Leading by Example

AACP Article

A University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy program enters ten years of connecting students with experienced pharmacy leaders—and the benefits go both ways.

By Maureen Thielemans

Imagine being a student pharmacist and you’re faced with a leadership challenge, inside or outside of the classroom. But rather than trying to solve it by yourself or in consultation solely with your peers, you’re able to meet with an experienced pharmacy leader to glean valuable insight. Together, you discuss the scenario, sharing knowledge and expertise, and apply leadership principles from literature, real-life experiences and more. It may sound uncommon and that’s because it is. But for students enrolled in the Leadership Networking Partners (LNP) Program, part of the Leadership Emphasis Area curriculum at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, the partnership means more than just networking—it’s about creating a community.;

Now in its 10th year of operation, the LNP program provides bi-directional benefits to students and practitioners who’ve been paired by the college, with the goal of creating a two-way exchange of leadership wisdom. They meet several times throughout the year to discuss topics presented in the classroom, or address questions provided by faculty advisors designed to provoke thoughtful conversations. But the information exchange doesn’t end there. Twice a semester all 25 pairs in the program meet as a group to engage in roundtable-style dialogue, enhancing cross collaboration amongst all participants. Academic Pharmacy Now spoke to Dr. Kristin Janke, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Care & Health Systems and co-director for the LEA, about the relationship between the students and pharmacists, and the benefits it brings to both parties.

Q: What was the motivation for creating the Leadership Networking Partners Program?

A: LEA students are hearing from instructors on a regular basis through the leadership coursework. To complement this, we felt it was vitally important that students hear from practitioners about the leadership challenges that they were experiencing on a daily basis. We needed to make a connection between the kinds of concepts we were talking about in the classroom and how those concepts played out in the real world.

Q: What makes the LNP unique and why do you think it’s successful?

A: We wanted students to learn about the vast experiences that practitioners have, but at the same time, ask the students to bring lessons from the classroom and discuss them with the practitioner. They complete readings together and assess how concepts would apply in a wide range of settings. It’s not a mentoring program, wherein the senior person provides the wisdom and the junior person soaks it all up, but instead both parties reap benefits. Q: What’s the process for pairing students with pharmacists? A. Students have access to descriptions of the pharmacists’ background and current responsibilities. Oftentimes students are attracted to someone in a particular setting that they themselves envision working in, whether it be a hospital, ambulatory care or managed care setting, for example. We do our best to match students with folks in roles that might be of particular interest to them.

Q: How do you cultivate discussion and engagement amongst the pairs?

A: For each one-on-one meeting between the student and pharmacist we suggest a reading and provide accompanying discussion questions. But we encourage them to go beyond those too. We also host orientations for both the pharmacists and students, and then we organize events during which they’re all together on campus.

Q: What are some of the other benefits to both the students and pharmacists?

A. The on-campus events are very powerful. Students present their leadership development work at roundtables with peers and practitioners, and receive feedback from both groups in a more intimate environment. They hear what’s going on in different settings, whether at other institutions or organizations, and the pharmacists benefit from learning about other successful practices. It’s about creating a smaller community, specifically around leadership, and how we can make an impact on others, but also within our own circles of influence.

Maureen Thielemans is Associate Director of Communications
at AACP and editor of Academic Pharmacy Now.