Women Taking the Lead

AACP Article

Women in pharmacy academia reflected on their experiences in leadership positions during an AACP webinar that explored the challenges and rewards that come with moving to an administrative role.

By Miranda Steinkopf and Melissa Murer Corrigan

AACP’s 2021–24 Strategic Plan elevates the organization’s commitment to leading diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism efforts. Diversity, equity and inclusion in leadership roles with AACP and at various member institutions is part of this priority. A recent AJPE article, “Women CEO Deans of U.S. Schools and Colleges of Pharmacy,” indicated that 74 women served as CEO deans of U.S. schools and colleges of pharmacy between January 1988 and December 2020. The article outlined recommendations for preparing future women deans, and it cited the need for increased mentoring and creating an advanced leadership program for potential female dean candidates.

In May 2022, the Women Faculty Special Interest Group held a webinar entitled “Making the Move to an Administrative Role – Advice from Administrators in Academia” to provide real-world perspectives from female leaders in pharmacy academia. The SIG’s five objectives were to: 1) describe considerations for pursuing an administrative position in academic pharmacy; 2) illustrate several professional pathways to administrative positions; 3) outline steps to take for pursuing an administrative position; 4) identify barriers and solutions for pursuing an administrative position; and 5) discuss practical advice for excelling in an administrative role. Major themes that emerged from the discussion included the importance of relationships, maintaining work-life balance, navigating evolving responsibilities and deciding when to pursue an administrative role.

The three panelists were Dr. Jaclyn Boyle, Dr. Diane Calinski and Dr. Julie Johnson.

Dr. Jaclyn BoyleBoyle currently serves as an associate professor and assistant dean of student success at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). She completed her PGY-1 and PGY-2 in Internal Medicine and Academia and received a Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management. She also serves as a career coach, helping pharmacists transition into new career opportunities or build innovative entrepreneurial businesses. She is the current chair for the College of Pharmacy’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force and is a member of AACP’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism Advisory Panel.

Dr. Diane CalinskiCalinski is transitioning from vice chair of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics to chair at Manchester University. She serves as the immediate past chair to the Biological Sciences Section of AACP, and she is the vice chair of the Board of Trustees to Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana.


Dr. Julie JohnsonJohnson was the dean of the University of Florida College of Pharmacy and distinguished professor of pharmacy and medicine until recently stepping down from the dean position in August. After a year of administrative leave, she will rejoin the college faculty in the department of pharmacotherapy and translational research. Under her leadership as dean, the College of Pharmacy implemented a new Pharm.D. curriculum, grew the faculty size by 90 percent, grew research funding threefold and achieved the highest percentage of underrepresented minority students among professional degree programs at the University of Florida and top 40 colleges of pharmacy.

This article highlights insights that the panelists shared during the webinar, which was moderated by Dr. Angela Chu, assistant professor and director of Interprofessional Education at Roseman University, South Jordan Campus. AACP members can access the full recording on AACP Connect by navigating to the Webinar Community Library. It can be purchased for CE credit here under the “Distance” tab.

How have your responsibilities and expectations in teaching, service and scholarship changed since transitioning into an administrative role? How do you determine what responsibilities are necessary and which you can potentially give up?

Johnson: Even though I'm the dean, and a lot of people would view that as 100 percent an administrative role, I maintained active faculty activities. I still have funded research I maintain, but I did transition out of teaching in the classroom and had transitioned out of clinical practice activities when I became chair. When becoming an administrator, I encourage people not to give up all their faculty responsibilities because it doesn't give you a good path back if you decide you don't want to have that role at some point. I think it also challenges different parts of your brain to have those different types of responsibilities. I transitioned and gave up things or kept things where I felt like I was able to best contribute. The things where I felt I wasn't uniquely qualified were what I walked away from first.

Boyle: To piggyback off what Dr. Johnson mentioned, I too had to leave the clinical practice behind. Something had to go. But that was what really shifted in my service responsibilities. I would say teaching responsibilities went down a little bit, but where they went down, my service responsibilities went up. I started getting more involved with college and university level committees and task forces. My scholarship really hasn't changed very much.

