Leadership: A Process to Learn and Apply

Rachel RootRachel Root PharmD, MS

Inpatient Operations Manager, Oregon Health and Science University 
LEA Class of 2009

by Justin Anderson, LEA Class of 2012

Dr. Root’s story speaks well to the decision to pursue leadership development as a student pharmacist. Her strong interest in leading change has manifested itself through each stage of her career development beginning at the College of Pharmacy (2009 Pharm.D. and 2011 MS graduate).

Student Years

Rachel was in her third year of pharmacy school when she entered into the inaugural class of the Leadership Emphasis Area (LEA). During her time in the LEA, she took advantage of an opportunity for growth in hospital pharmacy intern programs. Her leading change project aimed to develop and implement clinically and practically relevant internship programs, particularly at Abbott Northwestern Hospital (ANW) where she worked as an intern. Key to her success was creating a sense of urgency among the executive board of the Minnesota Society of Health-System Pharmacists (MSHP) and her Intern Program Director at ANW. Rachel pulled together a small group of pharmacists and interns who developed an internship toolkit for MSHP. At the same time she rewrote the intern program objectives and goals for ANW. Rachel’s work with MSHP culminated in the co-presentation of Establishing Intern Programs at the MSHP Annual Meeting and the executive board approval of the Building a Hospital Internship Program Toolkit. While there were several barriers that presented themselves at ANW, Rachel finished her internship with a sense of accomplishment in knowing that the department recognized the value of interns and was open to creating new learning opportunities. 

Resident Years

After graduation, Rachel completed a two year Pharmacy Administration Residency combined with a Master of Science in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. Rachel utilized lessons from the book Our Iceberg is Melting to create change in her projects. She strategically focused on gathering a “guiding coalition” of pharmacists, technicians and managers to work on creating a lean NICU pharmacy satellite. By being comprised of the right people, the group successfully improved workflow and efficiency and reduced waste.

Rachel also found additional ways to become engaged in the profession aside from her residency and MS program. During this time, she was the Resident Executive Board Member of MSHP and chair of the Minnesota Residency Research Forum. Additionally at this time in her career, she expanded her perspectives on leadership through her inter-professional experiences with the University Health Consortium (an organization of 115 academic health systems with a vision to help members attain national leadership in health care). Her work with UHC allowed her to share ideas related to leadership and performance improvement and she was glad to have gained a broader view of how leadership styles and methods vary among health-systems.

Post Residency

Currently, Rachel holds the position of Inpatient Operations Manager of Pharmacy Services at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. In this position, she has intentionally applied the lessons learned from her residency and the LEA. First, she applied her strengths from the Strengthsfinder Assessment to better understand her working style and how it interplays with those around her. She also compared her strengths with those of her directors. She refers very often to the steps to create change that she took away from Our Iceberg is Melting. Rachel uses the tools and examples provided from the book, such as “establishing a sense of urgency” and “never letting up”, to help impact change in her daily experiences as a manager. As a result, she has successfully produced changes related to automation, medication distribution, and narcotic surveillance/distribution. It is evident that she has taken and still is taking advantage of opportunities to further her understanding of the process and to apply what she has learned.

Rachel’s Advice for Students

  • Your leading change project is your first of many change projects. You’re getting valuable experience for future initiatives.
  • Things do not always go the way you would like, but that’s okay. Don’t lose focus of your vision for improvement.
  • Her favorite advice from her residency director: “no” does not always mean “no forever”. Sometimes the environment just needs to change and your change can be attempted again.
  • If you receive “no” for an answer, it is important to keep the passion for the change alive.
  • Leading change is a learning process, and we all can become better at it!