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Pharmacy Leaders Podcast: Inspiring Leadership Interviews

Jan 29, 2018

In this episode, we focus on a new series of the Pharmacy Leaders Podcast focused on topics related to women in pharmacy leadership. Jackie Boyle hosts Ellina Seckel, PharmD, BCACP, Associate Chief of Ambulatory and Specialty Care, Pharmacy Service at the Madison VA in Wisconsin. Ellina discusses her non-traditional path to a leadership position, how women can support each other in leadership endeavors, and the unconscious challenges she has experienced as a woman in leadership. Her focus on authenticity and integrity in leading her team has allowed her to take on many pioneering roles within the VA health-system, including oversight for > 20 primary care clinics, providing patient care, and training others across the country to adopt innovative primary care models.
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 ok so welcome
to the pharmacy leaders podcast my name
is Jackie Boyle from the pharmacy girl
and I'll be hosting for the very first
time today special series focused
interviews about women in pharmacy
leadership so I'm super excited to have
dr. Elena suckle here with us today
Elena is the associate chief of
ambulatory and specialty care pharmacy
services at the Madison VA in Wisconsin
she is responsible for strategic
direction and oversight of ambulatory
care clinical pharmacy specialists in
over 20 clinics across multiple facility
departments she also maintains her own
patient care practice where she acts as
a provider with privileges and clinical
support to to primary care teams so
welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast
so excited to have you thank you so much
Jackie it really is wonderful and more
exciting well thanks for coming on today
I know we're gonna focus on women in
leadership but really want to hear more
about you what does I mean looks look
you have so many professional
responsibilities tell us a little bit
about what your professional life looks
like interesting question because
sometimes I don't know the difference
between my professional and personal
life and a hooking tiny get intertwined
and as you know your professional
captions are life's passions and sort of
become who you are and how you define
yourself so I'll maybe just talk about
the stuff I do in life and hopefully
hopefully that will help answer the
question so yes I love working at the VA
serving our veterans is a huge honor for
me as a fundamental vision and value and
exciting to work in an atmosphere where
pharmacists are providers so we
prescribed for patients we have our own
patient appointments that we see
anything that it has a medication
involved in diagnosis a chronic disease
we can manage and we work within teams
to do that so it's really I feel lucky
to be part of the system that not only
supports that type of practice but very
much values that and sees of patient
care outcomes and as far as professional
passions I love being involved in
pharmacy organizations very similar to
you Jackie so involvement with a CHP
with the Fergus ISA SIA T in Wisconsin
have been really fulfilling for me and
then through the VA there's kind of a a
VA version of a CHP if you will through
the clinical pharmacy practice office
and they've been wonderful to engage
with for opportunities to help spread
practices across VA the VA across the
nation so been doing some site visits
and things outside of the Madison area
so it's all very fun and it really
sounds like your professional and
personal interests have lined up in many
different ways you're doing a lot of
progressive things in your practice and
involved in pharmacy organizations that
align with that vision as well so I know
you know Elena we had a great
conversation at mid-year about
leadership and traditional versus
non-traditional path to leadership can
you tell us a little bit about your
trajectory to and continuing on and in
your leadership path and and maybe what
makes it a little bit non-traditional
definitely so what I think is a little
maybe unique maybe not for some people
about the path I've been afforded is I
started out really focused on ambulatory
care clinical practice as a whole and
did a PGI one focus just in that area
and then as I started thinking about
what extra training I needed and wanted
to pursue there were pieces of
leadership that really were exciting to
me and so even though I was mostly
focused on clinic
I felt an administration residency would
help me develop the leadership skills
needed to help advance the profession
forward for the betterment of patient so
I did my first year and ambulatory care
completely in my second year in health
system pharmacy administration and then
got hired as our very first primary care
program manager and sort of some unique
I moved from being a resident with
preceptors to the next day being the
supervisor of those same receptors so
that I think was a unique growing
experience for me and learning
experience how to navigate those
relationships because as you know so
much of leadership is about trust and
developing others and teamwork and it
took probably about six months I think
or me and my team to get comfortable
