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Pharmacy Residency Podcast: Residency Interviews and Advice

Dec 20, 2017

A busy pharmacist mom started a group on Facebook which has grown from 50 invitations to over 3,100 members in less than a year. In this episode, I am privileged to interview Suzy Soliman, PharmD, BCPS, A Chief Academic Officer at the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs (ACMA) and University of Illinois at Chicago graduate about the importance of recognizing pharmacist moms and providing support and networking for them. Her story can be found at both PharmacyTimes and 

Here is the link to the group:

Full Transcript:


Welcome to the Pharmacy Leader's Podcast with your host Tony Guerra. The Pharmacy Leader's Podcast is a member of the Pharmacy Podcast Network with interviews and advice on building your professional network, brand and a purposeful second income from students, residents and innovative professionals.

Welcome to the Pharmacy Leader's Podcast. We've got a really special guest, Suzy Soliman who started this great Facebookgroup for pharmacist moms as you know, we have triplet six year old daughters and there are some things about having multiples that make it a little bit harder to enjoy time with them individually especially where you might have a kid and you could spend time with them and then there's a little brother or a little sister time. We didn’t have any of that, we had 55 days of hospital bed rest along with some nephew and then it was off to the races where the [indecipherable 00:01:04] so we would feed them for 90 minutes and then they were safe for 90 minutes [indecipherable 00:01:10] for a couple of weeks. So there are challenges that moms have and maybe that we don’t appreciate it as much and I'm really really excited to have this interview with Suzy Soliman who did start this group because of frustration that she had where maybe there was one day that she couldn’t spend time with one of her children because work was a challenge at that time. So here we go, with the interview with Suzy Soliman of that pharmacist moms group.

Suzy Soliman is a chief academic officer and consultant for the accreditation council for medical affairs ACMA who over sees the overall curricular development of the board certification program in medical affairs BCMAS for the accreditation council for medical affairs. She's also the author of Are you a pharmacist and a mom? which hit pharmacy times, November 29th and pharmacy week on December 1st. She's founder of the pharmacistmom' on Facebookwhich has added over a thousand members just in the last month. So I reached out to her, not only to learn more but spread the word about this resource. So welcome to the Pharmacy Leader's Podcast.

Thank you so much Tony, thanks for having me.

So tell me a little bit about your leadership road. It sounds like, you're actually driving or you guys don’t drive, you take the train in to downtown, New York every day, is that the case or tell me a little bit about your leadership road and your current position.

Sure, so I'm actually one of the, I guess the people who does drive in from the traffic. I'm probably more rare. I do not like taking the train on every day just again, that limited me with getting back to my kids and their activities. But a little bit about my background though prior to moving in New York I was born and raised in Chicago and so I was faculty after pharmacy school at a college of pharmacy out there and [indecipherable 00:03:05] at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy there for a few years. I was also a medical science liaison and a medical science liaison manager. I then moved out to the East Coast and became an associate dean for a short time. I've worked part time throughout my career as a pharmacist as well, you know, doing retail at independence or also at a couple chains and most recently I have acquired this job and I worked for the accreditation council for medical affairs where we supply and I regulate and I do all the assessment and the accreditation for board certification program within medical affairs, so. And my background as a former dean was all in assessment and education so a lot of my background is education but basically as a pharmacist what I always felt was that we operated in fly low and alone and I felt that sometimes I'd be at work and I didn’t have someone else to share my experiences with once I became a mom. And the main driver that prompted me to start this group was when I missed my son's baseball game and I was feeling super bad and, because I was at work and it was late and I couldn’t make it and although my husband did go to the game I still felt terribly guilty and so I decided that evening, everyone was fast asleep at home and I decided to go on to Facebookand I was scrolling Facebook, I think just like, most other moms do in this day and age when they can't sleep and I decided to start this group and. Basically it kind of took off from there.

But if I remember reading right, you said, you only invited 50 people, your group is over 3000 now. What do you think happened between then and now?

