The journey continues

WOMAN LEADING THE WAY

The “Future Five”

The “Future Five”: Walker, Iannarelli, Phelps, Simonson, and Maine.

By Carly Harsha

When APhA–ASP, previously the Student American Pharmaceutical Association (SAPhA), was born in 1969, it created a home for student pharmacists across the country. Student leaders and their supporters advocated for this Academy long before its birth, and voices grew over time. The Academy has become what it is today because of fearless leaders. Among those leaders are some of the most ambitious women the profession has known.

This year we celebrate not only APhA–ASP, but also the passionate people who dedicated their time to the profession. In the late 1970s, female involvement in the profession exploded. Pharmacy schools’ class sizes went from 10% to 20% women to 62.5%, as recorded by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy in fall 2017. Along the way, female student pharmacists stepped up to the plate to show that they were leaders too, and to inspire students across the country. 

Common themes can be recognized as these proud pharmacists speak. Please enjoy as we journey together through their memories and lessons! 

Barbara Treadwell 1976–77 SAPhA President 

Growing up in a rural community where her mother was an operating room nurse, Dr. Treadwell would occasionally find herself spending time with the hospital pharmacist while her mother was on call. Such experiences led her to switch her area of study from music and transfer to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she started her career as a student pharmacist. 

At UCSF, Dr. Treadwell decided that she enjoyed being politically active and wanted to run for office in SAPhA. She was inspired by peers and mentors around her, including the Bay Area Women in Pharmacy organization, which brought together active women who decided that the climate of the profession needed to change. 

It was sometimes hard to be taken seriously as the first female SAPhA President, but such dynamics became less of an obstacle as she became more active politically and organizationally. While she was president, the profession was rapidly changing. The vision of a pharmacist was expanding from working in the basement of a hospital to rounding with the health care team, and she was herself a prominent example of the increasing presence and power of women in the profession.

During such an important time of change in pharmacy, the skills and support that she gained in SAPhA helped her complete her residency training and become a clinical coordinator in the medical intensive care unit at Buffalo General Hospital. After a few years, she decided it was time to go back to California and landed at Stanford for the next 30 years of her career. Stanford provided a pharmacy home and support while she focused on making a difference for her patients and raising a family. 

Dr. Treadwell encourages students to use the many unique practice opportunities available to them to learn, grow, and decide what aspects of the profession are the most interesting to them. Dr. Treadwell’s career did not go as she would have predicted, but she is an example of pursuing opportunity in the face of challenges and to find a place in the world of pharmacy!

Stephanie Phelps, Past Chapter Advisor at The University of Tennessee

Dr. Phelps met some resistance when she decided to pursue a PharmD and residency, as these were not the norms 40 years ago. Her commitment to pursue her goals was strengthened by her friendship with the other members of the “Future Five,” a group of like-minded, determined, trailblazing, female student pharmacists. They were in the same world together and they understood and validated each other’s dreams and goals. The “Future Five”— Cindy Iannarelli, Lucinda Maine, Debbie Simonson, Donna Walker, and Stephanie Phelps—met through Midyear Regional Meetings (MRM), APhA Annual Meetings, running for office against each other, plane rides, and being roommates. What fundamentally brought them together was their passion for the profession and the hope that they could make a significant difference in its future. 

As a long-time APhA–ASP Chapter Advisor at the University of Tennessee, Dr. Phelps frequently reminded students that the things they do as student pharmacists, and ultimately in the profession, either creates or eliminates opportunities for those who come behind them. She encourages students to be mindful of their responsibility and accountability in considering where they leave their fingerprints, as this will determine their legacy. She asks, “In 50 years, will we know that you were here? What difference will you have made?”

Dr. Phelps followed her own advice by being open to opportunities. She initially planned on practicing as a pediatric pharmacist, but loved the mix of teaching, practice, and research she was exposed to in academia. When she began her career, Dr. Phelps did not envision the various positions she would have; hence, “It is important to be open and flexible when opportunities present themselves and to know when it is time for new challenges!”

She plants seeds of possibility and encourages her students to believe in doing things beyond what they might currently see or want for themselves. The process of growth doesn’t happen quickly, it’s an investment! She encourages members of the pharmacy profession to recognize the potential and accomplishments of others and to help them personally and professionally grow. As students, we can take these words of encouragement by believing in our own potential for growth and in our ability to positively impact the profession of pharmacy. 

