You probably can’t find your perfect job-you’ll have to make it.
I’ve been precepting students for the past 10 years, and #61 and #62 are currently staying with my wife Denise and me in our home, about two hours from the University of Pittsburgh. This Rural Pharmacy Rotation is sought after by the serious community pharmacy students because of our involvement in working in physicians’ clinics, where we provide pharmacy consultation to the providers.
Denise works at the Centre Volunteers in Medicine (CVIM) in State College, PA, which provides care to the neediest of all patients, the uninsured. Denise does a stellar job getting medications from all kinds of resources such as AmeriCares, Direct Relief, pharmaceutical reps, and MAP programs. She cares for people released from prison and many other patients who have no insurance. Her situation is unique: her patients get brand name drugs that are usually not covered by most insurance plans, thanks to the generosity of the manufacturers. She works with numerous volunteers from an assortment of healthcare careers-physicians, CRNPs, and nurses. State College, home to Pennsylvania State University, is one of the more affluent communities, and their fundraising efforts are most successful in supporting this clinic.
The clinic I work in is a direct-pay family practice clinic. Zane Gates, MD, founder of the Empower-3 clinic, works tirelessly on this model to remove the insurance companies from the examination room. Gates’ clinic is a modern family practice office that caters to the underserved, the Medicaid population, and business groups who buy “memberships” for their employees at a nominal monthly cost. Gates uses his pharmacists and his physician assistants, to provide excellent care at a reasonable cost. The pharmacist sees the patient first, cleans up the med list, verifies adherence, pends refills that are needed, and discusses smoking cessation with the patient, before the provider even walks into the room.
The question every student asks either Denise or me is, “So how did you get a position like this?” The answer can be distilled down to one word: Connections. I met Gates at a mutual friend’s party about six years ago. He asked me to develop a formulary to help him care for his working poor. Working with my wife, daughter, and son-in law, we developed a usable formulary where the drugs cost less than $10 a month. He was pleased, and when he got funding from the State Health Department for a pharmacist for four hours a week, I came to mind. After the grant expired, he was able to keep me on. Four days a week, he has a pharmacist staffing his clinic. I cover two of those days.
Denise got her position at CVIM when the manager came to her and asked if she knew of a pharmacist who would be interested in covering 12 hours a week. Denise offered two names, who were not interested, so she decided this was an opportunity to practice clinical pharmacy. She works directly with the volunteer physicians and residents from Hershey Medical Center. The position is a dream job for her, allowing her to break away from the “golden handcuffs.” She has never been happier in her career.
Nothing pleases me more when I get to share in the success of my past student pharmacists. Student #15, Mike Geishauser, a resident of Altoona who graduated from Duquesne University five years ago, called me and asked if he could shadow me at Gates’ clinic, because he landed a position at Altoona Family Physicians as a full-time clinical pharmacist. How did Mike get his dream job? He was persistent in showing the supervising physician articles, information, and proof of the value of a pharmacist in a family practice clinic. We had an awesome day together, and I shared my protocols and my experience in the clinic.
I tell every student that you won’t find a job like I have, you have to create a job like I have. Mike is proof of that.