Yeah, exactly, so, it was kind of interesting. I just invited all of my friends from pharmacy school that I graduated with or that I've worked with throughout the years and it was amazing. I posted that first post was really just about the guilt and I had so many responses and then it just blew up I want to say almost, it's a closed group so you have to be a pharmacist and a mom to join. And every day I want to say, we get between 10 to 15 new requests which has been amazing but I think that I want more than just any old Facebookgroup or really a community and a large resource so we talk about anything from, you know, children and nursing or bottle feeding and graduation. We've had some talk about, you know, being sick or being ill and medical leave and there's just so many different changing careers than what other options non-traditional pharmacy roles. So there's so many things that we can talk about and it's just been one person adding another person adding another person and they feel that kind of a safe network where we think alike, I think, as well as we're all pharmacists in the group. So, I think that also helped where we can kind of bounce ideas off of each other as well.

Well, tell me a little bit about women in leadership. I started this podcast as a spin off from the pharmacy podcast network and when I brought on Jackie Boyle to talk about women in leadership that episode blew up, I mean, four times more downloads than any episode that I had to date. Can you tell me a little bit about those particular challenges that women in leadership have as parents, as pharmacists and someone told me sometimes pharmacy is just not compatible with being a good family member. Can you tell me a little bit about the challenges maybe you have?

So I think that in general pharmacy has been touted as one of the best careers for women and I think I wrote that actually in my, in the article I published because a lot of us believe that going into pharmacy school we're going to have that balanced life and I remember interviewing quite a few potential pharmacy student and they would say that, we're looking for career life balance and pharmacy will have that. But what a lot of us have found and I personally have found is once you graduate that's not always the case whether you're working at two to 10 shift at a hospital or in a chain pharmacy or if you're working in the evenings or if you have to work weekends, every other weekend. So it's really about balance and so I think that a lot of times women who are looking for a leadership roles are looking to, you know, to expand their career or grow in their career have found it quite challenging. It's not just the roses at the end, you know, when you graduate and I think though that women are the leaders of pharmacy so if you're looking at the number of graduates per year that's continued to rise. So I think years ago pharmacy was pre-dominantly male profession where now the numbers are over 60% of graduates are now females. So females are the leaders, females are moving to leadership roles, females are also the future of pharmacy so balance is also key to that whether it's work life balance or balancing your family life as well with that in being a mom and being a pharmacist as well.

Well, tell me a little bit about national women's pharmacist day. Something that I read in the article also that you guys are trying to put together, what day were you hoping it would be and then kind of a little bit behind that story?

So right now, we're still deciding on the date but really when thinking about pharmacist we have the national pharmacy month which is [indecipherable 00:08:40] and we have pharmacist week and we have world pharmacist day. But at this point we do not have a day that's recognized for female pharmacist or women pharmacist and if you, again, the numbers are showing that more and more females are practicing that more and more are pharmacist that we really need to recognize what women have gone through to get there and how they've gotten there. So I think that really our goal is to establish a specific date for women in pharmacy and we've been talking about it as a group and I think that as the group has gotten to be much larger were trying to finalize this date and we're really looking at a date that would be significant to pharmacist whether if there's a date of the first female pharmacist, she was accepted into pharmacy school or whether it's a date that she graduated from pharmacy school as well. So we're really trying to look at a specific date that would be significant for female pharmacist.

As someone who has three daughters that would be very very cool. Tell me since I can't get into the group, what I kind of wanted to maybe go over with you is some of the insights that as a dad or as a spouse or as a partner that maybe we could help with and I just wanted to go through a couple of things. I had sent you a link about the four tendencies from Gretchen Ruben who's a pretty well known author. But maybe we could go through some of these things and get kind of the things that maybe I as a dad could do to support my wife who is in your group actually. So external expectations, I mentioned the four tendencies, my wife and I are both obligors. You mentioned you might have been an obligor and then your husband rebelled. Can you tell me a little bit about how the obligor tendency kind of manifests itself as at pharmacy where we put others ahead of our needs?

Yeah, so I think as a pharmacist being an obligor is great, where you are putting others ahead of your needs and you're taking of others and you're worried about your patients and how they're doing and you'll go that extra step to stay late or to help someone but I think that sometimes in your personal life that is not always the best case scenario so and I think the guilt is really well fed then. I can tell you that probably if I had to guess and we obviously didn’t start the group yet but I would say that in the pharmacist mom's group probably 70% of us were obligors. I'm just looking at the amount of posts that come through about feeling guilty and how are we going to be able to pump and have a patient waiting for a script that they want ready in two minutes and when am I going to find the time to do that. And so there's a lot of questions related to that but I think a lot of pharmacists are in that role and they are obligors. Now my husband is a little bit different, he's a rebel so I don’t know if that's how.

