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Pharmacy Leaders Podcast: Inspiring Pharmacy Leadership Interviews

Jan 26, 2018

While pharmacy student Michelle Mages is one of the kindest and most altruistic people you'll ever meet, her CV will stand toe-to-toe with any nationally. With international experience, leadership in interprofessionalism, and a genuine heart for service, I know you'll be inspired by Michelle's story and you'll get a lot out of her good advice.

Full Transcript:


Welcome to the Pharmacy Leaders Podcast with your host Tony Guerra. The Pharmacy Leaders 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 Leaders Podcast. I'm excited to have a Minnesotan on today. Seven years ago a high school chemistry teacher introduced Michelle Mages, a Hastings Minnesota native to pharmacy. She served a diverse patient population locally, nationally and internationally and loves working with students in various health care professions. Michelle's pursuing an AM care focused pharmacy residency and in her free time she enjoys cooking, exploring the outdoors and spending time with family. Michelle welcome to the Pharmacy Leaders Podcast.

Thank you Tony.

Hey, so the first thing we always like to hear is a little bit about your story everyone's leadership road is a little bit different tell us a little bit about where you started and how you got to where you are today.

Alright, well thank you. I'd say where I started well I started my pre-pharmacy years at Drake. I did the two years of undergrad and then applied for the pharmacy program. During my undergrad years I kind of tried out a few different organizations, following my passions which include Spanish culture and volunteering and really loved that but when I started pharmacy school I got involved with a few students looking to start a new organization focusing on inner professionalism. And I think that's really where my leadership story took off with the initial conversations with these students we kind of developed the Des Moines healthcare partnership and over the first three years of actual pharmacy school I helped expand it and was able to be on the executive committee and then the president my third year of pharmacy school. So that was kind of really where I found my niche as some other things just, I just didn't necessarily see it aligning with my passions as much.

Okay, and can you tell me a little bit more about this partnership? But I know in your professionalism as part of the accreditation document so now it's required in pharmacy school but how much you do and how little can vary. You could have just done inter professionalism within your own college now that there's more there's more parts to Drake than just pharmacy but what was it that made you guys reach out to Des Moines University, Mercy College, D-Mac, all those colleges?

Yeah, so pharmacy students and a Doctor of Osteopathy or DO student their paths crossed through different organizations. The summer before my P-1 year they were older students and they found this need and this desire to interact with each other through while they were students to really learn how to work with each other, to learn what each other professions could offer to patient care and to kind of have those exposures before we are in settings where we are, where we have to work together, so that we could be prepared for those situations. So with that inspiration and seeing that need and then seeing accreditation standards change to include in a professional education we kind of took off with that and really expanded in and developed a lot of different programming and things along the way.

Okay well I just talked to Dave Draghinas who is an anesthesiologist in Texas and he mentioned two places where pharmacists can really help and that's one, explaining drug shortages even maybe to the point of IV bag shortages and then also when you were going to make a recommendation to a physician they really want to know early in the process. And so when an insurance company hands down hey, we want them to change to this, that's not early in the process. Have you, what have you developed in terms of an understanding of what physicians do and how they want to be talked to by a pharmacist?

Yeah, you know, I found that in every setting it's a little bit different.


So you kind of just have to learn what personal preferences and how systems work at different hospitals and different clinics and everything. So don't think there's necessarily one what right way but being able to communicate in various ways and to be concise and as a pharmacist always having the research or evidence backing up a recommendation is like it's really helpful in both to create things, to be learning experiences and to just kind of really build that rapport and that confidence between professionals.

Okay, what's the toughest challenge you've faced with this? Anytime you're starting something new there's always challenges, what's the most difficult part of what you did with this inter-professional collaborative? It sounds like the schools are behind it but certainly there's always something that kind of comes up.