with each other and really understand
our intentions and and be able to move
forward as a cohesive group not that we
weren't on the same page before but
certainly there's some of those
interpersonal dynamics that we had to
work out through that time and then as I
moved through that year had the exciting
opportunity to be involved with a
national award based on our practice
model and so sort of pretty quickly
early on started traveling to other DA's
got to meet the VA secretary and he at
the time didn't realize that pharmacists
could prescribe even though we had
nearly 4,000 pharmacists for striking
just in primary care across the VA and
so to have the opportunity to engage
with him and share with him what
pharmacists are capable of that was
really impactful because then he started
advocating for advancing Persis roles
and so that afforded both myself and our
profession as a whole continued
leadership growth opportunities that we
really wouldn't have if it was just
pharmacists advocating for ourselves so
in my second year post that moved into
the associate chief role over are all
our clinics and able to stay engaged or
Berkeley nationally since then yeah so
it's not not super common that one would
pursue PG white almost pdy three right
of residency training and also being a
unique position where you were once you
know colleague and then an authority
position overseeing the and supervising
the individuals that you were working
with probably the day before what do you
think what do you think helped you
navigate that challenge because you're
very successful and what you do right so
how did how did you what are some skills
that you think that that helped you get
through that time that's an interesting
question and I'm not sure that there are
skills per se that I can think of I just
remember being very honest and
transparent and genuine in my attentions
in that my goal was really truly to help
them succeed their success is my success
and success for patients and success for
the profession and so I think threw me
just focusing on being Who I am you know
not trying to be somebody that I'm not
and continually expressing both verbally
and through actions that my goal is to
be a support to our team and to help
them advance so that we can all help
patients and it gives the profession
together so it sounds like authenticity
is important definitely definitely
great alright so I know we want to talk
about women in leadership but broadly
what do you think are some
misconceptions about leadership and what
makes a good leader I really want this
question because I think perceptions of
what a leader really is throughout my
career and growth thus far so for me I
am 5 foot tall and small feet and I
don't dress in Blazers or
suits I kind of have a maybe a weird
style and I think I misconception I had
is that you need to kind of be that
prominent looking put together pressed
leader in order to make an impact and I
kind of tried to do that actually at one
point I did try to like okay maybe I
need to fit this mold in order to be
effective and what I found is that I was
really unhappy and I felt bad about
myself because I wasn't able to be
authentic like you mentioned who I am
and so I think through kind of working
through that misconception and realizing
that I can't be anybody else than Who I
am has given me additional comfort and
confidence in my style now that's
definitely to test it you know I've run
into situations where leadership outside
of our department you know has said
things like oh well you know we're gonna
have director B at this meeting because
you know you're just less experienced or
you know maybe you need to be more
seasoned and so being young small and
female I think sometimes lends itself to
misconceptions that may make you want to
think you need to fit a different mold
but then realizing that it just doesn't
work you just have to be who you are and
you know there are definitely successes
in being who you are and so focusing on
those rather than maybe the times that
there's you know misconceptions from
others it's been important early I hear
you and I remember when we remember when
we first met it may be here it was so
exciting so if any of listeners don't
know us in person yet um Elena and I are
short and small I hear you though and
there actually is an in business
literature more so there is literature
that shows that most CEOs are over 6
foot tall which is really fascinating to
me just the visual person
shouldn't of perhaps what makes a great
leader or what doesn't it's a really
interesting concept to think about
mm-hmm yeah and you hear things
sometimes like oh wow well you seem you
know really confident they don't expect
their people maybe don't expect visually
what they get from working with you and
I know that you you probably experienced
some similar things you have a very
vibrant personality and maybe there's
unfortunate biases before people get to
know you
yeah could be I know my grandma always
told me good things come in small
packages all right so let's focus in on
then women in leadership what challenges
do you see for women leaders in pharmacy
I think something that's unique first of
all I think there's not a lot of focus
on this topic recently which is very
