?

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Forgive me, if you follow this tiny blog for other reasons than pharmacy.  But, it is year’s end, and a girl has to do what a girl has to do when it comes to pondering professional development for the year to come.  So, indulge me for a moment, if you will.

I’ve been thinking a lot about which pharmacy organizations (as well as all other orgs) I belong to, and which ones I will renew, and not, in 2015.  I’ve studied up on them.  I listed some options and their annual meetings here, and listed even some certifications for pharmacists here.

But one thing I’ve noticed is…that we don’t really have a leadership or executive development organization or program in pharmacy.

The nurses have AONE, the American Organization of Nurse Executives.  The docs have the American Association for Physician Leadership.

About the closest we get are various programs in more niche areas of pharmacy.  There’s:

Here’s my point, and I’ll be blunt about it: Pharmacy needs an organization for executive and leadership development that cuts across all pharmacy practice settings.  While I suppose it can be argued that technical expertise is important in pharmacy and therefore each pharmacy organization should have a leadership development program of some sort, I still think there should be a leadership development program across ALL TYPES AND PRACTICE SETTINGS for pharmacy.  Otherwise, we’ll just keep moving further down specialty paths and splinter our profession–which is dangerous, because we then lose sight of the big picture.

This may sound counter intuitive from other posts where I say pharmacists must differentiate; however, it’s not.  Leadership needs to be in ALL forms of a profession – not just one area.  Leadership is the one area that I think cuts across or should cut across all practice settings.  Until we grow more leaders, we’re doomed to wait for others to tell us what we can and cannot do. (Eh hem, provider status, anyone?)

I think pharmacy could and should get this done.  If we don’t want to establish yet another pharmacy organization, the orgs could come together and co-create a leadership development program.  The organizations seem to play well together in some areas, I think leadership should be one of those areas–and leadership development should be offered across all pharmacy organizations.  Furthermore, I think it could happen early in 3 places:

  • At the beginning of one’s career (post residency, fellowship, or 2-3 years in practice)
  • Mid-career (10-25 years in practice), and
  • Even right before retirement. (As frankly, pharmacy is probably one of the most flexible professions to downshift on a part time basis if one wants to–but do pharmacists know how?)

I really think this is a no-brainer, and while I’ve been so entrenched in my little world and wondered about this before, I’ve never really written about it.

I’ve never understood why pharmacy doesn’t have a leadership development program that cuts across all practice settings.

Isn’t it time?


The 2015 Vegetable Soup of Pharmacist and Healthcare Certifications

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

111MPTwo things sparked this post.  First, at the end of every year (usually around time I have to compile the dreaded performance management documents) I think more interestingly about the future – where I want to go next in terms of my career.  It helps me plan the year ahead (and frankly, it helps me get my performance management documents done, because this way I can focus on the future, rather than the past.)

Second, anybody else notice the vegetable soup behind a lot of professionals’ names is changing?  I’ve noticed this as an educator myself.  I even had to start looking up some of that vegetable soup behind other professionals’ names so I can understand what areas they are interested in and have credentials in.  So much so that I thought it was a time to investigate further on certifications for pharmacists and healthcare professionals.

I’ve often preached to my students that “PharmD” or “RPh” anymore by itself really isn’t going to cut it in the marketplace if a pharmacist wants to develop his or her career over time.  It’s just the ticket in to the healthcare party.  After that, you have to find your own sub-party or corner of the room.  Of course, one way to differentiate your skills is to go back to school–but there are less expensive and time consuming forms of education now than formal education.  One of the cool and exploding areas of continuing professional development is certifications.  But–there are so many certifications now in healthcare!  Which one should you choose?

Are you a clinical pharmacist, and love certain therapeutic areas of practice?  Or, are you more of an admin geek like me, and more interested in the areas of management, leadership, ethics, law, and business?  Maybe you’re hankering to be a life or health or wellness coach on top of that pharmacy degree?  I care less about what, but care more that you (perhaps as a goal for 2015?) consider a certification in an area of healthcare or pharmacy that you are most passionate about.  Of course, you want to pay attention to cost, and whether or not you need to be “re-” certified in your new certification or not over time.112MP

To get you started, I thought I’d share my own list with you on different types of certifications I’ve found thus far over at Google Sheets.  I really needed to start keeping track of them for my own professional sanity–and to be a better professor who advises students about finding their own passions in pharmacy practice.  While my list I’m certain isn’t all-inclusive, it’s a good start.  Another good place to start for pharmacists specifically is the Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy.  They have a good list (last updated in 2012) that shows in detail each of the pharmacist certification programs here.