Lucinda L. Maine, PhD, 1979–80 SAPhA President

Improving pharmacy education, advocating for student pharmacist involvement, and supporting fledgling pharmacists have all been guiding principles in Dr. Maine’s career. Reflecting on her time as a student pharmacist, she remembers fellow students and herself begging to have an audience at one meeting of the APhA Board. While serving as National President-elect and President, her team advocated for student involvement, which led to preparation and an eventual meeting with the Board. Today, Dr. Maine cannot help but point out that the APhA–ASP National President serves as a trustee and full-fledged member of the APhA Board!

It is important to see how the friendships and energy of student pharmacists can not only inspire peers but can also inspire leaders of the profession. 

Work–life integration is an important and personal concept for Dr. Maine. Many of her lifelong family and friends have blossomed through SAPhA, working together and sharing personal milestones. Dr. Maine reflected, “If you are unhappy in any element of your life, from your career to your personal relationships, the whole package will not work.” Similarly, Dr. Maine received advice from one of her mentors to pursue places of work where she was aligned philosophically.

As she reflected on her career, Dr. Maine left today’s students with some advice: Risky moves that might have ended in a “failure” do not mean that they were a bad choice. Very few people will try to do something bold, even if it is the right thing to do. It is okay to reflect and say something was harder than you thought it was. If we, as students, are experiencing a failure, perhaps we can reflect on a quote by Albert Einstein that Dr. Maine gravitated toward during such a time in her own life: “Someone who has never failed has never tried anything important.” 

Marsha K. Millonig, 1981–82 SAPhA Vice President 

Ms. Millonig remembers catching “Potomac Fever” when traveling to Washington, DC, during her first year in pharmacy school. Drawn to building relationships with people from across the country with similar passions, she was inspired to become an active leader and member of APhA and SAPhA. 

Reflecting on the differences that students can make within APhA, Ms. Millonig recalls the culture of creating change while she was part of SAPhA. One of her fondest memories was an initiative she helped lead in the state of Minnesota through regional meetings and in the national SAPhA House to get the policy on impaired pharmacists passed. The passing of this policy led to the creation of the University of Utah School, known today as the APhA 
Institute on Substance Use Disorders.

As the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ 13th Executive Resident, Ms. Millonig learned skills relevant to running an organization, writing policy, working a budget, managing projects and committees, and developing events. Early in her career, she was hired by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores to build relationships with pharmacy chains and schools of pharmacy. With the network and experience she developed in SAPhA, she was able to unite colleagues and peers to build these relationships.

Ms. Millonig advises student pharmacists to control their own destiny by finding an aspect of the world of pharmacy that taps into their passion. She encourages us to seek out mentors on our journey, to learn how to put a positive foot forward in the midst of setbacks, to become friends with others in the APhA network, and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way. These pieces of advice can help us explore our alternatives and find our place in pharmacy. Once we find our passion, Ms. Millonig says we can use it to open further horizons as we move forward in our careers.

Nancy A. Alvarez, 1991–92 APhA–ASP National Member-at-large 

Dr. Alvarez was a student drawn to APhA–ASP by a need to educate herself about her future profession. Her experience with APhA–ASP became a supplement to her experience at school and she soon connected with others who shared the same kind of commitment and passion for understanding the larger picture of pharmacy. APhA–ASP was where she got her information about the world of pharmacy. The Academy became a “silent mentor” for her, teaching her how to self-manage and be self-sufficient, identify her preferences, and develop skills and some confidence while most importantly, having a place to belong.

Even though she identified as an introvert then, Dr. Alvarez found herself becoming involved in chapter, regional, and national leadership. On her path, she realized that she too could be a successful leader. She did not appear as many of the other leaders who she saw around her, but over time, she came to realize that she was a leader all the same—not less, only different. She heavily used listening skills to deepen her understanding of others and topics in her leadership roles, starting with Academy experiences. Today, Dr. Alvarez espouses and demonstrates the principle that difference brings strength and diversity to an organization. Dr. Alvarez characterized herself in the past as the person with her face pressed against the glass looking in and wondering how to get to the other side. What she learned through her experiences in APhA–ASP is that there never was any glass. She realized she was a part of the group representing student pharmacists everywhere.

She incorporates leader development into her career and personal life to this day. She believes there is a role for every student pharmacist in APhA and leadership. As students, we can learn by both the example of Dr. Alvarez and her encouragement that we do not have to be a stereotypical picture of a leader to influence and help guide others and our organization. We each have a valuable role to play. Dr. Alvarez cites the book Quiet by Susan Cain as instrumental in shifting her mindset and embracing who she is. Perhaps it might do the same for you, too.

Elizabeth Keyes, 1991–92 Region 2 Regional Delegate 

After earning her bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in technical writing from Wheeling Jesuit University, Ms. Keyes went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy. She loved the relationships between people and their pharmacist and knew that this career would give her independence and stability so that she could find her own professional freedom.

