Crossing the Border: Conversation with a Pharmacist Intrapreneur
Last week, I came across a short video highlighting healthcare technology and innovation from a pharmacy perspective. This was produced by Dr. Beju Shah, a Clinical Informatics Pharmacist at the Medical University of South Carolina, and his team of students and colleagues. It was the pilot video in what has now turned into a series of conversations and interviews between like-minded individuals who find themselves at the cross-section of pharmacy and technology.
I reached out to Beju to see how he envisioned pharmacists leveraging technology to enrich their practices. He kindly invited me to have a conversation with him and his student, Amy Harrington. A brief introduction – Beju has a background in Computer Science, a Masters of Business Administration, and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy thereafter. Amy is a second-year Pharm.D student who has a passion in entrepreneurship to improve patient education and to optimize the interaction between pharmacist and patient. Together, we shared our visions for pharmacy, which, naturally, were very much aligned, and the discussion we had left us brimming with optimism about the future of pharmacy.
The video project came about because Beju wanted to spread awareness about the incredible potential technology has in healthcare and how we can influence change. Similarly, the objective of my blog is to portray my personal journey into the digital health space, with the hope of guiding others like me who may want to venture this way. We agree and recognize that it can be challenging finding individuals with this unique interest, but we aspire to encourage more students and professionals to think about pharmacy from a different perspective. Your interest does not necessarily have to be in technology. It could be in entrepreneurship, design, policy, or even, marketing. Whatever it may be, we want you to embrace your curiosities and to instill more creativity into your practice. Pharmacy is a richly versatile profession, but we have yet to take full advantage of the fact.
As a pharmacy student, we are fortunate to have opportunities to explore community and hospital practices. Academic programs are placing increasing emphasis on experiential education, but for the most part, it is limited to these traditional pharmacy settings. The digital health field is new and wondrously disruptive, lending itself to an endless cycle of experimentation, with an ultimate goal to advance healthcare. It most certainly has a need for pharmacists and other clinicians, but its lack of structure and definition may make it hard to entice students, or even already practicing pharmacists. Beju, Amy, and I wondered to ourselves how students could discover a quirkier side to pharmacy. We deliberated the idea of a virtual experience whereby students could connect with pharmacy professionals globally. It is absolutely feasible with today’s technology. Students could complete assignments, assist with projects, and receive instruction entirely through the web. Such a rotation may even foster a deeper level of independent learning as it requires students to think critically and to solve problems without a preceptor by their side, as is often the case in community and hospital institutions. Beyond that, it would expose students to diverse practices from various geographical locations. It was a preliminary thought, but our intention is to continually inspire each other to pursue learning through unconventional approaches. We want to establish a community of innovators and we chose to design these platforms – blog and video – to express the meaningful exchanges that occur among such individuals.
On a final note, I encourage you to read an article Beju wrote, titled “Conversations with Pharmacy Informatics Leaders: Navigating Roadblocks, Breaking Barriers, and Creating your Success.” It offers a brief snippet of interviews with pharmacy informatics leaders and gives us, students, an appreciation of skills that we can work on to complement our pharmacy background.