Yeah, yeah we've had a lot of fun barriers to overcome and we really get to tap into a creative sides with it. I think one thing that was difficult was with it being an inter-college, inter-university organization we were able to really put on our creative hats with navigating different policies at different colleges and universities to be a recognized organization. So we actually found a very fitting home with the Des Moines area inter-professional education collaborative which is a group of faculty and staff from the five colleges and universities that have healthcare professions at them. And we approached them to ask if we could be a student counterpart to the work that they do and that was, that's been a perfect home. It was kind of a process to kind of create win-win strategies to really be able to work together with them. But that was a really fun opportunity to kind of put our thinking hats on and think outside of the box.

Yeah, I know that even just with j-term and things like that its well, so how does credit work? Like who gets credit if you're going to do academic credits for something? Who pays tuition? Does the tuition come from which college and things like that? I know, but I know that the value is clear. Well, let's talk a little bit about what you're going to be doing in the future. You are in the midst of the residency application process. For someone that's in that process what recommendations do you have from what you've been doing, what your classmates at Drake have been doing?

Yeah, so I think one thing that we, my classmates and I are all learning is to take one step at a time. It's a pretty involved process starting with researching residency programs, attending the ASHP major conference if you're able to really talk to different sites, there's the application process and then now here in January we are all starting to hear back from programs. It all is at different times when we might be hearing back but the next step then is interviews and at the beginning of March then we'll all be submitting our rankings. So there's a lot of steps along the way and it can kind of get overwhelming but by just taking it step by step and seeing what is necessary here, now it's I think a very, it's a very straightforward process.

What about getting support because for five years because Drake is a six year program so you had two years pre-pharmacy three years didactic and now you're all separate. How do you get support from your classmates while you're kind of all separate? I know you're at the mothership for this APPE rotation but how are you getting support from the college, from your classmates through this process?

Yeah, so right now I'm in Des Moines so it's very easy and I'm around classmates but I've been definitely all over the place and, you know, one thing that my friends and I do we always just call each other up on the phone and are able to work through things or kind of problem-solve if we need to with each other. We also have a past Facebook page which is really nice to kind of stay connected and communicate big things if we need to as a class. The experiential opposite Drake is super amazing and at times when they've had scheduling changes they are just on the ball and always available to us and then also I've had a lot of resources with family and friends not in pharmacy to just kind of help me be as successful as possible through the process and, you know, make sure I take time to have a lot of fun sometimes and just kind of balance things out.

Okay, well now that your hearing back, you're interviewing I guess maybe we can talk about some of the experiences that led up to getting those interview yeses from programs. Can you talk a little bit about how international travel fits into pharmacy? I'll tell you a quick story that I had, my wife and I went to Ireland, she had some back pain, we got diclofenac gel which was prescription there. But it was 10 Euros, the pharmacist gave it to us and that was it. There was no insurance card, it was the most straightforward and wonderful thing to be able to go to another pharmacist and get that care. Can you tell us a little bit about the countries you've been to, how pharmacy works there and then what impact you guys made at Drake?

Yeah, so I would love to go in super detail with all of this but I'll kind of give a little overview. So a passion of mine throughout my pharmacy career and while before pharmacy as well has been international travel and I've been able to pair the global and comparative public health concentration at Drake with my pharmacy degree which has opened a lot of doors. As far as exploring pharmacy and health care systems I've gone to the Dominican Republic on a couple occasions as my sister also lived there for a period of time and seen both the private and public sector as well as served on a medical mission or medical service trip there. I lived in Cusco, Peru for a summer and worked at a hospital there for a study abroad experience and most recently I did advanced pharmacy practice experience or rotation in South Africa. So with my interest in working with diverse patient populations and understanding different cultures these have all definitely fit into that. There's plenty of opportunities for that within the United States as well but I've been able to even get a broader view and I've also learned how things work on a macro scale so been able to compare and contrast healthcare systems, the quality of access and the cost of healthcare systems and kind of see how systems run on the large scale which has been a really beneficial experience for me.