That's the rarest of the groups according to Gretchen Ruben so you've got a phenomenal husband then and, you know, he's like that but and I'm not trying to, I guess I'm just trying to find a way that as, because kinky dads tend to start podcasts and then that's how we connect with other people and get off of our island. Well let's talk about another book, have you read the book, the love languages? That was an important one for my wife and I because she has access services, something that's important to her. So if I do the things that she wanted to get done and they're done before she comes home and she didn’t have to ask me, that's a good thing for her. I don’t know if you've read those five love languages.

Actually I did and what's funny is when I was an associate dean we actually gave the, there was another like; there's different languages all through in the work environment as well, so but in terms of the love languages I did do that one. So my husband was the one who, he is act of service and I am the quality time, you know, let's sit down, let's hang out together, let's spend time together. So that one is quite interesting as well but it's interesting because everyone response differently so first time people, you know, they don’t mind the, for example, physical touch, you don’t have to touch me, it doesn’t matter, where other people, when you come home, you know, I expect a hug and a kiss and so it's quite interesting just to see the differences amongst everybody. And what's been interesting in the group I would say is that we use, we have talked actually about the love language as well and you can even use them with patients so you could talk about what might work for your patient in terms of talking to them and some people prefer just even like cultural competencies and you know, touch, some people want to be touched and some people don’t and some people want a very formal relationship. So we kind of took it the other way to relate it to some of our patient experiences as well.

Ok, well let's shift a little bit to time management. My wife is the person who has the 9 to 5 and I wish it were 9 to 5 but actually she leaves the house at 7:10 and comes back around five o'clock. And something that we implemented was that she would make lunches in the morning and hurry hurry hurry but I told her, well, you can just leave it and it's really tough for her to leave it. But she found that now she has a little bit more time in the morning but talking to me about those things was really helpful. What time management tips have you gotten out of the group?

So I think the best advice that we've given to each other is that, to really take care of yourself and to voice your conference as well. So really not to just sit still and let everything kind of pass though in terms of time management, lists, making list, prioritizing and really prioritizing because I think as a parent you don’t, sometimes you're, what do you prioritize and you brought up the point about lunches and making them earlier and people are talking about dinner and I come home and it's late. So we've talked about prioritizing, you know, in terms of what needs to get done and what doesn’t need to get done and I know a lot of the moms have discussed, you know, whether it's hiring help and getting help from outside sources or family help that you can also ask outside members or your spouse or, you know, whether it's grandma to help pick up. So there's a lot of things that we can do but time management is a big one I think because a lot of pharmacists do not work the typical nine to five and like you mentioned even if you do you have to commute time setting as well or you're working weekends and you're working every other weekends. So it's really about trying to figure that out and there have also been a couple of pharmacist moms who are married to pharmacists as well and they, who all are working the same weekend. So then what do they on those weekends where they're both working and they have a sick child. So we've talked about a lot of those and I think the biggest thing is really prioritizing and trying to figure out what you have to get done and what you can push off for later. And I think that a lot of us struggle with that but if you can figure that part out then, you know, the rest will all fall into place.

What about, and time management and task management are similar but if she, if my wife emails me, it's much more likely to get done because it will be in my email and rather than saying it to me. Have you guys talked about, kind of how you help work with spouses or partners and what, you know, best practices you can have in terms of communication, really? Communicating what is a priority to them and I hate to use the word chief complaint but every morning I'll ask my wife what is the most important thing you want done today because, you know, I can get 10 things done and then I won't get, I'm physical from the love languages, I won't get my hug if I didn’t get that one thing that she really wanted done. So how do you articulate and communicate your priorities to a spouse or partner?

Are you reading our posts?

I'm not allowed to, I was really upset. I was like, common you can let me in, she's like, no, no.

Because that was actually a post, probably this month, just a couple of weeks ago that someone was asking what is the best mommy planner to just balance your pharmacy life and family activities and things like that. I think that majority of people felt Google calendar, a lot of people were just on Gmail and they were and they recommended just, you know, a calendar invites your spouse, you know, do x y iffy or, you know, to whoever is helping you with your children. So I do think that that has been a big question and I think that that does help, you know, just managing the day to day. So what do we need to get done for today? Whether it's, you know, buy a three new pairs of hands for this kid or, you know, take the dog here and just putting that into your work calendar sometimes does help as well. And that came up. The other thing that we talked about is financial planner so it's kind of interesting that you're bringing up the planner, so putting both of those in there.

