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An overview of “leadership” in pharmacy education

By: Shivani Shah, PharmD Candidate c/o 2021 and Jagannath Muzumdar, PhD Associate Professor Pharmacy – Pharmacy Administration and Public Health


The Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Education (CAPE), in its most recent pharmacy education outcomes report, has called attention to the lack of personal and professional development of pharmacy students. In what is commonly referred to as Domain 4, the members of the CAPE Outcomes report have focused on the topic of leadership and developing leadership qualities in pharmacy students specifically in subsection 4.2. Integrating pharmacy students’ leadership skills is of particular importance as it not only encourages students to be leaders in their field, but as the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) also notes, it is a crucial step in the advancement of professionalism, within which leadership is a vital component. Leadership connotes a variety of definitions. However, broadly characterizing it by defining leadership as an active commitment to demonstrating responsibility for creating and achieving shared goals, regardless of position, CAPE incorporates the impression that all student pharmacists can be actively engaged and lead positive change in the healthcare field.

Similar calls to action for leadership exists in other related healthcare fields, such as medicine and nursing. Training of leadership skills in medical education for physicians is actively being researched. One study reviewed catalogues of learning objectives published worldwide in medical education curricula. The results showed that the development of leadership skills at present clearly does not constitute a central element of research into physicians’ undergraduate and continuing medical education in Europe and the USA.1 Although physicians are expected to take on the role of a leader, to bear responsibility and to make important medical decisions facing a heterogeneous environment, there seems to be a lack of training in the related discipline. In nursing, there are two leadership models the field has taken on, transformational and transactional. Nurse leaders need to be able to respond to an ever-changing healthcare environment, including organizational expectations and changes to local and national policy. As such, the call to action for leadership in nursing commits to the motto “practice changing practice” in which nurse leaders are not concerned with using models and developing an “eclectic” strategy. Rather, the models are used as framework that suits the individual leader. Leadership in related disciples shows that CAPE’s call to action for leadership is applicable to other healthcare professionals, and specific strategies and characteristics of leadership in pharmacy need to be further explored as pharmacists are becoming an integral part of medical care teams.

The purpose of this study is to provide an overview of different leadership definitions and key characteristics that have been identified in research journals. This study will also illustrate different interventions that have been taken to integrate leadership in curricula in pharmacy schools across the United States. By assessing these definitions and characteristics as they relate to the interventions, the study will objectively discuss the results of the interventions.


Table #1: Definition of Leadership Identified in Pharmacy Literature
Article Definition/Key Characteristic
Sorensen et al2 · Using personal strengths

· Leading adaptive change

· Creating visions for the future

· Articulating messages clearly

· Engaging in personal reflection

· Professional networking

Mospan et al3 · The ability to advocate for their profession

· Ability to push for new healthcare policies

· Participating in political legislative processes

Patterson et al4 · Self-awareness development

· Monitor and self-regulate behaviors and emotional reactions

Sucher et al5 · Ability to self-assess strengths and weakness

· Enhance skills as lifelong learners

· Creating individual plans for their continuous professional development

Feller et al6 · Explaining the importance of leadership

· Demonstrating self-awareness in leadership

· Developing knowledge of organizational culture

Allen et al7 · Successfully navigate through change
Chesnut et al8 · Taking greater part in patient care

· Being involved in disease state management

· Managing medication costs

Mort et al9 · Pharmacy leader is driven by the mission of the organization/activity (patient care/outcomes), rather than by personal motivations and continually strives to improve

Table #2: Assessment of interventions
Article Objective Intervention Assessment/Conclusion
Sorensen et al2 To develop and implement a course that develops pharmacy students’ leadership skills and

encourages them to become leaders within the profession

Elective Course The courses addressed important elements for establishing a foundation for leadership. It also provided an opportunity for development of skills important for leadership, including the ability to articulate a vision and effectively persuade others on professional issues.
Mospan et al3
Published by Rho Chi Post
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