One of the fastest growing areas in healthcare is that of wellness coaching.  If you’re thinking about this arena, I found an excellent and recent table on wellness coaching certifications put together by the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard. Props to the writer of this document, because this area I predict is going to explode over the next few years.

As I’ve also said previously, the bad news is that there are a lot of pharmacists.  The good news, however, is that we have the opportunity to learn about and get involved in different and wider areas of practice now.  The best news of all is through these resources I’ve outlined for you above, you now have the awesome power to learn about and become better at the niches and different areas of practice moving forward, should you choose the certification pathway.

I look forward to looking up YOUR vegetable soup after that “PharmD”! (And if I missed anything – let me know.)

Year End Social Media Cleanup & Projects for 2015

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Today, I’ve been taking some of the advice around the net – and cleaning up my social media profiles.

First, I see LinkedIn has changed its profile algorithm again – and one can only put in “supported provider” links to our profiles (boo, LI, boo…), so I’ll do a little shameless student promotion here (where I determine the ‘supported provider’ links). Second, (and I haven’t made a final decision on this just yet) I may resolve to get the heck out of faceplaceland for 2015.  Stay tuned on that one.

Several people in my tribe have been asking about the 2 interprofessional children’s books that students at Butler U have been working on this year.  Now, both may be pre-ordered:

1. The Gifts of Indiana – This is the children’s book that has Indiana history, targeting the 4th graders out there who learn about Indiana history, just in time for the bicentennial of the state in 2016. Until Jan 3, you can pre-order your copy that should be available this spring over at Indiegogo.  While I’ve not yet seen the final illustrations, I have read the manuscript, and even I learned a few things about Indiana that I didn’t know before (yes, as a native Hoosier).  They have a faceplace page too.

2. Max Greene and the Vaccine Team – Yes, I know that vaccines are riddled with controversy.  However, even though the influenza vaccine this year might not be a catch all, one only needs to go to the media to learn that deadly diseases, like measles, can spread like wildfire without children getting vaccinated properly.  This book tries to educate kids and their families about vaccines. You can pre-order it at the students’ Weebly site.  Their faceplace page is here.

Other stuff coming in 2015:

3. The BU Well project – We’ve got an award-winning rockstarian group of executive external advisors on board for this open access journal.  We also have a top shelf group of students lined up–I actually had the problem of too many students wanting in on this.  Have I ever built a journal before? Nope.  Have our students? Not yet.  But after the spring semester, they’ll be done with this experience, and I can say with great certainty that this skill set that students will acquire (by building a journal of their very own in healthcare) could be a once in a lifetime experience.

4. I’m joining Impact 100 of Greater Indy for 2015 – My friend Kelly Hartman never took no for an answer from me on this, so I’m joining this crew of women to pony up and put our money where our passions and mouths are for 2015.  They do cool stuff, which you can check out at their website, here.

Now, as for my other personal and professional projects for 2015–I can’t talk about them just yet.  They are top secret, and many depend upon things that are still pending.  I’ll know more soon.  But, as soon as I can talk about them, you’ll be the first to know, as always, my fab 13 – because the faithful readers of my microcosmic blog get my stuff first.  My only hint at this point is that the other night, I had a dream…of packing.  And, after looking it up – it means one thing: big changes are afoot.

What are you up to for 2015?  Whatever it is – I’m certain it will be awesome!

The Best Gift to Yourself this Holiday Season

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

holidaze.I’m catching up on some much needed reading this holiday season – since I haven’t had a lot of time to do so of late.

One of the books I’m zooming through again (yes, I checked it out previously but no, I didn’t fully read it the first time) is Smart Tribes by Christine Comaford.  It’s pretty good, but what I really appreciate it is that it gives you a tool to discern how to improve your leadership/management skills.