Calinski: One of the things that I have struggled with in getting into different roles is what do you give up? Because you do have to give something up. If you don't, you're not going to have anything even close to a work-life balance. Then you're also not an effective leader because you're not ever taking a break for yourself. Giving up responsibilities is really difficult, but one of the things that kind of has helped me is going back to, “is this really necessary or something I need to hold onto?” Maybe it's doing everybody a service if I let somebody else take that on for a while and we get a fresh perspective to do something different.

How did your colleagues’ perception of you change with your new role?

Johnson: I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I can share from my perspective what the change is like. I would say that if you're in an executive leadership role where people report to you, meaning a chair or a dean, it is difficult in many ways because there has to be some space between you and the people in your unit, so in my case, my entire college. A lot of people develop really strong friendships with the people that they work with, and that can be challenged a little bit when you become an executive leader because there just has to be some space. It can be a little bit lonely.

Boyle: I too would have to look to my colleagues to see how their perception has changed. Although I do ask my direct reports to provide me with anonymous feedback, so I do get to see some of the thoughts that they have. Things that have come up over time have been that they look to me for support and to navigate the university-level relationships that we have. Being that conduit between the college and the university is really a great thing that I am able to participate in to advocate for resources or support on behalf of our college and our students.

Women who have recently transitioned to their first administrative position may have colleagues who still treat them as junior faculty. How would you handle this?

Boyle: Something that I pursued this year that I found really helpful for this sort of situation is executive coaching. This would be a third-party individual that helps you work on your leadership skills, and it could be a pharmacist, it could be a non-pharmacist. That person really helped me navigate some executive-level skills that I had just not developed because we really didn't do too much of that in pharmacy school, and then with residency, or other practice responsibilities, I just didn't get that sort of training.

How do you find mentors when few exist at a current institution? How have you created and maintained relationships with mentors?

Calinski: There's a lot of opportunities for mentorship that people don't always know about within AACP. The women's SIG has a great mentorship program. We also run a mentorship program in [the Biological Sciences Section], and one of our questions in the beginning is, “What are your career goals?” We try to match that up with a mentor that has reached that goal or is on their path to doing that, if we can. I've used mentorship programs as a mentor and as a mentee, and I think those are really effective relationships. But the ones that I gain the most out of are not prescribed. I have four people, probably, that I'll reach out to when things are coming up and I need some help or some advice. The other thing that I think is really fun is getting away from email, so I'll just call them on their personal phones or send them a quick text message. It's so much more personal than sending an email.

Johnson: I think there are multiple layers. There's the Academic Leadership Fellows Program, which is fantastic, and I would strongly encourage people to consider doing that. Second is a more formal mentorship. But the third is just getting to know people at other institutions. It can just be people in a similar role. There's a group of deans at research intensive programs that communicate with each other frequently because we have common missions, common challenges. Nobody's mentoring in that formal mentor-mentee relationship. We all mentor each other.

Boyle: Most of my really influential mentors are those people I've gravitated to because I want to be like them, or we have shared values or interests. At our institution, we implemented a type of group mentoring called progressive mentoring. In the mentoring groups, there are assistant, associate and full professors, and it's usually five to seven individuals. We see that there's learning across all levels of that mentoring group and that folks have different individuals they can reach out to, depending on who they gravitate toward most.

Describe your approach to being a mentor or your approach to relationships with those who directly report to you.

Calinski: It's kind of cheesy, but at Manchester University, our mission is to respect the infinite worth of every individual, and I really love it. It's something that resonates with me, hence why I've stayed at Manchester for so long. One of the things for me as a leader is to recognize that everybody has things that they're bringing to the table. Not everybody is going to be a leader in the classic definition of the word leader, so in terms of encouraging leadership in the people I interact with, I pose it back to them. It's going to the individual and seeing what their strengths are and promoting them and letting them showcase those strengths.

Boyle: I, too, believe that everyone has at least one innate superpower that they are ready to share with the world. They just may not feel confident enough to do it yet, or it’s untapped potential. If somebody could see that in you and bring it out, that is helpful. For my mentees, I tend to try to connect them with opportunities that I see their strengths could excel in and push them slightly outside of what I think they might be comfortable doing because that's what my mentors have done for me. Those areas of growth have been really transformational. Mentors who can see that kind of light in a person of what gets them going and plug them into opportunities to showcase that or share their gifts, that's where I think the real magic happens.

