Steve and Wendy Simenson: A Shared Passion for Community Pharmacy
Over the arc of his 40-plus-year career, Steve Simenson has helped pharmacy come ever closer to fulfilling its patient care potential.
“When I started out, there was a square box on the prescription that said ‘Do Not Label,’” Simenson recalls.
Pharmacists were mostly limited to compounding and dispensing the medications that physicians prescribed. Today, pharmacists like Simenson play a large and growing role in patient care, serving as educators and advocates for the people they serve.
Even so, the profession “has a lot more to offer,” Simenson says. “Pharmacists have been underutilized. We’re the second-highest-educated health professional, but we’re nowhere near using all of the skills and knowledge we have.” He’s eager to see that change.
Simenson and his wife Wendy, also a pharmacist, met at the College of Pharmacy and graduated together in 1977. They share a passion for community pharmacy: serving as accessible, knowledgeable, trusted health counselors – and often, the first point of care – for patients from all walks of life.
They’re also longtime, devoted supporters of the college who together earned the prestigious Weaver Medal in 2006. And last year, Simenson was selected by the Board of Regents for the U’s highest non-degree honor, the Outstanding Achievement Award.
“Steve is perhaps the state of Minnesota’s foremost community pharmacist who is often recognized nationally as a key example of what a community pharmacy and pharmacist can do to bring direct patient care services to its patients,” Dean Emeritus Marilyn Speedie said. “In a profession that is changing its focus from product to patient care, Steve is a pioneer and a leader. He demonstrates what is possible and then helps others do it as well.”
When Simenson joined the century-old Goodrich Pharmacy in Anoka in 1977, the role of most pharmacists was a narrow one. Today, he’s Goodrich’s CEO and managing partner, and the practice has grown to six locations. Thanks in part to Simenson’s practice innovations, services offered now include immunizations, collaborative practice, practice-based research, stat flu and strep testing, interprofessional team-based care, medication therapy management, and smoking cessation. Under his leadership, Goodrich was among the first pharmacies to connect to a health system’s patient electronic medical record, a development that’s helped foster interdisciplinary collaboration with other health care providers.
He’s well regarded by his peers nationally: Simenson is a fellow of the American College of Apothecaries, the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists, and the American Pharmacists Association – of which he served as president in 2014. And he’s earned several awards over the years, including the APhA’s Daniel B. Smith Award for Sustained Leadership, Contributions and Innovation n the Practice of Pharmacy, the Bowl of Hygea Award, the Merck Pharmacy Leadership Award, and the Pharmacy Alumni Society’s Distinguished Pharmacist Award.
Giving back has always been second nature to Simenson; his community service includes active membership in the Anoka Rotary Club, serving as Scoutmaster for many years, and serving on the city of Ramsey’s Charter Commission.
"They (the students) have such positive, enthusiastic attitudes – anytime you mentor, you get to take home some of that enthusiasm."
He grew up International Falls, Minn., where his neighbor down the block – the father of his close friends – owned a pharmacy.
“I liked science and math, and I thought pharmacy looked like a rewarding and interesting career,” he recalls.
That hunch was affirmed during his years at the U, among the most memorable of his life, Simenson says. He credits the vision of the college’s then-Dean Lawrence Weaver,
for whom the medal is named, with helping form his perspective on pharmacy as a critical component of the health care landscape.
In the end, he says, it’s all about the patients.
His commitment to the U has never waned: He and Wendy are co-chairs of the college’s current capital campaign, “Driven: A Prescription for Health.” They also both serve on the college’s National Board of Advisors, and Simenson and other Goodrich staff serve as adjunct faculty, preceptors, and mentors to pharmacy students and residents. The pharmacy offers clerkships and an accredited community pharmacy residency – through which staff learns just as much as the aspiring pharmacists, he says.
“It’s professionally rewarding; I learn from them too,” Simenson says. “It’s a quid-pro- quo experience. They have such positive, enthusiastic attitudes – anytime you mentor, you get to take home some of that enthusiasm. The quality of pharmacy students that the U is turning out is just phenomenal. And unlike previous generations, today’s pharmacy grads are not being trained to work in a silo. They’re working closely with other health care providers. Research has shown that when pharmacists are involved in patient care, costs go down and outcomes go up.”
In the end, he says, it’s all about the patients.
“We want to earn their trust and provide the best possible patient care,” Simenson says. “If it’s good for the patient, it’s good for pharmacy.”