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Ask Not What Your Profession Can Do for You

By Amy Holmes posted 01-11-2017 11:51


As we approach the presidential inauguration I am reminded of one of the most famous and often quoted inaugural addresses.  On January 20, 1961 John Fitzgerald Kennedy challenged his fellow Americans to “…ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  This speech was made more than a decade before my birth so I was curious to learn more about the context of the speech.  (You can watch the address in its entirety on YouTube if you are interested.) There are references to the cold war and the plans for space exploration which may not resonate today, but the same cannot be said for the call to action that ended the famous speech.  It is timeless.  You can read many stories of the people impacted by those words and how they were inspired to change the course of their life in various ways such as joining the Peace Corps  or changing their career path to one that was more service-oriented. 

Those of us in healthcare are already in a service-oriented profession.  Many of you already see your job as a calling.  Sometimes it is easy to get bogged down in the day to day business of life and lose sight of the big picture though.  Take those famous words and put them in the context of pharmacy.  Let us be challenged and inspired to ask not what our residency/employer/profession can do for us but what we can do for our profession.  As the passion is rekindled in us we can inspire our fellow pharmacists as well to look for ways to contribute to the forward momentum of the profession.

First to students in search of residencies- ask not what the residency can do for you.  Of course, you want to find the residency that is the best match that is going to prepare you for the next step in your career.  You should also be asking yourself in preparation for interviews, “What do I have to offer to perspective programs?”  Think about your vision for pharmacy- how will it look in ten years?  What role will you play in making that vision a reality?

To current residents - challenge yourself to ask what you can do for your program.  What will be your legacy when you move on?  What project have you contributed to or program have your developed that will live on when your residency year ends?  It’s not too late to look for some way to leave your mark.  Do not finish out your residency only thinking about what you stand to gain.  Leave the program stronger and better for having been a part of it.

To pharmacists further along in your career, I encourage you to challenge yourself to look for new ways to contribute to your health system.  Precept, mentor, teach, there are so many ways to give back.  Many of us get so busy working and completing tasks, sometimes just trying to get through the day, that we may miss opportunities to give back to our team, our employer, or our community.  It can be as simple as seeing problems in your practice area and attempting to be part of the solution.

Finally, for the big picture- for everyone mentioned in the groups above – don’t forget to give back to your profession.  For those already in practice, pharmacy has undoubtedly provided a steady income and a pretty good way of life for you.  Pharmacy has already given you so much- take the time to ask what you can give back to pharmacy.  The most immediate answer would be your time and your talent.  Some of the more obvious ways would be to get involved with organizations like ASHP or to be an advocate for legislative change.  No matter what your particular area of interest, there is bound to be a way to get involved if you ask “What can I do for my profession?”

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