Okay, so taking it back to the United States you're interested in ambulatory care, tell me how those international experiences informed you? A big thing that we hear over and over again is there's a difference between learning and skills so maybe in high school you learn Spanish but when you went to Cusco I mean I don't know if they spoke Spanish or they spoke Quechan. Was it Spanish?

Mostly Spanish.

Okay that you went over there. Now you're developing skills so you're actually speaking in Spanish, you're doing things with pharmacy in Spanish. Tell me a little bit about the skill building that comes from that that would help you in a residency for other people that are maybe thinking about doing international as a way to make their residencies better.

Yeah, so there's definitely the language skill that comes with some of that international travel I've done. I think in a broader sense just communicating with different people and learning how they view things differently than I might view them. How different health beliefs impact their health practices and that's something that I've found very useful no matter what, who I'm working with in the United States or abroad. If something isn't making sense to them I have experienced, you know, opportunities to really look at different parts of their life, you know, whether it's their social, their financial, their different beliefs to kind of understand maybe where health belief is coming from. And then with that those communication skills having practice and experiences with educating and explaining things in different ways to make sense to different people which, you know, I can use those skills when I talk to my grandma about her medications.

You become a doctor the day you’re a P-1, that's for sure.

Yes, but also if anyone in clinic settings or really any setting.

Okay, well I guess what many students want to know is how do you get involved in international travel? Is that a selection process, do you just go into the experiential office and say, you know, I'd really like to go to the Dominican Republic, Peru and South Africa make it so, you know, how does how does that work at Drake?

So a lot of it is, has been my own researching things, researching opportunities. There's definitely people to help you along the way but I think just going after it if you're interested in it I didn't have anyone necessarily, you know, put this exact experience in front of me and say, you know, you do want to go or do not want to go. It's been more, I researched when I studied abroad in Cusco, Peru I researched different organizations and different third parties that Drake works with to go abroad. I got different pamphlets from the international office to look at different opportunities, you know, I told them that I was interested in something that I could relate to my medical pharmacy interest. As well as I speak Spanish, I wanted to go to the Spanish speaking country and they were able to kind of star some programs for me and kind give me a little bit of a starting place but then really I made an Excel spreadsheet and looked at the cost, the living situation if it was, you know, a home stay or in a appartment type of setting which I wanted a home stay. So I was kind of made my priority list.


And compared grounds and kind of took the bull by the horns.

Yeah here there's a lot of Excel spreadsheets at ASHP. We were, I was up there with a couple residents as you guys were going into the showcase that first time and it took about ten or eleven minutes, so about two or three thousand people gone into that showcase. So tell me a little bit about what you did at that showcase in terms of getting information, my, what I keep hearing over and over is that a lot of times people go in there and find out that a program they didn't think about becomes a program they do think about and programs they thought were something might be something else. So can you tell me a little bit about what it was that you did at the Showcase when you were meeting those people from the residencies?

So I had an awesome support of friends and students that are older than me to kind of help guide me through the class.


And to give me some advice going into it, definitely took out that Excel spreadsheet. Probably a couple weeks a month, couple months ahead of time when I had spare time and then as it was getting closer I made time to make sure I researched programs that I was interested in. ASHP has a residency directory online that was very helpful to kind of search by geographic area or by what type of program I was interested in. And then from there just was researching programs on their web pages to understand what they offered and then also with some self-reflection of looking at what I really prioritized in a residency. So when I was able to come up with my priorities I could look at what different residency programs offered and see what kind of really matched up and where I thought I could thrive and where I could benefit the program the most.


So then I had a big long list. I was able to kind of figure out which showcases there are because there's the three different.

Yeah three showcases so attaching Excel to mapping software.

Yes and I mapped it all out and just kind of looked at all the resources ahead of time to make sure I was as prepared as possible.

