October 25, 2011

Pharmacy students amp up their business expertise

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Regardless of the area of practice that UW pharmacy students hope to pursue, they can benefit from business and management training. Whether they work in a community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy or another specialty, pharmacists with an understanding of business principles can be more effective as co-workers, managers and leaders.

The UW School of Pharmacy has offered pharmacy students a number of opportunities to hone their business skills for many years now — through elective classes and through extracurricular programs. And a few years ago, the Pharm.D. program implemented its first-ever required business class. Called Principles of Pharmacy Practice Management, it is co-taught by two School of Pharmacy faculty members with significant pharmacy management experience — Don Downing, Institute for Innovative Pharmacy Practice Endowed Professor, and Shabir Somani, Chief Pharmacy Officer for UW Medicine

In a pharmacy classroom, George D. Bartell shared his family's 120 years of experience in operating a drug store chain.

Claire Forster

In a pharmacy classroom, George D. Bartell shared his family’s 120 years of experience in operating a drug store chain.

This year, the class has been further enhanced. It has added an online
video curriculum taught by Steve LeFever, Chairman of Business Resource Services, and modeled after his e-learning program on Profit Mastery – which focuses on topics such as financial statements and pricing strategies.

The first class of fall quarter kicked off with George D. Bartell making an appearance. Bartell, the grandson of the founder of Bartell Drugs, serves as the chair and chief executive officer of the company. It is the oldest family-owned drugstore chain in the nation. Bartell Drugs is helping to underwrite the cost of incorporating LeFever’s online curriculum into the Principles of Pharmacy Practice Management class.

During his presentation, George Bartell shared his insight on topics ranging from leadership principals to the sustainability of independent pharmacies. He talked about the ways that his company has managed to grow over the years and to weather periods of economic downturns. And he shared some anecdotes about how the business of pharmacy has changed since Bartell Drugs opened in 1890.

Bartell said he enjoyed speaking with the UW pharmacy students. “They were engaged and asked good questions,” he said. “I have passion for what I do and it appears that the students have a passion for pharmacy.”

The students are learning about such topics as how to work with insurance companies, how to find a balance between providing care and creating a sustainable financial model, and how pharmacists and pharmacies are paid for what they do. Downing and Somani are also covering subjects like evaluating workflow and facility design, managing human resources and marketing pharmaceutical  care services.

“The Principles of Pharmacy Management class has been helpful at reminding me that being a pharmacist is a business profession as much as it is a science and patient care profession,” said second-year pharmacy student Tahlia Luedtke.

Don Downing, co-teacher of the course, noted that the class is also a great opportunity to converse about the leadership role of the pharmacist.