HSPAL Residency Leads Inaugural Class Graduates to Specialty Pharmacy Manager, FDA Investigator Roles
Residencies are not a required step between earning a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and starting a career as a pharmacist. However, they’re an opportunity to gain extra coaching and pursue specialized training. There are three main types of program year one (PGY1) residencies, accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP): hospital pharmacy, community pharmacy and managed care pharmacy. The Health-System Pharmacy Administration Leadership (HSPAL) Residency is a unique, two-year opportunity to gain clinical experience and prepare to take on managerial, supervisory and leadership responsibilities.
According to ASHP, the HSPAL residency builds upon a PGY1 residency graduate’s knowledge in patient-centered care and pharmacy operational services, adding a PGY2 experience that emphasizes safe and effective medication use systems, quality assurance, the management of human resources and financial resources, use of technology, and advanced leadership.
“The reason I pursued an HSPAL residency and the reason I’m happy I did, is that two years of residency opens up so many opportunities for pharmacists,” says assistant professor Brianne Bakken, PharmD, MHA. “You could do something clinical because you have that expertise, but you also have the business skills to become a pharmacy manager in the hospital health system. Some people go on to association management and leadership or academia. This residency opens up opportunities so you really can go anywhere.”
After completing her undergraduate education and earning her PharmD from the University of Iowa, Dr. Bakken continued on as a Hawkeye to complete the HSPAL residency and earn her master’s degree in healthcare administration. Due to her positive HSPAL residency experience, Dr. Bakken has taken on a mentorship role for any students at the MCW School of Pharmacy who are interested in leadership.
Heather Dalton, PharmD, MS, specialty pharmacy manager with Froedtert Health Solutions, was a member of the MCW School of Pharmacy’s inaugural Class of 2020. She completed her HSPAL residency at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. During this time, she also received her teaching certificate through Campbell University and earned a master's degree in health system pharmacy administration through the University of North Carolina.
During her second year of pharmacy school, Dalton says she was unsure of what type of pharmacy she wanted to specialize in, and a business development course helped guide her. The course was taught by Dr. Bakken and Phil Brummond, PharmD, MS, FASHP, who at the time was the chief pharmacy officer of Froedtert.
“To be honest, I didn’t have much of an interest in business or management. But in one of the first classes we had, we watched a TED talk about 'big L’ and ‘little l’ leadership, how people can be leaders in their everyday life regardless of their status or title, and what leadership is as a concept. That really spoke to me, and I was interested in learning more about personal and professional development,” says Dalton.
In her final year of pharmacy school, she had the opportunity to do a longitudinal Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotation with Dr. Brummond. She spent a few months seeing what leadership looks like at the executive level, a frontline level, and the national professional organization level (including learning about ASHP and the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin).
“Ultimately the reason I wanted to go down the leadership path is because I felt like I could make more of an impact on patients’ lives being part of the decision-making and the advocacy that can lead to better health care,” says Dalton.
As a specialty pharmacy manager, Dalton works with a class of medications that are difficult to manage, are expensive, have limited distribution and require more complex care. She oversees 13 clinical pharmacists who work in the specialty pharmacy, providing longitudinal medication management to patients using specialty medications. She also supervises a pharmacy coordinator who researches specialty medication management, outcomes, quality of care, and shares the value of specialty pharmacy services with key stakeholders, both internally at Froedtert and nationally within pharmacy organizations.
“What the HSPAL residency experience provided me is the broadest understanding of pharmacy that I could have ever gotten,” says Dalton. "I had an acute care, inpatient-focused PGY1, I have experience in the outpatient world as a technician and a pharmacist, and I gained exposure to population health,” says Dalton. “In my PGY2 and master’s program, I gained human resources experience, including people management, time management, and ethics. It was really a crash course in everything I needed to know to step into this role and set me up for success.”
LT Christopher Tran, PharmD, MBA, also a graduate of the inaugural Class of 2020, engaged in an Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotation with the Indian Health Service (IHS) in Phoenix. It just so happened that IHS was starting an HSPAL residency program around the time he was graduating, and Tran was accepted as their inaugural resident.
"I saw firsthand that if you’re not willing to take that step, understand the nuances of management and put your name up for leadership roles, more often than not, the person managing you will not be a pharmacist. It will be someone in an interdisciplinary field who may not understand your needs,” says Tran. “I wanted to go the administrative leadership route because I wanted to be able to advocate effectively for my team, myself and most importantly the patients.”
During his residency, Tran was part of a national initiative for COVID-19 vaccinations and had the opportunity to co-lead a professional development committee for all federal residents. He was able to rotate with C-suite executives, draft and implement several strategic healthcare initiatives, as well as advocate for equitable ambulatory care billing.
“This unique residency provided not only the opportunity to meet postgraduate objectives but also allowed for commissioning with the United States Public Health Service, adding another intrinsic motivator to integrate and expand what pharmacy and public health practice is and could be,” says Tran.
According to the U.S. Public Health Service, pharmacists in the Commissioned Corps address critical public health needs and provide care for the nation’s most vulnerable populations. They work as pharmacist providers with expanded scopes of practice or serve in regulatory, clinical and scientific research roles.
During his IHS residency, Tran created his own syllabus for an elective rotation with the FDA, an experience that led him to his current role as an FDA investigator. His role is focused on protecting the drug supply, which includes performing inspections at manufacturing facilities to ensure medications meet federal quality standards. He is also involved in drug recalls and consumer complaints.
Although the investigator position is not a typical leadership role, Tran values what he learned during the HSPAL residency. “I don’t feel like any experience or education was ever a waste. Everything I learned in residency from the admin side, it helped me learn how to work with interdisciplinary professionals, write reports and ask the right questions in this role,” says Tran.