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Pharmacy Leader: Sandra Leal - "I love the impact that pharmacists make on public health."

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Sandra Leal


166th President of the American Pharmacists Association

What excites you about being a pharmacist?

I love the impact that pharmacists make on public health. Even before the pandemic, pharmacists were already leaders in vaccinating people and creating access points for population in need. Today, the roles of pharmacists continue to expand into new and exciting areas that include things like digital health, pharmacogenomics, population health, and others that bring forth so many new opportunities to improve patients' lives.

How has your career evolved since you first started in the profession?

My career has really changed from direct patient care to addressing systems changes to make improvement that impact a lot of patients at a time. I love the opportunity to identify system barriers and advocate for policy changes that improve access, outcomes, quality, safety, and other critical things in a big way. We have limitations in resources available, especially in rural areas, for example, or for populations that need language support, that it is critical for us to be strategic about how we collaborate to provide access options. As such, I ended obtaining an MPH and focused on ways to address population health strategies so that individual patients can benefit from these efforts.

As a leader what continues to drive you?

There is no shortage of opportunities for us to step in and help. There are so many gaps in care out there and I enjoy figuring out what those are to design solutions to solve them! Change is sometimes slow and painful, but I also enjoy mentoring others and building up an army of individuals who are ready to join the mission.

What do you think needs to happen to have more women in executive roles across various sectors in the profession?

This is a complicated question, but several things have to happen. One is that we must give women the opportunity to sit at the table. For example, in California, legislation had to be created to require publicly traded companies to add at least one, two, or three women depending on the size of the organization by the end of 2021. It’s unfortunate that this has to be legislated for things to speed up or change but it goes to my previous point, that sometimes you need to have some major systems change to make things happen through advocacy. Additionally, we also need infrastructures that allow for women to be successful in executive roles. Women would benefit from support systems that address childcare issues, for example, and those that really address work-life balance that is meaningful in creating opportunity for women to avoid the inequities they experience in trying to stay competitive as compared to their male counterparts.

What advice would you give to new female graduates? 

Don’t miss an opportunity to apply for a position because you think you don’t meet all the qualifications. Apply anyway! Too many times we miss opportunities because we underestimate what we have already been doing time and time again.




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