This tool is not only important to learn about others–but most of all, to learn about yourself.

The particular tool in the book that I like thus far is the “Meta Programs” identification tool.  It has 6 different spectrums by which all US workers fall (for example, intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation is one of the 6 – but she calls it internal vs. external).  I went through the tool and identified myself on each of the 6 spectrums, and now know what questions to ask others to discern where they fall on the spectrums.

And while I find that tool helpful, it’s not a book or a tool I think that is the best gift for you this holiday season.

My favorite and best gift for you this holiday season is this: to know and understand yourself.

Knowing who you are, and who you are not is one the best things you can do for yourself.  It can help you figure out where you want to go in life.  It will help you figure out how to better navigate there with your best skills, rather than your weaknesses.  It will aid and abet your best life–rather than anything less.

I’ve shared at this tiny blog several times that I keep a Know Thyself Kit on myself.  It’s a laundry list of all the tools, tests, and personality summaries I’ve done over my professional life.  And it’s probably even more valuable than my own CV or resume to me, because each time I have to make a key decision in my life, I bring out the KTK and remind myself on who I am–what I value–what my strengths and talents are–and THEN, I make my final decision based upon that list.  I’m going to even go a step further here and give you a list of my very own KTK tests right here.  (Trust me, you don’t want my results.)  Besides, this post isn’t about me – it’s about YOU!

Santa won’t bring this to you – but I will.  Start collecting anthropology on the biggest and best mystery of all this holiday season: you.


Friday, December 19th, 2014

There’s been a lot of buzz this week about how Stanford has announced their new “open loop university” where undergraduates can take more than 4 years to loop in and out of the university between school and work to earn their undergraduate degrees.  While I think this is a cool idea – and I hate to steal Stanford’s thunder, (along with the Chronicle of Higher Education, that loves to focus mainly on undergraduate education), both and all have been ignoring the fact that many of us…have already created our own open loop university situations on our very own.

What I mean by this is – there are tons of professionals in the U.S. workforce that have been going back to school on a part time or full time basis while working.  I’ve been back to school since undergrad 3 times now.  I work with a lot of colleagues, and most of my friends in law school, were in this exact situation.  They worked and they went to school at the same time, re-tooling their skills and their careers.

So, kudos to Stanford for putting a label on this.  However, what I think smart colleges and universities should do is create a massive, open online university – a MOOU (yes, I ripped this off from MOOCs), and create students for life. 

How might this work?  Well, let’s begin with what happens now.  You go to a 4-year undergraduate program.  You graduate.  Maybe, just maybe if the university has a decent alumni affairs office, you join the alumni group and then receive propaganda from the university (typically in the form of a slick glossy quarterly book on all the wonderful things happening at the university, with a section in the back for alumni updates).  If you have a bad university alumni affairs office, you don’t even get that.  Maybe you just get called incessantly during the annual capital campaign to give give give, but get nothing in return for it.

What I propose instead is the college or university creating a culture of students for life.  That could mean a closed portal of opportunities for alumni to get engaged with the university – as in, come back and guest lecture, come back and interview students, come back and be a part of campus.  But even better, I think the university could offer the following: “If you’re an alum of our university, come back and take a new class in 5 years of graduation.”  No silly paperwork, graduate entry exams, or even dollars associated with it.

Wait. What? A free class within 5 years of graduation?  Yes.  This will re-engage the alums to experience the cultural changes at the university.  Then, you offer it again at 10 years.  Then 15, 20 and so-on!

But what about costs?  Well, if you have a course that’s completely maxed out, maybe not.  But if you have open space in courses, why not?  Does it really cost more to let someone audit a course?  And, if this is truly something that is a cultural change, universities should charge more at the undergraduate level, and ensure that students are aware that they aren’t students just for 4 years – they are now students of the university FOR LIFE.

Furthermore, if a university really wanted to create students for life, they’d have a graduate funnel and plan to turn those graduates into advocates for the university, and ultimately students AND teachers on campus.  A certain percentage of grads should come back and run the institution to some extent.  Part of this development plan could include furthering one’s education.

