Make Your Mark, Part 2


From left: David Steeb with his colleagues Aubrey Kalungia and Hikabasa Halwiindi from the University of Zambia.

When I was the 2012–13 APhA–ASP National President, my presidential theme was Make Your Mark. 
During my speech at the 2012 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition, I described to students all over the country that we should strive to do three things in order to make our mark on the profession: discover your passion, purpose, and values; take risks; and give back. As I reflect back on those actions as the recipient of the 2018 APhA Distinguished New Practitioner Award, I believe that they hold true now more than ever. 

Since that speech, I have gone through these steps several times over, which has helped define my early career and future direction.

Failure as a learning 

It all started by taking a risk as a final-year student pharmacist. I wasn’t sure whether pursuing a residency was the right fit for me and was looking to do something unique and innovative that nobody had done before. During the process of going through residency interviews, my school offered me the opportunity to create and become the first UNC Global Engagement Fellow, allowing me to explore global opportunities in academia. While extremely excited about the chance to initiate globally focused-programs and research projects, I was suddenly worried about the risk of pursuing something new and going against the seemingly safer career path of residency training. 

I knew what my career options would be if I pursued residency, but had no idea what would result after the fellowship. There was a chance that I would not be successful and could fail due to my lack of global training and experience. After reflecting upon my speech at APhA, I recalled how failure is one of the greatest learning opportunities one has and how mistakes can translate into meaningful insight that a person would otherwise not gain. With this in mind, I decided to take the risk and pursue the path less traveled, to see what direction I could take myself. The things that affect you the most are rarely the end outcomes, but rather the steps you take to get there. 

Let your story find you

Approximately 6 months into my fellowship, I discovered a passion for building out the intersection of pharmacy and global health in academia and soon became connected to others who had similar interests. As I started to develop my newfound career niche, I reflected back on how I did not really know what I wanted to do with my career until months after I had graduated. Too many students I speak with today get the sense that they have to have everything figured out by the time they graduate, but I have learned that sometimes instead of trying too hard to create your story, you should let the story find you. That is not to say that the best career approach is to kick back and relax, but rather that you should believe that perseverance will pay off in ways you may not be able to see. 

Paying it forward

Giving back through APhA has been a huge part of my story, both as a student pharmacist and as a new practitioner. I have learned from many APhA leaders over the years and I do not believe I would be where I am today without their guidance and perspective. As I have started to become more established in my career, I hope to provide similar support to the next round of leaders coming up through the profession. 

As an APhA–ASP Chapter co-Advisor at UNC, I have also come to appreciate how much students have to offer me more so than what I try to offer them. Regardless of age or position, everyone has something unique to contribute and hence an opportunity to give back. 

I hope you remember these three things as you Make Your Mark on the profession. Sometimes it starts by taking a risk, maybe for you it will start by giving back, or perhaps it all begins with discovering more about yourself. Regardless of the order you take, you will likely go through these steps more than once as you discover what your mark can be within the profession. As you move forward throughout your 
career, be curious about new opportunities, do not be afraid to take the path less traveled, and see what you can do to give back. 

12B_David-Steeb---DNP-Award.pngDavid R. Steeb, PharmD, MPH, is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Global Engagement at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.