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Pharmacy Leader of the week: Shelley Morgan - "Speak up and push beyond your comfort zone!"

Shelley Morgan, a pharmacist at Palermo Pharmacy
Shelley Morgan

BSc of Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Western Ontario
Doctor of Pharmacy from State University of New York at Buffalo

CEO, Rx Billing Genie
Staff pharmacist at Palermo Pharmacy

What excites you about being a pharmacist?

The limitless possibilities, not only patient related but also the industry itself.  I was astounded as a young pharmacy student how versatile a pharmacy degree was; since growing up in Northern Ontario, my only interaction with a pharmacist was at the neighbourhood pharmacy.  Now we see industry and innovation as opportunities for pharmacists today and I only see this growing, especially since COVID has put our industry in the forefront. We were already recognized as the most accessible healthcare professionals but due to COVID, this hit home to even more Canadians. The exciting possibilities of the future of pharmacy, as I see it, is for us to focus on the new-found appreciation for our cognitive knowledge and advocate for our profession at the legislative level. We should also advocate to allow pharmacists to obtain a billing number and ability to order labs.

When you graduated, what did you envision for your future?

Initially I thought I would have owned my own pharmacy because that was always my father's dream for me. However, my career took a 10-year detour because I had three lovely children.

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

Instead of opening my own pharmacy, I worked at Chedoke-McMaster rehabilitation hospital after graduation, as well as Rite Aid in Niagara Falls, NY.  Next, I supported my then-husband and his partners in opening a screening colonoscopy clinic in town and during that 10-year span, I stepped down to Part B. After re-establishing my Part A, I began working as a part-time staff pharmacist. While working, due to my own personal frustration, I came up with the idea of Rx Billing Genie and with the help of my pharmacy assistant, Nicola Sancho-Persad, we created Rx Billing Genie, an app to help pharmacy staff address rejections in seconds and avoid calling adjudicators and wasting valuable time.

How would you describe a great day at work?

A great day for me would be being engaged with my patients, sharing a laugh and a story.   All the while ensuring that they receive the appropriate drug therapy, including OTC counselling as well.

What is (or has been) your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy?

I would say my leadership is a work in progress. I believe that my out-of-the-box thinking would make me appear that I am a leader, but I think of myself more as a problem solver. The challenge is to not allow fear of failure or criticism to get in your way.  If you have what you think are good ideas, don’t be afraid to take the plunge and put them out into the world; the results might be in your favour.  I hope I will inspire and motivate more of my colleagues to think in a similar way.

How important was mentoring in your career?

Having a mentor is extremely important in pharmacy but also in life.  Learning from others who are farther along on the path is the best way to learn, for and about yourself.  In terms of mentoring others, my alma mater SUNY at Buffalo pharmacy program has reached out to black graduates to assist the black students on their paths to the world of pharmacy.  I am very excited for this opportunity.

Was there an “aha” moment for you, when you realized the impact of the difference you’re making?

My "aha" moment came after we had created the app and I began to use it daily while processing scripts - I could answer questions in seconds rather than calling adjudicators and being put on hold for 1 to 20 minutes.  I realized that we had created a really practical tool that, once adopted, will help my fellow colleagues.

As a leader in pharmacy, what continues to drive you?

To make the lives of my fellow pharmacists and team members easier.  Helping others and finding ways to contribute in a positive way to make our profession better motivates me the most.

Looking at your career, what are you the proudest of? What have been some of the highlights of your career?

I am the proudest of coming back to Part A status after being Part B for many years. In that time there had been WHOLE classes of medications that had been developed.  My Therapeutics Choices book that used to fit into my lab coat pocket had doubled in size. I was scared and doubted myself but with the help of my fellow pharmacists, I succeeded!

What legacy would you like to leave to the pharmacy profession?

I would like to leave a legacy of innovation and the confidence to “toot our own horn.”  Also, I hope to inspire others to support advocacy efforts through our various pharmacy associations for our profession both legislatively and in the public eye. COVID has taught everyone that we are an essential component of the healthcare system, and therefore we must highlight our leadership roles as ultimately, this will benefit all of our patients.

Do you feel there is a glass ceiling for women in pharmacy?

Being a woman, there are always thoughts of "glass ceilings" but as a black woman, I acknowledge that we have an even tougher barrier to overcome.   Fortunately, my professional life as a staff pharmacist in an independent community pharmacy has not been limited.  However, my experience is only my own and I believe that others have had to deal with the glass ceiling because it is in every aspect of our society.

Women are making a big name for themselves in pharmacy. What does this mean to you professionally and personally?

It makes me so proud of these women creating spaces for themselves because it makes room for other women coming up behind them. Diversity is a strength that will help everyone it touches.

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

I read that women do not apply for positions unless they are fully qualified whereas men will apply for positions that they are not. This difference closes off opportunities for women before they even have the chance to succeed. Women, especially women of colour, need to be actively recruited for these positions for things to change.

What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?

Speak up and push beyond your comfort zone. I believe that speaking up is not only a way for you to become visible, establish credibility and show leadership, but it is also an opportunity for you to impact real change. Pharmacists have both the leadership and advocacy skills to influence change at the highest level, so I strongly feel that all new female pharmacy students should be encouraged to speak up, share their thoughts, tell their stories, and let their voices be heard!

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