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Profile of an Academic Entrepreneurial Leader: Todd Sorensen

Todd Sorensen, PharmD
Associate Professor
Department of Pharmaceutical Care & Health Systems
Director, Residency Programs
University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy

As a faculty member at the University of Minnesota, Todd Sorensen and his colleagues pursue entrepreneurial opportunities every day. Since the mid-1990s faculty in Midwest colleges of pharmacy have been studying the declining trend of rural pharmacies. At the University of Minnesota they are particularly focused on rural communities where the sole proprietor of an independently owned pharmacy is nearing retirement. The faculty at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy consider this an opportunity to pursue innovative care relationships. The goal of their initiative is to preserve access to pharmaceuticals and pharmacists in rural Minnesota.

In Tyler, Minnesota, Dr. Sorensen’s hometown, the sole proprietor pharmacist is responsible for the only community pharmacy in town while also serving as a consultant to the local hospital. In 2004 the college pursued a new opportunity in this town to increase the number of pharmacists by developing a pharmacist residency program supported by grant funding. The selected pharmacist to serve as resident was April Hanson, a 2004 graduate of Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. In this venture Dr. Hanson spent time in the community pharmacy and in the local hospital. She participated in pharmacy and hospital operations as well as saw patients for anticoagulation management on a referral basis from the local physician clinic.

Dr. Sorensen’s approach to maintaining access to pharmaceuticals and pharmacists is innovative and entrepreneurial. When presented the issue of the potential for the town to lose the pharmacy Dr. Sorensen did not just look for a way to maintain access to the community pharmacy; he identified an opportunity to expand the services provided by a pharmacist. His approach is taking root and in the coming years The University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy plans to expand this model. There are approximately one hundred thirty communities potentially at risk for loss of their access to pharmaceuticals and pharmacists in rural Minnesota. Working from the foundation of successful residency programs like the one in Tyler, Dr. Sorensen and the other faculty hope to reach many of the communities at risk and improve the role of the pharmacist in those communities.

Entrepreneurial Leadership Analysis:

How did Dr. Sorensen identify the opportunity?
While faculty across the Midwest have been studying the trend of decreasing access of pharmacies in rural areas for over ten years, the project hit home to Dr. Sorensen when it began to affect his home town. Entrepreneurial ventures can be started for a variety of reasons including to become financially successful,, to fill a need, and for personal satisfaction. Dr. Sorensen’s model in Tyler and other rural communities fits each of these reasons.

How has the venture been harvested?
Following the year of residency in Tyler, Dr. Hanson was hired as a full-time pharmacist in the community and a second resident joined the community. This is an example of a successful concept being absorbed into mainstream operations. Another harvesting opportunity is for Dr. Sorensen and faculty to replicate the model in other rural Minnesota communities. Beyond their state, the work of Dr. Sorensen and faculty at Minnesota is reaching national proportions. Their work has been cited in a publication by the American Pharmacists Association and they have been contacted by other rural states to discuss the project.

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