good and necessary I think sometimes
that what's striking to me is as that
focus grows some of the unique
perspectives that might come out of that
from others you know we even heard at
our state level oh well you know find
the national succeed on that but we
don't have that problem here we don't
have that problem in our state so I
think there's a lack of understanding or
acceptance from some groups on that
there are disparities even though you
know despite the fact that the vast
majority of the first profession is now
women there's still a disparity in the
leadership ratios you look at management
teams and they're still predominantly
male even though our proportion of
pharmacists are are much much more
prominently female so I think those
challenges and misperceptions and maybe
misunderstanding of even the issues that
are there and then you know some of the
things you talked about with making sure
women support other women and so it's
not you know it's not
nearly male-female issue is it's all of
us accepting that there's something that
needs to be addressed and supporting
each other in helping improve improve
those issues so it's it's unique but I'm
glad the topics up for discussion and
could really be you know transfer not
just to women and leadership of women of
color in leadership or different
ethnicities in at large I think there's
a lot there that that could be a healthy
spin off of some of these conversations
as well yeah and I'm really glad that
you brought up the well maybe this isn't
our problem kind of thing but you know
having open conversations like this one
where we can talk about what are what
are those issues and and who is at the
table who's not at the table and who do
we need to bring to the table
is extremely important because if we're
not we're not having those conversations
that there there's a lot of information
that could just be unknown about many
groups that you mentioned as well oh go
ahead I'm just gonna you're saying with
being and having the right people at the
table because it's just natural human
nature that you don't have the
experiences that other people have and
so making sure that there's appropriate
diversity at the table to represent
their respective groups is really
critical I think and making sure
everybody has a cohesive voice and were
able to move effectively forward
together agree and there's a lot of
organization evidence to to show that
the more diverse the group is how the
more effective the operation is as a
whole so yeah so you know I have a know
leery name
I don't know if you've seen the Articles
that he is come out and very politically
stated that the companies he's invested
money in on Shark Tank all of the ones
that are making a profit or run by women
hmm which I thought was really unique he
was like it's not that I don't invest
companies that have male leaders they're
just not the ones making a profit and so
he's become very outspoken and his
support of having female leaders in
these positions and he says it's not
really a gender thing for me I'm just
he's pretty pragmatic about right right
and there's not a lot of pharmacy
literature out there I think and
hopefully with the attention that's
being drawn to this topic that will come
but these are all things we should we
should also look at to see those
Pharmacy follow these trends or is do
they not I don't know there's nothing
out there specific to pharmacy you know
we have some healthcare literature or
even articles that have been published
in HBR but not a ton in pharmacy yet so
anyone looking to publish things this is
wide open so you know you touched a
little bit on this in your challenges
talk but what other opportunities of
money do you see for women in pharmacy
leadership I think and I would love to
see more women in pharmacy leadership as
well as men in bar see leadership move
into non-traditional leadership roles
within medical centers Directorate roles
associate director roles chief financial
officers where we can really start to
affect change and I know that there
there are some people that have done
that and that's I think very commendable
and really an opportunity to help change
not just the profession of pharmacy but
healthcare direction as a whole but I do
I think we have a unique skill set
within pharmacy that we get to see the
clinical side and the business side and
that we understand both and we tend to
be pretty high performers and there's a
lot of really organized pharmacy leaders
that are even you can see it in
frontline staff that are seeing patients
each day and so I think there's a talent
and a unique skill set that we bring and
I would love to see us expand further
into these non-traditional leadership
yeah the type a can really be
in advancing you know organization goals
working towards different objectives so
I completely agree with you there
all right so let's let's take a step
back and say let's let's flashback to
Elena at seven years old what would you
have told yourself now having you know
gone through life gone through school
residency training in your first couple
of positions what you do wish you could
have told yourself at that point about
your future career or even advice he
would have given to yourself at that
