We all have our personal heroes: People we look up to, chart our course by, and want to emulate. As children, we might look up to sports stars, Disney heroes/heroines, or comic book legends. Closer to home, our heroes might be coaches, soldiers, firefighters, teachers or even family members. Our predisposition toward lionizing heroes is rooted in looking at the best in these people (both real and imagined) in order to find the best in ourselves. Having heroes is an important part of developing into who we want to be. Even adults need heroes in their personal and professional lives just as children do. Yes, we are older (and we think, wiser) but we never really get over placing our faith in the notion that there are extraordinary people who will fight for our well-being and stand by our side no matter what. That is the reason so many of us name our mom, dad, and/or spouse as our #1 hero when we outgrow the superhero jammies of childhood.
In the professional world of pharmacy, there are a number of luminaries who have received national recognition (at least from other pharmacists). Perhaps some of these people are your pharmacy heroes for what they have done to move the profession forward. It is very easy to look up to people who have offices or positions of authority in the profession when we are students or new practitioners because these people have acquired visibility and name recognition in our field. But what happens, one day, when you get out into the profession and rub elbows with some of these people, and find out the impossible truth: They are just people. Like the rest of us. And maybe have a wart or two. (!)
I recently had an eye-opening experience with someone I have long admired in our profession, and it threw me for quite a loop. I had given my respect and admiration and placed my trust in someone I thought was an advocate for my development, even to the point of allowing my expectations to be raised, only to be let down in a really big way. Let me say this person never asked to be put on a pedestal by yours truly. Still, I was shocked to discover this was not at all the person I had idolized through pharmacy school. This was a difficult experience for me, and it caused me to wonder: What should you do when you discover your heroes have warts? Embrace the warts? Give up on heroes altogether? Something between the two? Of course, the answer depends on you, the hero, and the wart in question. But here are some thoughts from my own experience:
- Recognize nobody is perfect. People we look up to let us down sometimes. No one is perfect, but choose your heroes/mentors carefully. Make sure the people you look up to are worthy of the trust you place in them. The people we admire can change as we acquire more perspective or experience. Periodically re-examine these relationships to find heroes/mentors who align with your values by asking the following questions: Will this person advocate for me? Are they invested in my development? Are they helping me to succeed? Do they represent the kind of practitioner I want to be? If not, perhaps you are investing your energy in the wrong people and need to find new heroes/mentors/advocates, which leads me to….
- Look closer. It is easy to miss the unsung heroes in the profession when one is a student (or even a resident!) because the people with the highly visible profiles are the ones who get all of the attention. When you get out into the pharmacy world, you will discover some truly wonderful people who are quietly transforming the profession, one patient at a time, in the trenches, without any pomp or circumstance. Many of these pharmacists are never recognized with praise for their contributions on either the state or national level, but they are the ones that are elevating the profession through their daily example, kindness, and care. My heroes in pharmacy today are people I never had the pleasure of knowing as a student. But they are the best pharmacists I have ever worked with, and yes, they are worthy of being on a pedestal (warts and all!).
- Say “thank you.” If someone in pharmacy took the time to be a hero to you and touched your life in some small way, please tell them. It might be the only recognition that they ever receive for a lifetime of dedication to the profession. The best preceptor I ever had in pharmacy school has never won a single award for his awesomeness, but he just keeps on doing one of the most amazing rotations in the metro-area regardless. Despite his dedication and numerous contributions to the profession in the form of the countless number of pharmacy students and pharmacy residents’ lives he has transformed over the years (including my own), unbelievably, he has received no formal recognition for any of his work. So make sure you tell your pharmacy heroes that they made your day, week, or year. In so doing, you will make theirs.
In summary: 1) We all have warts in one shape or another. When you discover your pharmacy heroes have warts, forgive them. But don’t be afraid to find to new heroes, too. 2) Look around not up. If you spend all your time looking up to find heroes to emulate, you might just miss the unsung heroes of this profession, who are just to your left and right, hiding in plain sight. 3) Thank your heroes and pay it forward. If you are lucky enough to rub elbows with someone in the profession who inspires you (or is willing to advocate for you professionally), say thank you, and consider honoring their legacy to you by being a hero to another person who might be in need of a mentor, advocate, and friend.#Resident #NewPractitioners #Mentorship #Precepting #PharmacyStudents