As an alum of 4 different universities now, I have to say that none of the 4 has ever offered me the option to return to campus and take a class for free to polish my skills.  They haven’t even marketed this stuff to me, even for a discount.  There is so much opportunity here, and with the average human living until age 80 now, there’s absolutely no reason why universities can’t focus on alumni engagement and create MOOUs and students for life moving forward.  In fact, I no longer think this is a nice to have, but a MUST HAVE for universities if they wish to survive in the 21st century.

I’m glad someone at least is thinking about it.  I predict the schools that get more creative with alumni engagement will be successful in the long run, because they’re re-engaging with their best customers.

2015 Annual Meetings for Pharmacy Organizations: Game On

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

I got an email today that said: “You’re awesome!”

But that wasn’t the email that inspired this post.

Another email came in that said, “Hey, Albert. Dug your list of pharmacy orgs.  But–why didn’t you just include a list of each org’s annual meeting and location for planning ahead–if, in fact, planning ahead was your goal in creating the list anyway?”

To that I say, GAME ON.

Tonight when watching TV/listening to Stitcher, I took this exact challenge.  I even prepped the list of annual meetings for you in two ways – I’ll embed below from Slideshare (totally downloadable – I know the font is small, but I wanted to keep the info to one page), or you can reach a Google spreadsheet at this link (which I’ll try to keep updated) if you want it in a spreadsheet instead.

Enjoy – and I hope you find this list useful – but be warned – I’m only going to keep this info up for a limited time – you’d best grab it NOW while you can!

If You Want to See Change, You Have to Be The Change

Monday, December 15th, 2014

This moment is sponsored by Monday, Tony Robbins, all the other self-help coaches, and yours truly! Now, I just posted on Faceplace that a group basically had to stop whining, so I have to practice what I preach.

Look, I love a good whine session as much as anyone.  However, whining and complaining without any solutions, suggestions for change, or ways to make something better – is just whining.  Whining never got anyone anywhere.  Your boss doesn’t want to hear about problems without solutions, either – neither do the rest of us.

So, in that vein, here I am to ask the next Indiana General Assembly legislative session for the following PROBLEMS to be FIXED with a SOLUTION around each. Ready?

In the 2015 Indiana General Assembly, may we please have:

1. Sunday alcohol sales – I know, this one sounds weird coming from a healthcare professional.  But hey, Jesus, allegedly, turned water into wine, and wine in moderation can be good for you.  Besides, Sunday is the 2nd busiest shopping day of the week in Indiana.  Not to mention, we’ve been talking about this like at least the last 10 legislative sessions.  This is commerce, people, and commerce flowing is good for economies.  Can we please just get this done this time?

2. Naloxone sold OTC – state of Indiana (and everywhere, frankly, for that matter) has a big opiate abuse problem.  Whether it is the prescription opiates or straight up 100% illegal heroin are being abused, people are dying from drug overdoses that could be solved at least temporarily with access to naloxone.  25 states have passed this – can we please be the 26th?  I do think that pharmacies should be selling them, though, so some counseling can happen around naloxone.  It’s not just a pill one pops.

3. Pseudoephedrine (PSE) sold by prescription only – If you think we have a heroin or opiate problem, we in Indiana have the dubious honor of an even bigger problem with: methamphetamine (meth) abuse.  A major ingredient of meth is pseudoephedrine.  This, along with ephedrine, needs to be at least prescription only in IN, if not a controlled substance and prescription.  There’s too much “smurfing” going on and meth, from what I’ve heard, is even harder to break as a habit than heroin.  People, this is not good.  We have to clean this up, and other states have had dramatic change for the better by making PSE prescription only.  I wrote about this one in law school.

4. Benefit corporations as corporate entities – I’ve been beating this dead horse now at least 5 years, but one more time.  We desperately need social entrepreneurial business forms in this state.  Over half the states have them now.  Let’s please not be last here.  My arguments on why we need these are here.  There are hundreds if not thousands of articles on why we need to arm our new and budding social entrepreneurs with these business entity types – Flexible Purpose Corporations, Low Profit Limited Liability Companies (L3Cs) and benefit corporations.  Don’t listen to me – just google them and learn more. This is my wish list from IGA in 2015.  Maybe Santa is listening.   And while I am complaining here, I think I’ve also provided a few solutions too.