Written By: Joseph Martin, Third-Year Student Pharmacist

For three enriching days in May, I had the opportunity to attend the 17th Annual Student Leadership Conference sponsored by Cardinal Health Innovative Delivery Solutions in Houston, Texas. This event provided pharmacy students from around the country the chance to develop their professional leadership skills as future pharmacists. In 2016, 44 students from 44 different schools of pharmacy were invited to attend. While each University selects their student in various ways, here at the School of Pharmacy, our dean reaches out to all of the student organizations’ faculty advisors to recommend a student for the conference. I was the lucky student selected this year to represent the School thanks to the recommendation of Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, associate dean for student affairs.

Noteworthy Activities

My days at the conference were packed with panel discussions, presentations, team-building games, and real-life simulations, creating a lively and varied atmosphere to facilitate the leadership development of all students in attendance. We participated in mock interviews, honing our abilities to successfully complete any interview thanks to the specific interview strategies we were taught, including the STAR method, which also aided in helping us to identify our strengths and weaknesses as interviewees.

Student pharmacists also participated in a three-hour etiquette dinner to help us better understand the nuances of proper etiquette for future professional settings. This was my first time attending an etiquette dinner, and it was an unexpected, yet welcome experience to have during the conference.

Lessons Learned

“It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” This was a small quote included at the bottom of a slide during a presentation titled “Casting Your Net: How Do People Get Jobs?” that particularly resonated with me.  A recent survey noted that more than 80 percent of jobs are filled via referral, essentially making referrals the most successful way to obtain a position that you may be interested in. It is important for your network to know who you are and understand your strengths, skills, and the value you can bring to a company. While I felt as though I already had an ability to meet people and expand my personal network, I realized I was lacking in critical areas like follow-up in order to truly get those people to know me. However, this conference enabled me to improve upon myself and my ability to create personal contacts that may one day become referrals for more opportunities.

Parting Words

I have come to learn that there really is an art and science to leadership, which the Cardinal Health Student Leadership Conference helped instill in me. This event has left me with a desire to become a person who is truly able to positively influence a group of people towards the achievement of a common goal. It has been a quality experience in my professional life, supporting and enriching my growing knowledge base surrounding leadership. The value of the time that I spent at the conference can be wonderfully summed up with a quote from the last presentation by Dr. Robert E. Smith, who remarked “Leadership development is a planned or serendipitous accumulation of experiences that prepares one for the next assignment or position which they may not know exactly how to do.” So, whether I do or don’t know the next step in my leadership journey, the knowledge and experience that I gained at the conference will remain invaluable for my development as a future pharmacist.


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