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Darla Moore School of Business

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Pharmacy, MBA alumna finishes specialty residency, begins executive fellowship

Alumna Gabrielle Pierce (’18 USC pharmaceutical sciences, ’20 MBA, ’20 USC Pharm.D.) just moved to Washington, D.C., for an Executive Fellowship in Association Leadership and Management with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

She said she wants to gain more hands-on experience in management and the operations of a not-for-profit professional association.

“Some of the areas of focus in the fellowship are strategic planning, marketing, educational program development, membership recruitment and advocacy,” Pierce said. “I think a lot of the didactic courses and skills taught in the Professional MBA program provided a great basis for me to speak to during the interview process and helped me identify areas of improvement for myself that I can pursue during this fellowship.” 

Pierce just completed a post-graduate year one residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“During my residency, I was able to participate in administrative-level meetings and activities; my data analytics skills learned from the Professional MBA program were helpful in compiling our quarterly quality metric dashboard as well as assisting with a monthly finance report,” she said. “My strategic marketing skills were helpful because I was able to draft and present a proposal for creation of an official Twitter account for my residency and specialty pharmacy; this helped us recruit for our residency positions as well as increase visibility of health system specialty pharmacy research and practice.”

When she began as a student of the USC College of Pharmacy, Pierce said that the science-centered curriculum only required her to take one course dedicated to management and leadership. However, she knew that pharmacists are quickly placed in a leadership role in the workplace as they must manage student interns, technicians and other support staff. With this in mind, Pierce enrolled in the Moore School’s Professional MBA program in addition to her pharmacy program.

“From the time I entered undergrad at USC, I intended to pursue my Pharm.D. and MBA because I hoped to pursue a non-traditional pharmacist role after graduation,” Pierce said. “The job market in pharmacy is becoming extremely saturated, and it is almost a requirement that you find a niche to stand out and find a role that makes you happy.”

The Moore School’s Professional MBA program is designed for working professionals who have other obligations during traditional work hours. Most Professional MBA program classes are held in the evenings and Saturdays to accommodate these obligations, and students have the option to attend class virtually.

“I was able to tailor my [MBA course] schedule to fit the busy schedule of both the didactic classes of my third year of pharmacy school and the clinical rotations of my fourth year of pharmacy school,” Pierce said. “The night classes allowed me to attend pharmacy classes or rotations during daytime business hours and then still attend class virtually during live time. I was traveling a lot for rotations, and the Professional MBA [program]’s use of technology to livestream classes to students across the state made this a very easy transition.”

Pierce said that the business classes she took that covered strategic management were particularly applicable to her career in pharmacy. She added that she also became knowledgeable about small business law, innovation and technology development strategies, small business management and general financial and managerial accounting.

“As a pharmacist, I do not need to be a fully trained accountant, financial advisor or statistician, but the courses I took through the Moore School provided a basic understanding of these concepts so that I am knowledgeable enough to participate in those conversations,” Pierce said. “I can look at financial statements and draw conclusions; I can evaluate marketing strategies.”

Pierce said she plans to use her business knowledge to lessen the “disconnect between the expectations of clinical pharmacy staff and administrative leadership that are making most staffing and workflow decisions.”

“Pharmacists want what is best for the patients, and upper-level health system managers oftentimes must instead choose to prioritize financial and operational consideration,” she said. “I think that pairing my Pharm.D. with an MBA will give me the perspective to combine these priorities.”

She’s narrowing her focus for her future career in the association management space of the pharmacy industry. She said she learned in her 1-year residency about health system specialty pharmacy practice and saw many of her leaders collaborate nationally through professional organizations. She wants to spend her career supporting other practitioners, participating in advocacy and helping to move the pharmacy profession forward.

-Erin Mooney/Marjorie Riddle Duffie

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