point that was at random age to bury you
know I think I would have told myself
not to worry and to just be confident on
the path and I think I would have also
told myself to get involved affirms the
organization sooner I really as a
student was pretty uninvolved I haven't
really been exposed to much I've done a
lot with implementing medication therapy
management program at the community
pharmacy I worked at but I didn't have
as much exposure or network with in
pharmacy organizations and I wish I
would have done that sooner just because
it's so valuable to me now and I guess
so passionately about it
that's a piece you know I just the
earlier you start with it the larger
your network is and the bigger impact
you can have with helping influence
others positively and giving them
opportunities to so I guess those would
be the two pieces if I'm thinking from a
pharmacy related standpoint yeah that's
that's really great advice to former
self and actually I was thinking about
the the career pearl session from mid
year clinical meeting and I think one
thing that I heard consistently did you
go to that session yeah one thing I
heard consistently was those who were
later in their career they reflected
back in
said you know what I could have never
predicted the way that my career was
going to end up and in in pharmacists
were control we want to know right we
want to have step-by-step we want to
have this checklist that says I'm gonna
do PG by 1 and then 2 and then this is
gonna be my job and this is what's gonna
happen but in reality like I can tell
you in both of us you know we're kind of
a few years out now like I could have
never predicted what was going to happen
even in in these first couple of years
so I have a feeling hearing that
consistent theme will probably be the
rest of my career I don't know what's
gonna happen just trust them trust in
the process and don't worry right trust
in the process and being excited for a
little bit of unknown you know that it's
okay to not know exactly where it's
gonna go and that leaves some room for
creativity and maybe a different a
different approach or path that you
didn't have room to think of before and
I think I just also want to acknowledge
that I feel like you're the epitome of
getting involved early and how much that
can help shape opportunities for the
profession and your ability to help
influence others positively so for those
listening definitely ask Jackie about
her experiences as well she's the
perfect example thank you and and I will
echo the organization involvement has
really been an exciting part and not you
know paid but very exciting part of my
career and I know has impacted yours as
well aleena so so I know you're in a
leadership position now and it sounds
like the switch kind of happened quickly
for you so you know when when that offer
came across you know what made you say
let's do this you know what what what
drove you to say I'm gonna take this new
position mm-hmm that's a great question
and and I kind of happened a little bit
differently for me so it was FCE that
eventually got approved with some
contribution from the residency project
that I had done as a PD went to and of
course there's a whole team of people
involved and lots of advocacy and
groundwork that was laid prior to that
so so didn't just happen because of that
but but in part and at that time I think
the vision was for that position to be
programmatic oversight but not
necessarily have supervisory
responsibilities but I really wanted
that for me having that supervisory
component gives me my best ability to
impact and support others and that's
something that is an incredibly
important value to me and so I asked for
it I said you know this position seems
really interesting I would love to stay
for it but I want to have the
Supervisory component and that was added
and so I think I'd bring it up because
so many times I think we might be afraid
to ask for what we want or feel like
we're not qualified or not ready to take
on a role and I mean I don't think I was
necessarily fully equipped and ready I
mean I certainly done an admin residency
for one year but certainly I'm learning
everyday still new things about how to
be a good theater and how to be a good
supervisor but I think it's important
that when you have a passion for
something and an opportunity might be
there it's okay to ask or really what
you want and what you you feel is
important to you so yeah yes I heard
kind of a couple of things in there so
it sounds like impostor complex is
something that we all owe me every day I
mean you know face face and deal with
but also putting yourself outside of
your comfort zone helps you to grow and
gain that experience which which you
certainly did and extends your impact
beyond what you could possibly have done
on your own which is really exciting to
you know have have the impact on others
who are taking care of even more
patients than you could have ever seen
as an individual person very exciting
part when when you can have a team or
when you're already you can have so much
more of an impact than any one of us
can do on our own so you're exactly
right so I want to dive in we probably
should do a whole maybe we could do it
