From Farming to Pharmacy
From the farm to the pharmacy, an appreciation for hard work has been a big factor in Todd Sorensen’s life. Sorensen is the associate dean for strategic initiatives and innovations, and a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Care and Health Sciences at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. He started as a faculty member with the college in 1998 and has loved his time here ever since.
Sorensen grew up on a farm in the rural town of Tyler, Minnesota. After learning the virtues of hard work and personal accountability on his family farm, Sorensen attended the University of Minnesota, where he studied chemical engineering. He eventually decided that pharmacy was a better fit and graduated with a PharmD degree in 1994 from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy.
Sorensen hadn’t worked in a pharmacy setting before he applied to pharmacy school. He credits his interest in pharmacy to a friend he had in college.
“I credit a friend, whom I met when I was a freshman, he was a first year pharmacy student at that time, for introducing me to pharmacy,” Sorensen said. “When I would see what types of information he was studying and the work he was doing, I found it fascinating. In particular, I was intrigued by how medications produced their effect on illnesses as well as the principles of pharmacokinetics in predicting drug response and elimination from the body.”
After receiving his PharmD, Sorensen took a job as a faculty member at the School of Pharmacy at Dalhousie University and the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Eventually he and his wife decided to return to Minnesota to be closer to family.
“I loved the teaching roles I played at Dalhousie University and the general experience of working in a vibrant, challenging academic environment,” Sorensen said. “I also loved my experience as a student at the College of Pharmacy. So it was an easy decision to seek a role on the faculty at the College of Pharmacy – and now between my student years and my faculty role, I’ve spent more than half of my life on the University of Minnesota campus. And I never get tired of it.”
Sorensen performs many roles at the College of Pharmacy. He’s a teacher, researcher and administrator. He loves teaching, talking with students and sharing his own experiences to help inspire them. As a researcher, he has connected his interest in leadership with studying how to create new opportunities for pharmacists in ambulatory care practice settings. As an administrator, he is focused on supporting faculty and staff efforts to define and implement new initiatives aligned with the college’s strategic plan.
Being a mentor to students, residents and early career pharmacists has been Sorensen’s favorite role as a teacher since he became a professor. He believes the area he makes the greatest difference in is inspiring his students.
“When someone is a student, it’s very difficult to see ‘the big picture’ of health care and opportunities that exist for pharmacists,” Sorensen said. “Or they may have a perception that they aren’t able to influence things at the college, their student organizations or their internship settings. I think one of the ways I help students the most is that I help them see that they can make a difference. But I don’t just give them a ‘rah rah’ speech – we talk about things in a realistic way. We strategize about how they can make their ideas a reality. They come away from coursework and conversations not only with a belief that they can lead, but with a plan for how they will lead.”
In addition to Sorensen’s roles as a teacher, researcher, and administrator, Sorensen leads the college’s Leadership Emphasis Area (LEA) in the PharmD program. The LEA is a 16-credit course sequence intended to help students take an active role in leading change in the pharmacy profession.
“Graduates of the [LEA] program understand that leadership is not something that is tied to a position or title,” Sorensen said. “Everyone in any organization has the ability to influence that organization and improve the work that it does. But there are requisite skills and strategies needed to do that, and the LEA immerses students in classroom and real-world experiences to hone those skills, develop a sense of confidence in their leadership abilities, and create a vision for the type of leader they will choose to be in their career.”
Sorensen is also the executive director for the national non-profit organization, the Alliance for Integrated Medication Management. The group works with organizations who want to improve the way that they support optimal medication use.
Sorensen has loved his time at the College of Pharmacy and is grateful for the many opportunities being a faculty member has afforded him. He is excited to continue impacting lives and making a difference through his work at the college.