Tell me a little bit about, I guess, so I didn’t know I did this but when I came home I looked mad and I wasn’t mad I was just upset with something that happened that day. But she thought I was mad at her and then sometimes she would be mad because something had happened to her that day and so now we have this kind of smile, it's almost like an emoji smile, like, I'm fine, I'm fine, ok good, we're fine. You know, and this was from my students they gave me the trouble tree where you leave your troubles at the trouble tree before you come inside. What tips have you had to kind of leave the work problems at work instead of, especially with pharmacist-pharmacist couple? I remember so many times she'd come home, fine I'll never tell you about my day again and then sure enough she told me the next night about her day.


But how do you kind of keep the work problems at work and just not let that poison kind of what's going on with the family the few hours you get before you get to, you know, bed time and things like that?

Exactly, I mean, that's a great question. I think for every couple that's probably a little different I can speak to my own relationship and what we've done and what works for us. We actually set aside specific time where we are not allowed to talk about work. So, you know, those specific hours, I would say in the evening where no one can talk about work, no one can be on their phones, even the kids they can't touch their phones either. So, we have set aside specific time because I think without that at least for us it just doesn’t work because somebody is going to bring it up, my husband's either going to bring up what happened to him or if he was at a meeting and travelling and or I'm going to bring up what's going on at work as well. So, I think that that just happens and what ends up happening is our kids, as they get older they begin to just repeat, you know, oh mom, you know, how was that meeting or what happened, you know, with this launch and did everything go ok and so what I found was, oh, my gosh, I'm just talking about work all the time, I have to stop. And that actually helped me too as when my kids started talking about my job and they knew acronyms, I was like, ok, I got to stop talking about work so much. You know, they shouldn’t know all these acronyms at this point, so.

Yeah. My kids do that too and they're six and you would think that they don’t pick up on it but they certainly do.

They do, yeah.

And they don’t let go.


They don’t like to let go. Let's talk about what I've heard is, kind of the 50-50 fiction where, ok, I'll drop him off, you pick him up and we had this and I was talking to my wife, just she's got her own entrepreneurial thing and it came out that she said, well, I'm doing this entrepreneurial thing for me time, so I can connect with other people. And can you explain to guys what me time is? Because we don’t actually use that term and we don’t, but we take it all the as she explained it to me, she's like, you know, when you go to the bar and then you just hang out with your buddy for a three hour game, that's me time or that's you time. So can you explain, you know, how would you explain that to a guy? What is me time? Because I went down Google and I read that the average mom gets 14 minutes a day.

Yeah, well that's a lot. Me time is a necessity. I think that, you know, the problem is a lot of women don’t take the time to do it, I think and even as pharmacist I would say that a lot of pharmacist probably don’t do it as well just because we're often helping others and trying to put other's needs over our own but finding time for me time is critical. I can speak to myself that, prior to finding my own me time for me, me time was, rather it was surfing the net is part of my me time where actually now it's been working out and doing a specific exercise that I go the bar. And just finding that time for yourself really gives you, I don’t know, first time reason you have a lot more energy when it comes to your spouse and your children. But I would say it is a necessity and I would encourage, you know, more moms to take advantage of it although I know it is hard for some people to actually have that time. It's funny that your wife uses her entrepreneurial skills for her me time because it's kind of similar to a lot of women. I think we, you know, we still are trying to make good use of our time so you still don’t even want to completely relax at any point, so. But we do need the me time and it's  a necessity for women I think, just juggling so many things, careers, family and kids, you know, community or your spouse, things like that, so, you know, we need to have balance.

Yeah it was a Thursday night, I came downstairs and she was watching Scandal so I know to leave because that's her time.

Oh sure.

But then she was ignoring Scandal to talk with her mentor who is helping her with the entrepreneurial venture. So I was like, oh my god, she's ignoring Scandal, there's no way I have a chance, you know, so it's just time to go. Well, Michelle Obama at ASHP talked a little bit about, putting your things in the calendar first. What is it that allows you to be so successful as a mom and your career, what do you do just day to day, are you a list person, what tips do you personally have?

