THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

May 2, 2005

Many young pharmacists are finding satisfaction forging novel career paths for themselves.

When most newly minted pharmacists get their licenses, they head off to a work life spent on the dispensing treadmill in retail or hospital pharmacies. But more and more young practitioners are opting for pharmacy careers that their grandfathers could never have imagined.

Many of the young pharmacists who are forging new career paths have completed residencies to build on their knowledge and experience base, as well as gain self-confidence to explore other options. They are also perceptive enough to recognize opportunities when they arise and are not afraid to grab for the brass ring that will set them apart from more traditional pharmacists. Drug Topics invites you to meet a few of these young pioneers who have, indeed, taken the road less traveled.

Father's footsteps LeAnn Causey's father, Nolton, owns a pharmacy in Natchitoches, La., so it might have seemed a cinch that she would follow his example. That's how it ultimately turned out, but only after her dream of being a medical illustrator died when she couldn't stomach dissection in class.

After graduating summa cum laude in 2002, Causey completed a primary care residency and went back home to work in her dad's pharmacy-but not to dispense pills. With his blessing and a three-year grace period to turn a profit, she founded Causey's Rx Solutions in August 2003. She oversees a wide mix of reimbursable clinical services, including diabetes, weight management, cholesterol testing, medication analysis, and insulin pump training. She also consults with drug companies and pharmacy benefit managers. And her business is profitable after only 18 months.

Causey's My Prescription Program offers local self- insured employers a chance to improve worker health and reduce medication costs. So far, the service provides medication therapy management to more than 700 employees. She goes on-site to counsel workers, and she also consults with physicians to modify drug regimens in line with formularies.

"In our area, there is a huge lack of any of these types of services," said Causey, who was the 2004 Louisiana Pharmacists Association's Innovative Pharmacist of the Year. "Patients were traveling an hour or more to get care. We are truly meeting an unmet need for our community because we're not duplicating a service another health professional was already doing. That's why we've been so successful."

Information, please Brent I. Fox, Pharm.D., is also a Southerner whose father is in the profession, but as a hospital pharmacy director. Born in Mobile, Ala., he received a B.S. and a Pharm.D. from Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy. He recently earned a Ph.D. from Auburn University as well. His career path was set the very first day of pharmacy school orientation. As he listened to Bill G. Felkey, professor of pharmacy care systems, talk about his work in pharmacy informatics, Fox realized he had found his niche.

"I had no formal information technology in high school, but in pharmacy school I was always the person in class someone came to when they had a computer problem," Fox said. "Then in graduate school I immersed myself in the area, allowing me to understand and talk some of the technospeak. But I'm not trained as a computer science person. Clinical informatics, a subset of the broad area of informatics, is a blending of health care and IT from the viewpoint of how they can be applied to improve patient care. Pharmacy informatics is found within this area."

After graduating with his Pharm.D., Fox worked for about a year in the pharmacy department of a company in Mobile that designs, installs, and supports hospital information systems. But eventually, the job lost its challenge, and he headed back to graduate school in 2000 where he worked with Felkey and other professors on the cutting edge of informatics and pharmacy practice.