Reflection on the NAM Fellowship in Pharmacy

An interview with Dr. Samuel G. Johnson, 2012-2014 Fellow

Samuel G. Johnson, PharmD, BCPS, FCCP, is currently the Associate Executive Director of the Board of Pharmacy Specialities. In this position, he is responsible for interprofessional and research activities, including active engagement with other health professional societies (e.g., medicine, nursing, and others), health quality organizations, patient advocacy groups, and health care payers/purchasers to promote the value of board certification for pharmacists.

In 2012, Dr. Johnson was nominated – and selected – for the inaugural NAM Fellowship in Pharmacy, which enables talented early-career health science scholars to participate in the evidence-based health care/public health studies that affect the health of the American people. Through direct involvement in the work of the National Academies, the Fellowship provides the opportunity to study health care challenges from a range of disciplines and viewpoints to develop sound health care strategies and policies.

In the following interview, Dr. Johnson reflects on his Fellowship experience and the impact that this unique opportunity has had on his career.

What did the NAM Fellowship in Pharmacy entail?

I committed about 20% of my professional life to the Fellowship over two years, while remaining employed by Kaiser Permanente as a clinical pharmacy specialist. I was assigned to the Board on Health Sciences Policy at the National Academies and worked on the Committee on Core Metrics for Better Health at Lower Cost (chaired by Dr. David Blumenthal) as well as the Roundtable on Genomics and Precision Health (co-chaired by Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg and Ms. Sharon Terry). As an NAM Fellow, I contributed to five published workshop summaries; assisted with background research for the consensus report titled Vital Signs: Core Metrics for Health and Health Care Progress; served on the planning committee for a workshop on Improving Genetics Education in Graduate and Continuing Health Professional Education; and assisted with a qualitative outreach project.

What impact did the Fellowship have on you, professionally and personally?

The Fellowship provided a powerful springboard for me into a variety of health policy leadership roles, including volunteer opportunities. After completing the Fellowship, I returned to Kaiser Permanente as a clinical pharmacy specialist. In January 2016, I became the Director of Health Policy and Inter-professional Affairs at the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, before becoming Associate Executive Director of the Board of Pharmacy Specialities. I have served on the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Inter-Society Coordinating Committee; chaired the Colorado State Medicaid Drug Utilization Review committee; and served as the President-Elect for the Colorado Pharmacists Society. The Fellowship also led me to research and writing opportunities (including collaboration with other NAM Fellows) and employment opportunities in Washington, DC. These professional prospects may not have been available to me if I hadn’t been an NAM Fellow.

My professional network expanded exponentially due to the Fellowship, which enabled me to engage in meaningful inter-professional conversations about quality measurement, applied pharmacogenomics, precision medicine, and pharmacist practice advancement. This led to additional opportunities to engage in impactful work, including presentations at local, national, and international meetings, as well as several peer-reviewed publications.

Some of the perspectives that the Fellowship introduced to me that I find most valuable include the importance of: (A) value-driven care; (B) patient-centered, inter-professional care teams, and their ability to meaningfully impact health and care-related outcomes; and (C) having a critical mass of experienced clinicians to engage in health and health sciences policy work.

The Fellowship also challenged me to grow as a person by increasing confidence in my own interpersonal skills, presence, and perspective, which enriched my personal and professional life.

What are the top three highlights of your Fellowship experience?

While I can definitely name more than three highlights, here are the top three:

First was the opportunity to learn about the reach and impact of NAM activities in real time. Very few pharmacists have the opportunity to experience firsthand how national health policy is shaped by the work of NAM members and leaders.

Second was the opportunity to forge relationships with truly amazing people, let alone national thought leaders in medicine, health care delivery, inter-professional education and practice, and research. I was fortunate to develop a relationship with a co-NAM Fellow whose background in family medicine, public health, and health services research significantly enhanced my outlook on what was possible for my own career path and development.

Third was the way that staff embraced and encouraged NAM Fellows to participate in all of their program’s work and develop our careers as future leaders in the field. This was especially helpful at the beginning, when it was easy to feel overwhelmed with the size and scope of the National Academies.

Knowing what you now know through your Fellowship experience, what advice would you give to other early-career professionals or emerging leaders about contributing to the future direction of health care?

I find the following statements by John Burroughs to be particularly apropos to this question:

“If you think you can do it, you can.”

“Leap, and the net will appear.”

In addition to these quotes, I would add that finding the right mentor is a lynchpin for any career development. I realize that mentoring comes in many forms, and from more than one person. The right mentoring will help you be successful by challenging you, supporting you, and enabling you, especially when it is applied in a timely and constructive manner. Spend as much time as possible reflecting on what mentoring will be most beneficial for you and who would be willing to provide it.

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