up so down impostor complex phenomenon
fascinates me but I know we need to wrap
up soon a couple more questions so we
talked about women leaders needing to
support each other what what do you
think or how are some ways that we could
best do that I yes I agree with you 100%
it's something that we need to focus on
and I think we need to talk about it so
for me being exposed to other women that
support each other seeing that has been
an incredibly important example and
inspires me to do the same for others
and I think having an open dialogue
about how sometimes it can be
uncomfortable because you might feel
like you're giving up an opportunity
that you had to fight for yourself but
reframing that into again we're all
stronger together and the most important
thing that we can do is support each
other and so acknowledging that it's
okay to feel that discomfort that that's
normal and natural like that does that
make you a bad person but then framing
that as okay well remember we're all
stronger together and we have to help
each other and and you know it brings us
all joy to support each other so I guess
mechanically for me that means when
opportunities come up I think of all the
people that I can good for that or or
might enjoy it and try to send them that
way or promote them when I have the
opportunity to other leaders so that
they can have additional opportunities I
feel like you Jackie are doing that for
me with this podcast and so I think just
continuing to show those examples and
continuing to support each other is it's
important for all of us together yeah I
think you know sponsoring and and what
you're talking about is something that
women might not do as naturally and I
know Tony and I have talked about this
before but men do it all the time you
know they put each other in promotion
positions or highlight each other's
accomplishments and we just we're very
at mentoring and nurturing but
sponsoring sometimes doesn't come very
naturally to us so I think having those
opportunities to do that and put other
women in the spotlight it's really
fulfilling and in something that is a
skill that we can we can practice with
each other so and on that same note that
there really is enough opportunity for
all of us so if you ever you know sort
of start to feel that twinge remember
giving somebody else an opportunity does
not take away future opportunities for
you so there really is enough for
everyone yes that's a great point to
Elena because because of the disparity
in you know even upper administration
sometimes it may seem like well there's
only one woman on this administrative
board so why would there ever be more
than one you know but maybe those
dynamics and demographics will change
over time and and and that would change
the perception that there isn't enough
room for you know equality or even just
more diversity so very very good point
so I know we're gonna wrap up here I
want to think about you know our
listeners here who are saying how can we
you know how can we take all of this
leadership advice and and thoughts and
consideration and and think about the
future leaders of pharmacy nor our
students or residents new practitioners
practitioners who are in their career
right now who want to learn more and
discuss about leadership how can we pay
it forward to them as they're in their
leadership journey right now
mm-hmm well for me I think the first
thing we have to do is look inwardly and
really self reflect and make sure that
we what we're doing each day we're doing
for the right reasons and that they
align with our values and once you gain
comfort with your value system and being
confident and your intentions I think
you can then much more confident
and easily promote and sponsor other
people and and that means getting your
best self to students and to residents
and to new practitioners and those who
need that support because we all need
that regardless of where we're at in our
career we none of us to do anything
alone we all have people that have
supported us or have given us advice or
maybe put a bug in our ear that then
makes us make a decision one way or
another taking opportunity or not and so
I think first making sure we're doing
things for the right reasons and have
bright intentions and then really
committing to a purpose a life purpose
not just a professional purpose but in
life doing the right thing for others
promoting others and really giving what
we can to help other people in the
pursuit of doing the right thing for
patients Thank You Lena that was a great
way to wrap everything up in a nice
authentic can't wait because that really
was what the message that I heard was
from you that authenticity is most
important and I really appreciate your
time today thank you for being my very
first guest with not a lot of time or
preparation so thank you again for
joining us on the pharmacy leaders
podcast and thank you so much Jackie for
the opportunity not just to be on that
podcast hey everyone now that you've
listened to the podcast I'd love for you
to come over to my blog at the pharmacy
girl comm where you can learn more about
personal and professional development
with a focus on women in leadership
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