What a True Blue Mentor taught me

My brain is on fire.

I just spent the past 2 days at the Oregon State Pharmacy Association conference in Eugene, Oregon, and I am both appalled and fired up about how broken our healthcare system is.

I want to write to you, anyone who will listen, about so much in pharmacy, in healthcare, in the advancement of our youth, in the development of our profession and leadership.

Somehow, it all starts with that One Person. For me, that is Bill Jones, a pharmacist who has spent his career questioning his profession. That may sound really odd, but those who question are the game-changers.

When I found out that Bill was speaking at this conference, I sought him out and would not leave his side. I consider him my pharmacy mentor, yet when describing him to someone, I couldn’t say exactly what he taught me.

bill and me

So, while he gave his talk “How much of a difference makes a difference?”, I jotted down what I had learned from him, both in my student rotation and through my residency. The list is pretty intangible, which is what makes it invaluable. I learned to bring Reality and Human Nature back into pharmacy:

  1. Honesty– I love truth and pharmacists rarely admit that they don’t know the answer, that they are lost, that they DO know the answer, that something doesn’t make sense, or that something is just plain Wrong. I learned it’s good and okay to be honest, that it opens doors to possibility.
  2. Passion– this man is devoted to what he believes and will tell anyone willing to listen. He doesn’t just talk to pharmacists. He talks to anyone and everyone about what he believes. He talks fervently and passionately. He does not shoot down your passion and yet he stands strong in his conviction. He sees injustice and isn’t afraid to call it out. Passion + Honesty is a powerful combination and not something everyone can handle, yet overall we love it. We want to be more like that!!!
  3. Taking the ego out of patient care. Bill is very aware of how we may appear as a profession to other healthcare professions, and he ALWAYS comes back to “What is best for the Patient?” It’s so easy to get caught up in titles and board certifications, and whether we are working our way up in the chain of command, but if the patient doesn’t benefit from our actions, WHY DO IT? He calls out the ego and the ways in which it disrupts our ability to take good care of the people who need our care and presence, the patients we SERVE.
  4. Think outside the box– While many pharmacists are doing “innovative” things in pharmacy, they aren’t innovative in healthcare. Bill is the first one to point this out. He makes me QUESTION the status quo and IMAGINE the POSSIBILITIES. It’s easy to think there is no other way, that our system is so locked in that we can’t do things differently. And it’s good to get out of that way of thinking!! It gives me hope for our profession, for my livelihood, and for our patients.
  5. When it came down to it, I realized Bill Jones embodies Humor, Humility, and Heart. 
    1. Yes, he is a self-professed cynic, but that’s because he has a huge heart and cares about the patients first and foremost. He is their advocate, and not a bleeding heart advocate, but a true blue advocate. For him, it’s not about getting the guidelines right, or doing everything perfect. Healthcare is messy, and whoever says otherwise has not been involved in patient care. It’s about the first oath of a healthcare professional, the Hippocratic Oath: First, DO NO HARM(You know, I just realized that isn’t explicitly stated in the Oath of a Pharmacist, and I am frankly disappointed.)
    2. He is funny as hell. He isn’t afraid to say he wants a beer after the meeting, to call out the quirkiness of our profession, or the egoic ways some of us conduct ourselves. He calls out anyone who is full of sh*t with biting sarcasm and a big smile. He says it all from a place of humility that allows us to see it in ourselves, without judgement. Because it isn’t about US. It’s about the PATIENT….. and he keeps coming around and coming back around to that.

This man is my mentor not because he taught me how to be a pharmacist. He taught me what matters in Truly Making a Difference, which is to remove my ego from the equation.

He taught me it isn’t about doing the Wrong thing Well, but doing the Right thing.