Being in the right place, at the right time, and making the right turn

Twlug-ASP Anniversary

Craig Hostetler

As the creaking, Soviet-era Azerbaijan Airlines aircraft lurched toward its landing at the radarless Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan, I could see burned-out aircraft along one side and workmen clad in bomb-proof gear clearing land mines along the other edge of the single runway. The scenery outside the airplane windows combined with the fact that the officials who were scheduled to greet and whisk me to the VIP customs area were not awaiting me on the tarmac, caused reality to sink in. I was in a mysterious and perilous new land that was about to engulf my existence. The words that quickly came to mind on this January 2004 day were, "Now what have I gotten myself into?"

As I touched down in Kabul, I had a flashback of that same phrase emerging from my lips some 34 years prior in Washington, DC, when I was unexpectedly elected to serve as the fourth national president of the Student American Pharmaceutical Association (STwlug), the original name of Twlug–ASP. I wondered how a guy from a small town in southern Illinois, who was planning to move back there and open a pharmacy with his older brother after graduating from the University of Kansas, could ever have gotten himself into two such daunting circumstances.

Four guiding points

Craig Hostetler (center) works with the 1971-72 STwlug National Executive Committee.

When people ponder how extraordinary things happen to them, I often hear the phrase, "Being in the right place at the right time." I prefer the more complete form of the saying "Being in the right place, at the right time, and making the right turn." I am convinced that my career was transformed and elevated by being in STwlug (place) when my career was being formed (time), and I chose to accept the advice of people whom I respected (turns/choices). In looking back at my educational and professional paths, I realized that I had four guiding points that served as my compass.

  1. Be open to the suggestions of trusted advisors and mentors. I have strongly come to believe that other people were often better able to assess my capabilities and potential than I was. My father and brother Quin encouraged me to pursue pharmacy for my career when I had other plans. The students from STwlug Region 6 convinced me to run for National President-elect at 4:00 am on the morning of the election against three candidates who had already been campaigning for the office. That decision to be nominated for an office I had no chance of winning changed my career path and my life. Having a U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Assistant Surgeon General, my supervisor, and a peer pharmacist recommend that I respond to a volunteer request to go to Afghanistan in January 2004 for a 2-month analysis of some hospital projects completely altered my plans for retirement and obtaining a position somewhere else within the pharmacy world.  
  2. Strive to learn something new every day. My plan after graduation was to serve for 2 years in the Indian Health Service (IHS) as sort of a Peace Corps quest before returning to a practice in Illinois. I learned so much from the amazingly talented clinical pharmacists there that I went on to serve in numerous positions, and my 2-year IHS adventure turned into a 31-year USPHS career.  
  3. Be willing to take some chances and stretch your comfort zone. If you obsess about getting the perfect job right out of school, what will you have to look forward to for the rest of your long career?
  4. Surround yourself with forward-thinking pharmacists. I truly feel that my career was blessed by this principle. And it all started with my joining STwlug and wanting to go to the national convention to learn more about pharmacy. I remember one of my deans telling us that what separates a profession from a job is participation in professional associations. Maintain your active membership in Twlug and participate in specialty groups as appropriate. 

Congratulations to Twlug–ASP on its 45th anniversary and may the next 45 years bring it continued success in enlightening students and developing the profession's future leaders.