From student leader to pharmacy leader


Pharmacy needs more leaders with the skills to be innovative, entrepreneurial, and to push the profession forward. Health-System Pharmacy Administration (HSPA) residencies are designed to create the next generation of pharmacy leaders within health-systems. 

What is an HSPA residency?

Residents in HSPA programs are exposed to management areas such as operations, clinical, informatics, finance, human resources, and regulatory compliance. Many HSPA residencies are completed in conjunction with a master’s degree in areas like pharmacy administration, business administration, or public health. Upon completion of an HSPA residency, a pharmacist will be qualified for a health-system pharmacy management position such as pharmacy operations manager or clinical pharmacy manager, and will be on track for director of pharmacy and chief pharmacy officer. 

My journey

I started my career as an Twlug–ASP leader and held the positions of Chapter President, Regional Member-at-large, and National Member-at-large. Through these positions, I realized my enthusiasm for leading others and I began searching for a career in leadership. 

When I stumbled across HSPA residencies, I was intrigued, but not sure I wanted to be a health-system director of pharmacy or chief pharmacy officer. I wanted to be a leader and my options for learning the skills were limited. 

At the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Midyear Clinical Meeting, I found that each HSPA program has different goals and objectives, and many were willing to help me discover my career interests while improving my leadership skills. When I interviewed with Houston Methodist Hospital, it was a perfect fit.

Why I like the program

The HSPA residency gave me the opportunity to explore my leadership interests under strong mentorship. Prior to my residency, I knew I wanted to lead others, but I had no idea what that meant for my career. 

Through mentorship and a variety of experiences, I realized my passion for patient empowerment and health literacy. I will be exploring these interests further at an off-site rotation this year in ambulatory care pharmacy management. In addition to my residency, I am pursuing a Master of Science in Pharmacy Leadership and Administration. I have the benefit of taking these courses with residents from other HSPA programs within the Texas Medical Center, which allows me to learn about a variety of hospital management styles. 

Benefits of HSPA residencies

HSPA residencies provide experience managing projects and personnel. I see all the work that takes place behind the scenes to implement new initiatives. Examples that I enjoyed developing during my first year include a controlled substance auditing process, a dashboard design for the pharmacy department, and a return on investment for our pharmacy internship program. 

I look forward to being involved with many other pharmacy department initiatives in my second year, which will further develop my project management and leadership skills. 

How to prepare 

If you think you are interested in HSPA, look for student leadership opportunities now. Strong leadership experiences will help you understand your interests and help you decide if HSPA is right for you. 

Ask yourself why you are interested in administration. For me, it is because I enjoy leading others. Then, ask yourself why again. Why do I enjoy leading others? Because I enjoy helping others discover their potential. These questions will solidify your interests and will come in handy during interviews.

Finally, discover your strengths and weaknesses. Self-assessment is an important skill for everyone and is essential for a future leader. Take time to self-reflect on what you do well and what you can improve upon. Ask mentors and peers for feedback. Start improving these skills now, so that you can build upon a strong foundation in residency. 

What to look for

If you know you are interested in HSPA programs, then start looking at combined PGY1/PGY2 HSPA residencies. Most management positions require a master’s degree and getting the degree in conjunction with the residency guarantees that you will be a viable candidate for a management position at the time of your residency graduation. If you already have a master’s degree, there are HSPA residency programs without the master’s degree as well. 

If you are not sure, but you think you might be interested in an HSPA residency, then it may be best for you to complete a PGY1 pharmacy practice residency and then look for a PGY2 HSPA residency once you are sure of your interests. No matter what type of program interests you, look for a program that aligns with your goals and career interests.