She found that she enjoyed assisting with business functions and alumni events during school. As a student pharmacist, she became involved as the Region 2 Regional Delegate. She learned how to become a stronger business writer, the importance of being honest with expectations, and that “no job is below you.” Ms. Keyes communicates that it is important to understand the difference between “stepping out of the gate to conquer the world” and taking stock of your strengths and gaining experience that matters. Understand what you need to learn more about and pursue those experiences. 

In terms of failure, Ms. Keyes reflects that there will be a lot of little ones along the way. It is important to be transparent about them. There is satisfaction that comes with taking responsibility for your part of a failure. It is a spirit builder! She also emphasized using the “positivity muscle” to acknowledge your feelings, process them, and intentionally use a positive attitude on the next step. 

Ms. Keyes encourages students to become great communicators; we should be able to quickly and accurately explain a position or cause, have an “elevator speech,” and be confident. She believes pharmacists need to see the world, to keep their eyes on the horizon and what is coming next. She welcomes us to think of our journey as exciting, instead of daunting, and as having many ways forward, not just one. She encourages us to always stay involved in our profession, “We can always lobby and expand practice at the national level, but we need each individual to be out there doing it, too!,” she said.

Vibhuti Arya, 2005–06 APhA–ASP National President 

After beginning her APhA–ASP journey with encouragement from friend Bijal Sheth, Dr. Arya attended her first MRM and gravitated toward the policy and public health aspects of the profession. She found student involvement inspirational and loved working with a community to determine priorities and advocate for a cause. 
It was while serving in regional office and learning about her strengths that Dr. Arya decided she would run for national office. As a first-generation immigrant, getting involved in the profession nationally completely changed her trajectory. The opportunity gave her a “pharm-ily” to belong to and an incredible network of mentors. The University of Utah School was one of her favorite memories. She went with a fellow officer and met one of her most treasured mentors at the school. 

While serving as APhA–ASP National President-elect with then-APhA–ASP National President Alex Varkey, “Vibhuti and Her Beasts” had one commitment as a committee: to serve people. To them, it was all about humility and 
productivity while making sure that they had a great time. They selected their goals by going back to the membership and putting patients first. Mentorship and understanding the priorities of people were hallmarks of Dr. Arya’s time as a student leader. She stresses the importance of empowering each other and learning how to fail gracefully for the sake of our resilience. 

Dr. Arya said, “The journey goes on and we are all part of a larger fabric. We have to be the best versions of ourselves, and if one of us is falling apart, we do our best to support and empower each other. I always thought of humanity like a puzzle where each of us are little puzzle pieces and we do our part, while recognizing that all the other pieces are needed to complete the picture.” At the end of the day, she values social justice and equity, and believes in working together to build healthier communities, characteristics that her family and their sacrifices have instilled in her.

Lucianne West, 2015–16 APhA–ASP National President 

After seeing the long-term relationships that her mother’s best friend developed as a pharmacist, Dr. West attended the Northeastern University Bouvé College of Health Sciences. Next came an APhA–ASP Chapter meeting, where the chapter president sparked a conversation and asked Dr. West if she would be interested in volunteering with Generation Rx. After her initial forays into chapter and APhA–ASP MRM involvement, she found herself fascinated by the policy process. With some encouragement from future APhA–ASP National Member-at-large Josh Cahill, who asked, “What do you have to lose?,” she ran for office and was elected the Region 1 Member-at-large. As she connected with friends across the country at meetings, Dr. West’s passion grew, and she decided to run for national president-elect in 2014—and she won!

As part of her desire to give back to APhA, Dr. West crafted “Live Your Why” as her presidential theme. The hope was for students to identify their “why” and use it as a guiding force in their life. The theme took off as students and chapters shared their “why’s” on social media, an avenue of communication that erupted during her time as an APhA–ASP leader. Rep. Doug Collins (R–GA) recognized the theme and shared a student’s story on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Dr. West describes part of her own “why” as helping others reach their potential. What helped her reach her full potential was being fearless in decision-making throughout her career and always knowing that APhA was there to support her. Being fearless allowed her to transition from being a resident to a practicing pharmacist and to move away from home. As we consider how to move forward in our careers, Dr. West advises young pharmacists to take risks, even if they seem huge. 

In gratitude

I want to say thank you to Dr. Dennis Worthen, Dr. Metta Lou Henderson, Ms. Hazel Pipkin, and Dr. Eleanor Vogt for guidance and perspectives as we crafted the research for this project. Thank you to each SAPhA and APhA–ASP leader for your time during our interviews. This project has been one of my favorite activities during my final year of pharmacy school.