Opportunity is on the horizon for student pharmacists interested in ownership. With an aging demographic of independent pharmacy owners, there has never been a better time to consider ownership. The Pharmacy Ownership and Leadership Academy (POLA) was developed to prepare student pharmacists for this exact opportunity. Twenty-five students from eleven colleges of pharmacy across the country arrived at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Pharmacy on June 17th for a week long academy focused on leadership, personal and professional development, pharmacy financials, business planning and team building. The week began with assessing the attendees entrepreneurial spirit, leadership styles and emotional intelligence. They were welcomed with a picnic sponsored by First Financial Bank and had the opportunity to get to know each other and network with a team of lenders who truly understand pharmacy. The second day was a huge success; programming focused on writing a business plan, pharmacy lending, tools and support from the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), and ended with a networking dinner with current Arkansas pharmacy owners. Students had the opportunity to connect with a professional mentor who can provide real-world advice and encouragement for these young entrepreneurs. Days three and four provided unique sessions on marketing, Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN), and developing a vision for your business. The week also provided an opportunity for teamwork and collaboration through a ropes course, culinary kitchen event, team-debate and business plan team work. The week ended with six incredible presentations incorporating unique pharmacy niche services into a successful business plan.
This annual event will occur each summer on the UAMS campus and expansion is inevitable. One student said, POLA “opened my eyes and empowered me” and another commented that, “POLA was by far the most beneficial experience since starting pharmacy school”. This program is not like any other ownership program due to the amount of interaction with pharmacy owners and the level of financial information shared with these students. Next year is already in the works and planning has begun, if you have interested student pharmacists please encourage them to contact us for more information on POLA.
This event would not be possible without the support of our generous sponsors, the NCPA Foundation, First Financial Bank, and UAMS College of Pharmacy, we are so grateful for their support. We would also like to thank the pharmacy owners who participated and will mentor these students as they explore their path to ownership. A special thank you to my co-founder, Dr. Seth Heldenbrand, without his vision and dedication the realization of POLA would not be possible.
Schwanda K. Flowers, PharmD