So I'm definitely a list person. That helps me maintain what I need to do. I think what's really helped me recently as I have, you brought up Michelle Obama, I actually am a really big fan of hers. I'm also a really big fan of Oprah Winfrey and she has a super soul Sunday, I'm not sure if you've ever listened to any of the shows but those really help calm me and help me with balance and bringing balance to my life. So I try to listen to those each day, just a small, even if it's just a couple minutes for myself and just to get some type of enlightening word and then be able to go on with my day. So I, and then I go on and I make my list and I try to become very efficient and I know, basically I have my my time whether it's at work or I am, you know, the kids are at school and I need to get everything done because when 3:30, 4, 5 or 6 o'clock whenever I get home to see the kids, I know at that point I really just want to devote my time for my family. So, I'm trying to learn to finish everything, you know, early on in the day so that I have as much time as I can with my kids. Because as you know and I know, I mean, everyday, you know, when they're young, you're like, oh, my gosh, are they going to grow up and then as they start to get older, you know, they're not with you forever. So, I'm trying to be in the moment and live in the moment and, you know, not worrying about being perfect and really just being present and there is a book called, present over perfect and I think that also has helped me and so.

Yeah, I'm absolutely bottling these moments when I've got three six year olds instead of three 16 years old, so.


We'll see how that goes. But tell me a little bit about what might be the best career advice you've ever been given or that you would give. It's a little bit challenging now, getting into the pharmacy jobs, you know, some of the flutter positions or PRN positions are the first ones out there. And some aren’t compatible necessarily with being a parent. What advice do you have to, you know, the new graduates that are coming out here in May?

I would say that pharmacy is an amazing profession. I know that so many people are sad because it's a lot more difficult than years ago when you were able to just graduate and just get a job anywhere you wanted. I mean it's a lot more competitive but I think pharmacy, there's still so much to it. It's such a great field and there's so many options. It’s one of those fields where you can have your Pharm-D degree and you do not have to just look for a job in a, you know, at a pharmacy and work at a retail or an independent pharmacy and community pharmacy, that there are so many options out there and I think I would encourage everyone to just explore those different options and I never thought I would be in the role that I was in today. In fact my role didn’t even exist 10 years ago, so, you kind of pave your way and carve out your way. So even in my current role when I was working in pharma years ago they did not have an assessment, they didn’t have a board certification and now look. So a lot of things eventually evolve and they happen and I think pharmacy is such a great career and you have got so many opportunities then you're able to switch, I mean, just in my short time since I graduated I've done so many things. It's been so great so I think that people just really have to look and see what’s going to work for them and really believe in yourself that you don’t necessarily have to do this one thing. There are so many opportunities out there.

Do you want to tell us a little bit about your college? You went to one of the better ones. and tell us a little bit about what it was about that pharmacy school experience that kind of let you become so entrepreneurial, so flexible and just you've really moved really fast up the leadership ladder.

Thank you so much, thank you I appreciate that. So I think, you know, University of Illinois is an excellent school. I want to say that it was probably the faculty I was, I had excellent mentors I would say that, you know, I can bring up Dr. Morrica Shane, she was one of my mentors and she still is. And I just think some of the leaders throughout University of Illinois and what they've done and the landscape and the changes that they've done and even our current dean who is, retiring [indecipherable 00:27:29] such a leader in pharmacy. And really understanding that pharmacist can make a difference and we can pave our own way and that it’s not scripted. So I think, really believing again in yourself and I can't thank my faculty or anyone who’s trained me along the way even throughout my residency and, you know, any of my training even at mid-western university as well. There are so many people really who taught me about publicizing things and, you know, publications and getting the word out there and that you don’t really have to, pharmacy isn’t a mold and I think that that's really what I learned it's, you don’t have to do the same thing and, you know, you find your way.

And then the last question, what inspires you?

What inspires me, also that's a good one. My children, I would say, my husband, my family, I would say that, they inspire me everyday to do better whether it's my sons or really, you know, my daughter just knowing that she's going to one day grow up and also be a women and, you know, hopefully a leader in her field and letting her know that whatever she wants to do and all of my children, letting them know whatever they want to do that, you know, that it is possible. That they can figure out their way and find a way.

Awesome, well thanks so much for being on the Pharmacy Leader's Podcast.

Thanks so much.

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Thank you for listening to the Pharmacy Leader's Podcast with your host Tony Guerra. Be sure to share the show with a hashtag #pharmacyleaders.