Written By: Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA, Assistant Professor in PPS
Close your eyes and think of a person you would describe as an entrepreneur. Do you envision a successful business leader? What about a researcher working to discover a new treatment for cancer? Do you think of an owner of a small business, like a community pharmacy? Or, do you just see Scrooge McDuck diving into a pile of gold?
I believe that the word association between “entrepreneur” and “greed” for some people has limited the willingness to learn from successful entrepreneurs and apply frameworks that have served the for-profit sector to settings where profit isn’t necessarily the end goal. The term entrepreneurism is used to imply qualities of leadership, initiative, skills, and taking risks to implement innovations.1,2 However, the potential for a negative connotation may negate the word’s positive implications.
Embracing My Entrepreneurial Spirit
Early in my pharmacy student career, my interest in business development led me to seek approval from my school’s dean to enroll in up to 25 credit hours each semester to earn my Master of Business Administration (MBA) in addition to my Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD). After a full day of pharmacy classes, I would spend most of my evenings at the Gatton College of Business and Economics delving deeper into lessons about competitive strategy, logistics and lean thinking, new business financing,3 and managing competing forces to lead an organization. These classes helped guide me as a manager and district manager early in my career for a large pharmacy chain, as well as through the development of a blog, small real estate endeavor, and consulting company.
When I left the private sector to pursue a career with the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Health Services Research (PHSR) at the School of Pharmacy, I wasn’t able to turn-off the business development section of my brain. Fortunately, my department chair and dean recognized ways that my love for business could be applied to advance the mission of our School, including teaching business strategy in the PharmD curriculum with Agnes Ann Feemster, PharmD, BCPA, assistant professor in PPS; developing a new business plan elective with Tim Rocafort, PharmD, BCACP, assistant professor in PPS; and consulting with the University of Maryland Medical Center on numerous projects to capture revenue and streamline services.4
However, it was when the School officially launched its new pharmapreneurism initiative in 2017 that I knew I had truly found my niche.
Entrepreneurship has been cited as a key factor in driving innovation in the practice of pharmacy. The Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Education (CAPE) went as far as to identify “innovation and entrepreneurship” within domains to guide the academy. After the School of Pharmacy trademarked the term pharmapreneurism to describe pharmacy entrepreneurs – individuals who, through achieving their career aspirations, address some of the nation’s most pertinent health care, research, policy, and societal needs – I began to serve on a number of projects and committees related to this new initiative. However, I quickly found that, while much emphasis has been placed on the importance of entrepreneurism in pharmacy, there appears to be a gap in the research surrounding the definition of a successful entrepreneur and the appropriate role for innovation and entrepreneurship within teaching, scholarship, and service goals for schools of pharmacy.
In an effort to help close this gap, I recently applied for and was fortunate to receive a $10,000 New Investigator Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) to determine the role of entrepreneurialism within the broader missions of schools of pharmacy and identify skills necessary to be a successful pharmapreneur. By interviewing successful pharmacy business leaders; my research mentor, C. Daniel Mullins, PhD, professor and chair of PHSR; and other pharmacy entrepreneurs, I aim to develop a pharmapreneur construct that may influence how institutions support and promote innovation.
Looking Beyond Financial Gain
I believe the true spirit of pharmapreneurism does not rest solely on the growth of pecuniary riches. By taking a proactive approach to define this concept, I believe that I can help shape how the term is used and perceived – and, hopefully, educate others about how the profession of pharmacy and our ultimate customer (the patient) may benefit. There are many applications of entrepreneurism to the field of pharmacy, from patient care roles to new practice models. However, in order to graduate successful pharmapreneurs and innovators, schools of pharmacy need to address the evolving roles, requirements, and regulations of practice, as well as incorporate those revised pharmacy competencies into curricula.
By formalizing a working definition and identifying the role of entrepreneurism in pharmacy, my research will add new knowledge to the discipline and help students understand the need to be versatile, innovative, competitive, and sustainable in their pharmacy practice. The findings will provide the foundation for a construct, enabling institutions to support and promote entrepreneurship and innovation in pharmacy curricula. This will be of particular benefit to the School, which has several new programs in the pipeline to help foster an unparalleled environment that values and nurtures pharmapreneurship among faculty and students alike.
1 Mason HL, Assemi M, Brown B, et al. Report of the 2010-2011 academic affairs standing committee. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011;75(10).
2 Tice BP. Advancing Pharmacy Through Entrepreneurial Leadership. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2005;45(5):546-553. doi:10.1331/1544345055001373.
3 Mattingly TJ, Yusuf J-E, Fink III JL. Turning that great idea into a thriving business. Pharm Times. 2009.
4 Dunn EE, Vranek K, Hynicka LM, Gripshover J, Potosky D, Mattingly TJ. Evaluating a Collaborative Approach to Improve Prior Authorization Efficiency in the Treatment of Hepatitis C Virus. Qual Manag Health Care. 2017;26(3). doi:10.1097/QMH.0000000000000137.