Were you able to achieve an appropriate work-life balance after assuming your administrative position? How do you protect your time outside of work?

Boyle: I think my work-life integration got better when I took the administrative role, and that may be for several reasons. My practice site was extremely busy and there were a lot of system-level things that I was involved with. In this role, it really has been helpful to set pretty strict boundaries with work times. Something I learned in residency was to keep my email off of my phone, so I actually don’t check my email unless I’m at work or at my computer. I will say that there are times that I have to do college things outside of work hours, whether that’s student events or if there is a student crisis going on after hours, but that’s a minority of the time. The majority of the time, those boundaries are pretty solid, which is really helpful for other priorities in life like family and friends.

Calinski: I don’t email on my phone either. I’ll just put a plug in for this too, because I think sometimes we don't do this, but you have full permission to not answer student emails. I had something set up that was an automatic response to students to ask them to come to my office to talk to me because a five-minute conversation with a student is infinitely shorter than writing up a giant response in an email. Also, you get to talk to them and get to know them.

Johnson: I wish I could say I don't do email on my phone, but I don't think my life would be possible if I didn't do that. I do think it really is important to figure out boundaries for your life and your family. Depending on the role you're in, it may not be possible to do it all in a 40-hour workweek, but then being very disciplined about identifying the times when you will do that.

Any additional thoughts on finding work-life balance in a world with virtual work opportunities?

Boyle: One of the good things about Covid is that it allowed us to see better what can be done from different locations. Organizations and leaders really need to think hard about the fact that women typically take on a majority of outside-of-work responsibilities. People don't want traditional workplaces anymore, and if we can't recruit and retain great people, we're going to lose them. If we want more women in administrative roles, I think these issues need to be addressed because women are going to opt out if they can't see themselves making it work. They're smart individuals and they will just say, this is not worth it. If they can't determine how to navigate this while having a life and not burning themselves out, then we won't have women in administrative roles.

When is an ideal time to pursue an administrative role? What advice can you share with those interested in pursuing their first administrative position or advancing in their existing roles?

Johnson: I'll say there is no ideal time. There is not a single answer to that question. I think that there might be situations where there are times when it seems sort of like the perfect time in your career. Then there may be an opportunity that is a really good opportunity, but the timing doesn't feel right. I'll be really honest, I never had intentions of becoming a dean. When the position at University of Florida became open, I still didn't plan to apply for it. It felt like a completely non-ideal time. I had a lot of things we were launching, like our clinical implementation program in pharmacogenomics. I had a lot of grant funding—about 90 percent of my salary was covered on grant. So, it felt like absolutely the worst time, and yet it was a window that wasn't just going to stay open. Sometimes you have to accept that an opportunity that is right for you to pursue is not always going to follow your timeline, so you have to decide whether you go ahead and pursue that. If you pass, then that window may not come up again in a time frame that makes sense.

Calinski: Sometimes in academia, we can get caught up in trying to get a certain title or be a certain thing. Just going back to questioning why you really want a role is important. Ask yourself, “Would I actually enjoy doing that job? Is that something that I would be good at?” Think about it because this is going to be your day-to-day job. Can you actually do those things, or would you enjoy doing those things?

Boyle: Something that my mentors encourage me to do is to talk to people about what you're interested in. Consider, are there needs of your current institution or other institutions that you could fulfill and fill a gap where there isn't a service or a person that exists yet? I agree with both ladies that I think there's not really an ideal time, but if you see an opportunity where the work that you're going to be doing is work that really makes you feel alive and excited about coming to work every day, those are the opportunities that you should really think hard about going for.

To continue these important conversations, please consider joining the Women Faculty SIG, and share your reflections on social media using #AACPATC to connect with the AACP Transformation Center.

Dr. Miranda Steinkopf is AACP’s academic leadership and education fellow. Melissa Murer Corrigan is executive director of the AACP Transformation Center.