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Rho Chi Talks: Valuable Networking Opportunities at Alumni Insider’s View

Featuring: Amanda Murray, PharmD Candidate c/o 2024 and Laura Cranston, B.S.Pharm
By: Ashley Dao, PharmD Candidate c/o 2024

Alumni Insider’s View (AIV) is an annual program held in Washington D.C. that provides students from St. John’s University with the opportunity to explore nontraditional career pathways in pharmacy. Students are able to network with pharmacists that hold positions as pharmaceutical executives, legislators, and lobbyists. In 2022, students had the chance to speak with pharmacists from AstraZeneca, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), Pharmacy Quality Alliance (PQA), Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and many other organizations.

Meet Amanda Murray

Amanda Murray is a fifth-year pharmacy student at St. John’s University. She stumbled upon pharmacy because of her love for chemistry in high school. Pharmacy seemed like a great profession for her to pursue because of the plethora of career paths that she could take. During her time at St. John’s, Amanda has served as the fundraising chair for Lambda Kappa Sigma, secretary and president for the American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists (AAPP), and events coordinator for the Student Society of Pediatric Pharmacy (SSPP). Currently, Amanda is interested in practicing in population health and learning more about association management. Outside of school, Amanda enjoys running, volunteering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and raising awareness for suicide prevention through a brand she created in 2020 known as OneMoreDay.

Why did you decide to participate in Alumni Insider’s View?

I wanted to see what opportunities are available for me regarding APPE rotations and residency programs in Washington D.C. I knew someone who participated in AIV a few years ago. She had a great experience and encouraged me to apply.

What was the application process like?

The application process required an essay, curriculum vitae, and an interview. The essay was to assess what you hoped to gain out of the AIV trip. For me, I really wanted to gain exposure to the various nontraditional pathways in pharmacy. I prepared for the interview by thinking of ways I could apply my previous experiences to what I wanted to gain from AIV.

Tell us about your experience at Alumni Insider’s View.

The first site we visited was AstraZeneca. I enjoyed seeing the diverse group of alumni holding various positions in industry. We were able to meet current fellows, as well as past fellows who were hired after their fellowships. I did not have much exposure to industry prior to AIV, so it was interesting to hear about the different perspectives and avenues to entering the pharmaceutical industry. Next, meeting with AACP was a highlight of my trip because of the positive energy from the panelists. It was very encouraging to see pharmacists advocate for our profession and it exposed me to the opportunity to work within an association. Additionally, we were also able to hear from a group of pharmacists from the PQA, the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). Our final stop was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. We were able to hear from a mixed panel of uniformed and civilian pharmacists, helping me gain a perspective on the different responsibilities these pharmacists play in a federal hospital.

What did you gain from this experience?

I was able to gain a network in the Washington D.C. area that I could rely on in the future. All the panelists were very welcoming and willing to help. I also gained a new perspective on pharmacy. Before AIV, I wouldn’t have considered the association pharmacy sector, but now I am thinking about doing an APPE rotation at an association.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned?

The most valuable lesson I learned is that there is always going to be a career path for you, no matter how long it takes to find it. Don’t be afraid of change because you don’t have to be trapped. At AIV, I was able to meet pharmacists who broke the mold and got themselves unstuck from stagnate positions.

What tips do you have for students interested in participating in Alumni Insider’s View?

Just go for it! You never know what you will learn from this trip. The school finances the trip for students, so the only thing you have to pay for are snacks, breakfast, and one lunch. If you are worried about missing class, remember that it is equally important to show up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and remember that you can always find someone who is willing to help you get to where you want.

Meet Laura Cranston

Laura Cranston graduated from St. John’s University in 1983 with her Bachelor of Pharmacy. Post-graduation, she chose to pursue an executive fellowship in association management at ASCP. In 2006, Laura founded PQA, a nonprofit organization focused on improving medication safety, adherence, and appropriate usage. Laura was the CEO of PQA for over a decade before creating her own consulting business, Cranston & Associates, LLC. Laura provides a unique perspective as an alumna because she too participated in AIV when she was in school.

Why did you choose to go to pharmacy school?

When I was in high school, I worked in a pharmacy in Flushing, NY. I always admired the role pharmacists played in patient care. I decided to apply to the St. John’s pharmacy program. While in school, I spent a lot of time considering whether I should pursue a traditional career in community pharmacy or a nontraditional pathway. My trip with AIV as a student played a big role in this decision and I ultimately chose a nontraditional path, which began with a life sciences organization, followed by over three decades in healthcare association management positions.

What made you interested in being involved in Alumni Insider’s View and what brings you back every year?

I had the opportunity to be involved in the program (AIV) as a student and I saw how valuable it was. Once I moved to Washington D.C., I became involved again and stayed involved ever since. Over the 25 years I have participated in AIV, I have seen over 500 students and I am still in touch with some of them. It’s very exciting to see students grow and I have enjoyed mentoring many of the students in their early professional years, post-graduation.

Tell us about your role at Pharmacy Quality Alliance.

PQA is a national quality organization dedicated to improving medication safety, adherence, and appropriate usage. As the founder, my role was to establish the vision and strategic direction of this multi-stakeholder organization that would help influence the nation’s approach to medication use quality. The team at PQA, along with its nearly 250 corporate members, helps to shape and inform quality measure development, connect with industry influencers, quality experts, healthcare thought leaders, and quality stakeholders, and develop educational resources that support our measure development and implementation initiatives. At the time it was established in 2006, this was a field that was not well defined in pharmacy. During my time as CEO, I had the opportunity to work with organizations to define quality when it came to medication use.

Tell us about your responsibilities as a consultant.

As a consultant, I am using the expertise that I have gained throughout my previous roles to help other organizations, both in the nonprofit and for-profit communities, with strategic growth initiatives. I am fortunate to have been in this field for a long time and to have grown a network throughout my years as CEO of PQA and as part of the leadership team at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. The focus of my consulting practice is to utilize my expertise and understanding of the changing landscape in healthcare quality for business development and strategic growth. 

What tips do you have for students who are interested in a nontraditional career path?

AIV allows you to become professionally engaged early on, but it is not required to gain more insight into nontraditional roles. Whether it is on a school, state, or national level, I highly recommend that students engage in state and national pharmacy organizations and build their knowledge of the broader initiatives impacting the profession and strengthen their pharmacy advocacy skills. Start to build your network by creating a LinkedIn profile and connecting with other students, pharmacists, and associations. Follow associations on LinkedIn or Instagram and sign up to be a part of their email lists to make sure you don’t miss opportunities for internships or residencies.

Published by Rho Chi Post
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