Okay well, the competition for residencies gets tougher each year. You've been intelligently efficient with making posters out of your experiences, you mentioned John Rovers I think was one person that helped you with one of your projects. Can you tell me how you, I don't want to say repurpose but how do you take an experience, turn it into a poster, turn into a presentation because you have a significant curriculum vitae but a lot of that it all happened in six years is what I just can't believe. And so how are you intelligently efficient with the experiences you have and then the production that you create in terms of these presentations, posters because I saw you presenting a poster at the national level.

So I think first and foremost is that I've had passion behind pretty much everything I've done. Obviously there's things that we have to do sometimes that we don't necessarily get to choose but all of my things that I've chosen, the research, the organizations, leadership positions are things that I've been really passionate about. So then it makes it fun to do things.

Okay, you never have to work a day in your life if you enjoy your work.

Right, that's exactly what it is. And then with that having mentors who kind of helped me see opportunities so, I went to the Dominican Republic on a medical service trip but was able to be a student researcher with research surrounding that. With that research a part of the result I was able to turn into a poster to present at ASHP major and the student poster presentations and then with the additional information and additional data we collected we're working on a manuscript with that. So I've a lot of times with one experience there's multiple ways that you can either share like educate other people about what you've been able to do or have leadership within the experience. So while I was in the Dominican Republic I was the lead pharmacy student to help kind of set up the pharmacy and train other students that were not pharmacy students that were on the trip and then just keeping an eye out for different opportunities to share those experiences.

Okay, well is there anything that I haven't asked you that you do want to communicate or talk about whether it's Drake, family, what you do outside of pharmacy or maybe some advice that you have for other people?

Oh yes, a lot of good questions today. I guess some, I think a major thing that has been crucial in my experience is just finding areas that I'm passionate about and exploring things to figure out what I'm not passionate about and just continuing to pursue those things. I think when we are excited about what we do we, you know, it's a lot more fun and you can go a lot further with different experiences when you have that motivation behind it and then with that I also have a lot of different outside hobbies that I'm passionate about that kind of keep me energized and fresh when I go to my pharmacy things as well.

Okay, well just a couple of questions here at the end. What's the best career advice you've ever given or received? Best career advice.

Best career advice. That is a good question.

We can come back to it if you like.

Okay well let's come back to that one.

Okay what do you do on a daily basis to keep the hundred things you do a day on track? On a daily basis, are you like a list person, are you, you know, how do you keep it on track or is Excel coming back again?

So, no this isn't Excel this is a different app because then it's on my computer and on my phone.


It's a free, I think it's called to do list. An awesome app that I can have a continual to-do list, I can look at my day, my week a specific project and just kind of always prioritizing urgent and important things on that list.

Okay, so the best career advice. We can go back to why did you go to Drake, you're from Minnesota why did you skip on down i-35 and just come down a couple extra hours down to Des Moines?

Yeah, so I loved the atmosphere at Drake. There's a lot of just very personable faculty and students that were just very.

Iowa nice.

I think it was Minnesota nice, isn't it?

Minnesota and I, we still have that kind of yeah, that kind of conflict but yeah I would nice Minnesota nice, Midwest nice, yeah.

Yeah, but I just really liked the atmosphere where people were really involved and kind of always pushing to be the best versions of themselves and create the best environment.

Okay, what inspires you?

I think when it comes down to my faith really inspires me.


I always, you know, believe that I always want to be the best person I can be and make every day a little bit better and with any interaction I have if I can make someone else's day a little bit better like that's just a huge success for me.

Awesome, Michelle thanks so much for being on the Pharmacy Leaders Podcast.

Thank you.

Support for this episode comes from the audio book Memorizing Pharmacology. A relaxed approach with over 9,000 sales in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, it's the go-to resource to ease the pharmacology challenge. Available on Audible, iTunes and in print eBook and audio book. Thank you for listening to the Pharmacy Leaders Podcast with your host Tony Guerra. Be sure to share the show with the hash tag hash pharmacy leaders.