Alumni Spotlight: Rachel Guggemos, MS Pharmacy Leadership Graduate

UC MS Pharmacy Leadership Graduate Leading Team as Operations Manager

Rachel Guggemos, UC Pharmacy Leadership Graduate, is the Pharmacy Operations Manager at Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc, Michigan. She is responsible for managing purchasing, inventory management, and automation while leading a team of 27 employees.

UC Online recently talked with Rachel about her career and experience at the University of Cincinnati and the Pharmacy Leadership Program. She provided her perspective on the Pharmacy Leadership program and how it helped her career in pharmacy.

Q: What motivated you to seek your MS?

When I decided to pursue a master’s degree, I was a PGY1 Pharmacy Practice Resident at the VA hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. I had decided in December 2017 to early-commit to another year in Indy for a PGY2 in Health-System Pharmacy Administration and Leadership Residency.  There are quite a few combined PGY1/PGY2 administration programs throughout the country, and these programs generally offer an opportunity to earn a concurrent MBA degree. I knew that I, too, needed an advanced degree with my PGY2 to be competitive with other HSPAL residents throughout the country.

Q: Why did you select the Pharmacy Leadership program?

One of my mentors and friends, Jason Williamson, was enrolled in the Pharmacy Leadership program and encouraged me to look at the course offerings. I was surprised that most classes were similar to what I would be taking if I chose to get an MBA. Still, the classes in the Pharmacy Leadership program had a pharmacy flair that allowed me to directly relate them to my current and future career.

With Jason’s support (and email to the program director!), I was able to apply and enroll in the program with one week to spare before the Winter 2018 semester began!

The Pharmacy Leadership program was also a good fit for me because of the course offerings and degree schedule. I enrolled in January of my PGY1 year and graduated in August after completing my PGY2 (19 months). This allowed me to enter my career with my MS and use it as leverage during interviews and employment negotiations.

Q: Why did you select UC, and are you happy with your choice?

From my first communication with the program leadership, I knew that UC would be my home for my master’s degree journey. Dr. Jenelle Sobotka was incredibly responsible and helpful as I tried to enroll at the last minute and continued to support me throughout my 19-month program. I believe that her guidance and commitment to the program are why I was able to work with classmates from all over the country (and Canada!) during my coursework.

I would 100% recommend UC and the Pharmacy Leadership program.

Q: How did you handle the school, work, life balance while in the program?

My experience was slightly different from my classmates because I pursued my degree while completing my PGY1 and PGY2 pharmacy residency. If you, or anyone you know, has been a PGY1 and PGY2 resident, you will know that spare time is a luxury. I had to get very creative with my time management to ensure that I could complete my residency requirements and stay on track towards MS graduation.

After a little trial and error, I realized that the best way to ensure I was giving 100% to both programs was to physically separate my workspace. I would stay longer hours at the hospital working on residency responsibilities, but then I would focus on Pharmacy Leadership coursework when I went home. It was much easier for me to compartmentalize the two roles – student and resident – than to feel like I was wearing both hats simultaneously and constantly for 19 months.

Beyond my workload related to those two endeavors, I also knew I needed to foster my personal health and family relationships, so I set hard boundaries for “days off.”

Looking back, I can assure you that I was very busy, but even with my unique situation, I never felt that I had bitten off more than I could chew.

Q: What is a favorite memory or a proud moment you had during the program?

I can still feel the sense of accomplishment (and relief) I felt after presenting my capstone project and receiving a passing rating from my committee – and I should note, this happened a whole 10 days before giving birth to my first child!

To this day, I am proud of myself for balancing all of my goals and commitments, proud of my baby for staying put until I could present, and proud that my capstone project (a pharmacy dashboard designed to capture patient data and prioritize pharmacist interaction at a primary care office) is still being utilized today at the Indianapolis VA.

Q: How has your degree helped you in your career?

The coursework and insight from my classmates gave me a broader perspective on pharmacy services that allows me to approach problems with a larger arsenal of solutions. My classmates worked in children’s hospitals, the Indian Health Service, Veterans Affairs, rural hospitals, infusion clinics, and many other places. Each of us had similar experiences, but enough variation in the tools available that we could share best practices and lessons learned with one another. This has been the greatest benefit to my career and is something I am forever grateful for.

Q: Who is a good fit for the Pharmacy Leadership program?

The Pharmacy Leadership program is a good fit for anyone in pharmacy looking to learn new skills related to personal, departmental, and organizational leadership.

You do not have to be a formal leader by title to benefit greatly from this program; anyone who is ready to commit to self-improvement and career advancement should consider joining UC.

And, of note, I especially believe that this program is perfectly designed for PGY1 and PGY2 pharmacy residents.

Q: Do you have any advice for future students looking into the program?

My advice would be to really try to soak in all the knowledge and information from each course and each group of classmates. Completing a degree while working full-time can easily become a chore, but don’t let the purpose of your study get lost in the checklist of assignments and due dates.

Q: For someone who may have never taken an online course before, how would you describe the experience?

Earning a degree online is definitely different from the traditional classroom experience, but UC makes it easy to navigate and succeed in this environment.

The courses are set up logically and allow you to schedule your weekly readings, lectures, and assignments with a lot of autonomy. I found that I had the most time and focus on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, so I made sure that I could complete the week’s readings, lectures, and assignments on those days, while still meeting deadlines. It may take you a while to find a rhythm that works for you, but once you do, the online experience will feel totally normal.

Learn More About the Pharmacy Leadership Program with UC Online

The Pharmacy Leadership program from the University of Cincinnati James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy is flexible and 100% online. Build your business management skills and advance your career as a leader in the pharmacy field with a program custom-built for busy working pharmacists.

Learn More about the Pharmacy Leadership program with UC Online.

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