For more than a few years now, an increasing number of women have been entering the pharmacy profession, with some estimating more than 60% of pharmacists are now women. However, the history of women in the profession extends back to colonial times and beyond.
According to the American Pharmacists Association, Elizabeth Greenleaf is recognized as the first female pharmacist in America. She owned an apothecary in Boston in 1727 and was listed among the 32 apothecaries in New England during the late 1600s and early 1700s.
A few hundred years later, women are fortunately more commonly seen in ownership and leadership roles in the profession.
One such leader is one of IPC’s own board members, Vicki Einhellig, who now serves as the CEO of Good Day Pharmacy. Good Day Pharmacy has 19 retail locations in three states and Vicki has made a career there spanning more than three decades.
The position was initially temporary, but a little over 31 years later and that “temporary” position is still going strong for Vicki. However, her time at Good Day Pharmacy isn’t her whole story.
Getting Her Start
In school, Vicki had an appreciation for math and chemistry, and to a lesser extent, physics. These interests developed into skills that would ultimately be a good match for her career in pharmacy.
She would ultimately earn her Bachelor’s of Science in Pharmacy at Iowa University as part of the class of ‘87. At that time her class was near 50% in terms of the number of women represented
“I guess I never saw any career choice limitations based on my gender,” Vicki said. “My mom was a strong, driven professional and likely had the most influence on my confidence to follow my interests.”
After graduation, Vicki began practicing as a pharmacy resident at 22. After her residency she lived and worked as a clinical pharmacist in psychiatry for a large teaching hospital in Iowa City.
“The workforce (in the hospital setting) was closer to 33% women,” Vicki said. “I was the only woman (out of 5) in my ASHP Residency class at the University of Iowa, which I found unusual at the time.”
Vicki worked at the hospital for five years and initially believed she would remain in that part of pharmacy practice for her entire career. But the pharmacist shortage of the 1990s and a familial connection in the industry gave her the opportunity to take a chance.
Taking a Chance
That chance led her to Colorado where she would take on that previously mentioned “temporary” position.
“Coming from a coveted clinical role in a hospital to a ‘retail’ pharmacy job took my colleagues by surprise,” Vicki said. “I quickly appreciated how ‘clinical’ community (not retail) pharmacy could be.”
More specifically, Vicki developed a passion for building relationships with her patients and growing the team at Good Day. Within a year of starting at the community pharmacy owned by her cousin and his wife, Dave and Nancy Lamb, they opened a second location and Vicki became a partner.
“Over the next 10 years, we explored the many niches in the pharmacy business including compounding, long-term care, and DME and grew to seven locations,” Vicki said. “We branded the pharmacies under the Good Day Pharmacy banner and continued to evaluate ownership opportunities.”
This opportunity gave Vicki a lot of exposure to the business side of pharmacy. Though their responsibilities were split, Dave handling the financial side and Vicki on the “people” side, she had many opportunities to learn from Dave and her other colleagues.
Serving as a Trailblazer
Vicki continues to get joy out of taking care of the people side of the business, having grown the team to include pharmacists, technicians, and drivers and a leadership infrastructure including their COO and recent partner (Joseph Poling, Pharm D) along with a Controller, HR Director, and a five-person Sales/Marketing team.
And though her accomplishments at Good Day Pharmacy would be impressive enough for most, she has regularly sought out additional opportunities. This included joining the RxPlus Board of Directors and the IPC Board of Directors.
“I was the first woman elected to the RxPlus Board of Directors in 1998 and the first to join the IPC Board in 2013,” Vicki said. “I think the ‘aha’ moment came as more women found success in pharmacy ownership and community pharmacy leadership.”
Both boards have seen more women join them since then and Vicki has generally noticed more women in leadership roles, but perhaps not as much representation in these roles as she noticed in the field generally. She noted that the industry has been slow in recognizing the value of women in these roles.
“We have a long way to go!” Vicki said. “I believe the continued expansion of women in leadership and ownership will continue to bring value to the pharmacy industry (community, academia, and hospital) and with their influence, we will see improved outcomes for patients, business metrics, and legislative efforts.”