My UMSOP Story: Teisha A. Robertson, CDR, USPHS, PharmD ‘05, MBA, BCGP, CPH

Teisha A. Robertson, CDR, USPHS, PharmD ‘05, MBA, BCGP, CPH, graduated from the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and now works as the assistant director for health care administration at the Defense Health Agency.

What was your path to pharmacy school, and what interested you in pharmacy?

My path to pharmacy school began during my undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland College Park, where I majored in math and science education. During the summer after my second year, I landed a job at Target, primarily working as a cashier in the pharmacy department. Working closely with the pharmacy team exposed me to the health care system and the crucial role pharmacists play in patient care.

I was drawn to the dynamic environment of pharmacy, where I witnessed firsthand the impact pharmacists have on improving the lives of individuals through medication management and counseling. Throughout that summer and over the following year, I had the privilege of being mentored by two inspiring pharmacists who motivated me to pursue a career in pharmacy.

What interested you in UMSOP when you were applying to schools?

When considering pharmacy schools, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP) was my top choice for several reasons. First, UMSOP has a very strong reputation for academic excellence and research. Without hesitancy, I knew UMSOP would be my first choice due to the School’s commitment to advancing pharmacy practice and spearheading interdisciplinary collaboration.

Second, the School’s location in Baltimore, the heart of health care and pharmaceutical industries, afforded me unique opportunities for hands on experience, networking, and internships.

Lastly, the unique combination of academic excellence opportunities and hands-on experience made the UMSOP a great choice for me when applying to pharmacy schools.

How would you describe your experience at UMSOP?

My experience at UMSOP was incredibly fulfilling on multiple levels. From the beginning and throughout my four years, I found myself immersed in a supportive community where friendships flourished. Collaborating with peers, sharing experiences, and navigating challenges together created lasting bonds that enhanced my pharmacy school journey.

I would be remiss if I did not share that the journey was challenging, pushing me to my intellectual limits. For example, late nights studying for 7:30 a.m. exams. However, it was within these challenges that I found growth and resilience, constantly pushing myself to exceed expectations.

The presence of great professors and mentors played an essential role in shaping my experience. Their support, guidance, and expertise helped me to explore new opportunities and create my own path in pharmacy. The journey has been rewarding beyond measure. From clinical rotations to research projects, every opportunity presented a chance to apply classroom knowledge in real-world scenarios, further solidifying my passion for pharmacy and my career aspirations.

What do you remember about your time outside of the classroom?

I was deeply involved in various organizations that significantly shaped my professional journey and personal growth. One notable experience was pledging Kappa Psi, the largest and oldest pharmaceutical fraternity globally. This fraternity not only provided a supportive network of peers but also instilled in me a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose within the pharmacy community.

Additionally, my involvement with the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) as a student sparked my fascination for managed care. This interest was further solidified during my tenure as a pharmacy technician at Kaiser Permanente, where I gained firsthand exposure to managed care practice.

Another pivotal experience was collaborating with C. Daniels Mullins, PhD, professor of practice, sciences, and health outcomes research (P-SHOR). From this experience, I enhanced my research skills and co-authored my first article on the “Impact of the Fourth Hurdle in the International Pharmaceutical Industry.”

What are the biggest benefits of attending UMSOP?

Attending UMSOP allowed me to study at one of the top pharmacy schools in the country. This distinction ensured access to high-quality education, cutting-edge research, and esteemed faculty members who were leaders in their fields. The education received at UMSOP was exemplary, providing a comprehensive foundation in pharmaceutical sciences, pharmacy practice, and patient care. The curriculum was designed to be rigorous and extremely relevant, preparing students for excellence in diverse pharmacy settings.

Another benefit was the opportunities for rich clinical experience and engaging opportunities available to students. From clinical rotations in health care institutions to hands-on learning experiences in community pharmacies, to opportunities at government agencies and managed care organizations, students gained invaluable real-world exposure and developed clinical skills under the guidance of experienced preceptors.

What has been your career path after pharmacy school, and why does this area interest you?

After completing pharmacy school, I started a dynamic career path that has been deeply rooted in managed care, due to my passion for serving the public health and making a difference in health care delivery.

My journey began at Kaiser Permanente, where I served as a staff pharmacist for six months, marking my official entry into managed care. Following this, I pursued a managed care residency under the guidance of my esteemed mentor, Catherine Cooke, PharmD, MS ’18, BCPS, PAHM, research associate professor of P-SHOR, in collaboration with UMSOP and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

This residency laid the groundwork for my future endeavors in managed care and shaped my professional career. Following residency, I transitioned to Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, where I spent over five years overseeing Medicaid, Medicare, and managed care clients. This role provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of managed care operations, formulary management, and health care administration, further solidifying my expertise in the field.

Due to my interest in serving the public health, I joined the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and commenced my tenure at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as a pharmacist. In this role, I managed the formulary benefit and submissions for all Medicare pharmacy programs, contributing to the enhancement of health care access and affordability for millions of beneficiaries.

I transitioned to the Defense Health Agency (DHA), where I continue to serve alongside all services as a pharmacist with oversight of the pharmacy benefit manager. This experience continues to be rewarding as I work alongside all military personnel while further honing my skills in managed care.

Every step of my journey has revolved around managed care—a field that continues to inspire and motivate me. Each role has presented its own set of challenges and opportunities, contributing to my growth as a pharmacist and health care leader. My career path has come full circle, reaffirming my passion and commitment to improving health care outcomes through innovative managed care solutions.

What is the US Public Health Service (USPHS)?

The USPHS is a uniformed service of the U.S. federal government that is dedicated to protecting, promoting, and advancing the nation’s public health. It is comprised of commissioned officers who work across various agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Bureau of Prisons, Indian Health Services, and the Defense Health Agency, to name a few.

For individuals considering a career in pharmacy, the USPHS offers an excellent avenue, especially as the cost of pharmacy school continues to rise. First, joining the USPHS can provide financial assistance through programs like the Junior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program. Students gain professional training experience and are given financial support to pursue degrees in various health professions, including pharmacy, with benefits including pay, a tax-free allowance for rent or mortgage, health care during emergencies, and space-available care at military medical treatment facilities.

Additionally, the USPHS offers the Senior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Programs (Sr. COSTEP) which provides opportunities for senior level pharmacy students to gain hands-on experience in public health settings with benefits, including up to 12 months of pay while the student finishes their coursework, a full-time position as a Public Health Service officer immediately upon graduation, a tax-free allowance for rent or mortgage, and health care coverage. For Sr. COSTEP, students must be within one year of completing their undergraduate or post graduate program.

The mission of the USPHS aligns closely with the values and goals of many pharmacists, offering a wide range of career opportunities in public health, clinical pharmacy, regulatory affairs, research, and more. Pharmacists within the USPHS make a meaningful impact on public health initiatives, respond to emergencies and outbreaks, and contribute to the development and implementation of policies and programs aimed at improving population health outcomes. The USPHS is a great option for pharmacy students and professionals seeking diverse career pathways, financial assistance, and opportunities to serve the public. Learn more on the USPHS website.

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