Mary Bluthardt PharmD, MBA is a Pharmacy Manager-PIC (Person in Charge) at an independent community/mail order pharmacy in her native state of Michigan. A recent graduate of Sullivan University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, she took the time to speak with the Student Doctor Network about her path to a pharmacy career.
When did you decide to pursue becoming a pharmacist?
I always knew I wanted to pursue a career that helped people, required a degree, and came with initials after my name. I also knew I did not have the stomach for the guts and glory that come with an MD/DO title. Shortly after high school, I happened to obtain a job with Target and was asked to help in the pharmacy. From that day forward, I knew that the pharmacy was where I needed to be. I decided to pursue the long journey and was able to obtain both my PharmD and MBA in an accelerated 3-year program at Sullivan University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
Did you have any healthcare role models growing up? How did this individual impact your pursuit of/ passion for healthcare?
Before starting my career in pharmacy, I did not have a role model that had “been there” to help advise me. However, I was blessed with many mentors and role models along the way. My first pharmacy manager and the part-time pharmacist are responsible for my passion for pharmacy and commitment to practicing at the highest level EVERY day. Likewise, the many pharmacists, technicians, and administrative staff that span five states and numerous pharmacy settings helped me learn and refine the necessary skills to provide excellent patient care.
What did your path to becoming a healthcare professional look like?
My path took much longer than the traditional six-year (2+4 year) route. At 16, my parents severed ties with me when they discovered I had a girlfriend. This significantly delayed my timetable to pursue college. However, this also helped me to focus on what I wanted to do and laid the groundwork for me to become a certified pharmacy technician, acquire a job at Target Pharmacy, and ultimately work toward becoming a pharmacist.
My journey began in Michigan, took me to Texas for pre-pharmacy, Kentucky for pharmacy school, Illinois, and Wisconsin right after graduation, and finally back to my hometown in Michigan. At each stop along this path, I have encountered so many healthcare professionals who have a passion for helping others.
What challenges did you face pursuing your healthcare career choice?
Being enrolled in an accelerated pharmacy school program meant going to school year-round. In addition, I was concurrently enrolled in Sullivan’s online MBA program and working 25-30 hours a week as a pharmacy tech to support myself.
What resources did you use to pursue your dream?
Having been homeschooled and a non-traditional applicant, I didn’t have as many resources. A lot of the PharmCas application process was done independently.
What would you do differently, knowing what you do now?
Of all the lessons I have learned on my journey, two have stuck with me that I wish I could have told my younger self. First, no matter how hard you work and want “that job,” things that are meant to happen will fall into place at the exact moment they are supposed to and not a moment before. So, don’t rush or push things. The second most valuable lesson I have learned is do NOT settle, persist. Flip the puzzle piece till it fits. Do not be afraid to choose a different piece, especially if the idea it represents is completely outside your comfort zone. You may just be surprised to learn that it fits better and was so worth the tireless persistence to reach for more.
With all that being said, I would not change one thing. Each experience and challenge has made me who I am and where I am today that much more fulfilling. This journey was worth it!
What advice would you give students in a similar situation?
I discovered that not many look exactly like me. When a patient goes to see a provider, they are looking for someone they can trust. They tend to gravitate toward someone like themself or how they envision a healthcare provider “should be.” Part of the responsibility that comes with helping people is identifying and partnering with them to achieve an outcome. All people need to be represented, and the LGTBQ community is one that has really stepped up in the last couple of decades to be seen and heard in a professional manner. However, there is still work to be done. Every person, but especially LGTBQ youth, needs to know that they can achieve what they set their minds to, no matter where their starting line begins. And, every person should feel safe to be their 100% authentic self.
My advice is, find what you are passionate about. Do what you love to do, even on the hard days. Never stop working to get there. When you get there, remember your journey, so you strive to help others on theirs.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day begins like most community pharmacies. There is a queue of patient refills and calls. We contact patients and prescribers to complete patient orders and fill medication orders. –With the pandemic, the number of walk-ins has decreased, and telemedicine has increased. Lastly, we package the orders to be mailed so that the patient can receive them at home, which is where we differ from a community pharmacy. In addition to the typical pharmacist responsibilities, as a PIC (Person in Charge), I am responsible for creating and implementing policies and procedures and training staff and students, all in addition to pharmacy management and administration. Administration is another passion of mine. I love not only helping patients but also creating the “how” and the standard by which to accomplish that.