Have a bias for 'yes'
Scott Knoer is APhA’s 13th CEO and Executive Vice President.
If there is one thing APhA members should know early on in his tenure, it’s that Scott Knoer, PharmD, MS, FASHP, is not bound by limits. “Humbled and honored” to be selected as APhA’s 13th CEO and Executive Vice President, Dr. Knoer has spent his first few months on the job getting to know staff virtually and laying out his vision enthusiastically. In a life that has crossed the country and the world, this car enthusiast has kept his foot on the pedal when it comes to standing up for the rights of both pharmacists and patients.
Recently, Dr. Knoer sat down at APhA headquarters with new practitioner and 2018–19 APhA–ASP President Nimit Jindal, PharmD, to record a podcast. In a far-ranging discussion, these two pharmacy leaders discussed health care during a pandemic, the importance of advocating for the profession, and the critical role student pharmacists play. And as a bonus, the term “Scott-ism” was officially added to the APhA lexicon. An excerpt of the interview is below, and the entire podcast is available at https://www.pharmacist.com/publications/spm/multimedia.
Nimit Jindal: What has been the biggest challenge in transitioning to APhA thus far?
Scott Knoer: The thing that really surprised me is COVID–19. So not only are you starting a new job, you’re starting a job in an economic downturn and can’t meet with everybody. That has definitely been a big challenge, but I can’t feel sorry for myself because everyone in the country is dealing with the same thing.
My son is a final-year student pharmacist, and some of his rotations are virtual. He was supposed to do one at Cleveland Clinic in London and that was canceled. What you learn is resilience. You just got to go with it. We can complain about it, but that won’t do any good. So how do we go around those barriers, and how do we just make the best of situations? That’s life.
NJ: Years ago, when starting your leadership journey, what were some of the things you did that helped build your foundation?
SK: There are some universal truths you have to do, which I did. My universal truths for students are one, have a bias for ‘yes.’ When you have a bias for yes, you get recognized. The second part is, success breeds success. Someone calls, you step up and do a good job. Guess what happens the next time they need someone to step up? Who do they come to? They come to you. My life is filled with so many examples of where I am just like, ‘Yeah, we’ll try that.’ You do a good job, and it explodes.
When you hear that knock, you can look at that two ways: is that more work or more opportunity? Depending on how you answer that question is largely going to tell how successful you are going to be in life.
NJ: Various leadership authors talk about this personal North Star. Simon Sinek talks about “Starting with Why.” Stephen Covey talks about “Starting with the End in Mind.” What has driven you?
SK: On Strength Finders, what drives me is Significance. I want to be part of something bigger than myself. I want to influence health care. I am driven by making things better, not for me, but for society, for patients, and for pharmacists. I think the thing that pushes me is that constant drive to have a positive impact on the world. Every day, I wake up and think, ‘what can we do to improve patient care?’
The legacy is what you leave behind. It’s the things your team accomplishes. My job is to create an environment where people can be their best.
NJ: As APhA–ASP President, I remember being at a dinner with the incoming APhA Board members. In the middle of the conversation, [then-APhA CEO] Tom Menighan looks at me and goes, ‘Nimit, what do you think?’ That was the first moment where I went: ‘Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into?’ I didn’t understand the specifics of the topic, but I knew enough to provide some kind of comment. I knew I had to learn a little more so I’d be prepared the next day.
SK: Well that’s great, because you came into two more Scott-isms. If you have one thing you take out of this, it’s life is about relationships. You can’t do anything on your own. People have to believe you want to do the right thing. My North Star is to always do the right thing.
The other thing to remember is that for student pharmacists, new practitioners, and me, every day is a job interview. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but you are being watched. You are on rotation, you are going to need letters of recommendation. So do a good job, volunteer, come in early. You gotta work harder than other people. In order to be successful, you have to put more energy into it than other people. Approach life as you could be talking to someone who could be interviewing you in a year, or five years.
NJ: What advice do you have for graduating student pharmacists as they begin their careers as pharmacy practitioners?
SK: I have another Scott-ism for you. There is not a right answer, but I will say it’s a universal truth: The more you limit yourself, the more you limit yourself. I went from Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the river to Omaha, Nebraska, for undergrad, got a psych degree, went to Germany for three years, I went back to Nebraska for pharmacy school, and went to University of Texas Medical Branch because it was a great opportunity as operations manager. Then I went to Minnesota. I went from Texas to Minnesota. I went from heat and humidity to bitter cold. Then the Cleveland Clinic called. I had never been that far east. Nine years later, APhA called. So, my path is not for everybody, but if I had not been able to go where the opportunity was, I would not be sitting here today.
Tom English is the Editor of Student Pharmacist in Washington, DC.