My non-traditional career path
The best advice someone once gave me was, “Your first job is not your last job.” This has certainly been the case for me because my career path has been anything but linear and traditional—and that has suited me well.
A circuitous journey
I followed in my father’s footsteps and attended pharmacy school at Ferris State University. My exposure to pharmacy was not the traditional patient care role because my father, Louis Sesti, was the Executive Director of the Michigan Pharmacists Association for approximately 20 years. After graduation, I attended the University of Cincinnati post-BS PharmD program, where I was exposed to pharmacoeconomics. I then pursued an Outcomes Research Fellowship with the University of South Carolina and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
My career journey started in Michigan when I joined the Parke Davis Outcomes Research Drug Development Division, which became Pfizer within my first year. Eager to switch to marketed drug products, a desire for the Windy City, and no available jobs, I accepted my first independent consultant position and landed in a timber-loft condo in downtown Chicago.
That was my first exposure to work-at-home accountability and flexibility. It suited me. After 4 years, the consulting opportunity ended. I suddenly found myself unemployed but employable. I joined Walgreens and worked part-time as a floating pharmacist.
Then, Bob Osterhaus, a Community Pharmacy Foundation (CPF) board member, suggested I contact the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) about an opportunity in Chicago that had become available. I spent 3 and a half years with the ACPE Continuing Education team, where I served as a preceptor to rotation students and learned a tremendous amount about educational approaches and national organization partners. I enjoyed the work, but variety called and I returned to independent consulting.
Right place, right time
The CPF originated with a small group of independent pharmacists led by Bob Goude who founded the Pharmacy Freedom Fund (www.rxff.org) to maintain patients’ freedom to choose their pharmacist. The group achieved a class action, discriminatory pricing, pre-trial partial settlement in 2000, establishing CPF to advance patient care services provided by pharmacists. Because of this settlement, the CPF does not need to raise money; they give it away in the form of grants and projects.
My father accepted the CPF Executive Director position in 2002. He was charged with establishing a grant application and proposal process and raising awareness about CPF. Around 2004, the organization was growing and he needed assistance with grant monitoring and operational support. I was a natural fit for the CPF grants administrator position because the Board meets in Chicago where I live, and I was a pharmacist with availability. I was at the right place at the right time.
My primary tasks included tracking and monitoring grants and payments, monitoring the website and posting completed grant materials, and working in collaboration with the APhA library to populate articles and resources on the CPF website Pharmacy Reference Library (http://communitypharmacyfoundation.org/prl/topics.asp).
After serving as the CPF grants administrator for about 8 years, I started a planned 2-year transition that led me to take over as Executive Director this past January. In addition to a few more operational tasks, my new responsibilities include preparing the board meeting agendas and conducting a preliminary review of the submitted applications and proposals. I have also launched an updated website, implemented monthly updates and quarterly grant action newsletters, and I am working with the board to thoroughly review our body of work.
There are several rewarding aspects of my CPF duties. First and foremost, it is the impact we make on patients. I don’t have direct patient care in my consulting activities, but I know I am making a difference when I read project updates and patient stories. Real progress is being made and real patients are receiving novel care in novel ways. I also have the opportunity to collaborate with professional pharmacy organizations at an executive level to strategize how we can use our funds synergistically.
How might you prepare for a non- traditional career? Be curious. Ask questions of your professors and guest lecturers if there’s something that sparks an interest. Local, state and national meetings are wonderful opportunities for face-to-face introductions. You never know when someone might be able to help you and vice versa.
Additionally, carve out a few precious moments of your busy life to think about yourself and where you might like to be in the profession. Determine your key requirements and start exploring. And know that your career is a journey, and being a pharmacist offers real opportunities, potential, and variety.