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A Managed Care Internship: Why do one?

Written by Anthony Pudlo
Drake University
Des Moines, Iowa

Entrepreneurial leadership can be found throughout the pharmacy profession, including practices outside of community pharmacy. The column below was written by Anthony Pudlo, a 2007 PharmD candidate at Drake University. It details his experience in a non-traditional pharmacy services setting. He describes the pursuit of an opportunity; the risk he took in following a passion rather than a traditional route to pharmacy practice. Anthony’s experience is a story written to inspire other future pharmacists to pursue interests and learn more about our profession, which will provide background for future innovation and provide opportunities for change.

As I progressed through pharmacy school, I seemed to continually reflect upon who I was and where I wanted to go. Involvement inside and outside the classroom exposed me to the possibilities within the profession of pharmacy. With the understanding that academics were my first priority, I recognized that didactic coursework should be used as a springboard to unique and rewarding experiences outside the classroom. After completing my second professional year, I felt as a student pharmacist I had developed a strong knowledge base of pharmaceuticals, yet I lacked in the experience of how to apply this knowledge in the “real world”. Thus, I decided to pursue a specialized internship in the summer before my third professional year of pharmacy school.

With the ever changing scope of pharmacy practice, student pharmacists are usually only briefed in class about the opportunities beyond traditional community and hospital practices. The brief introduction to various areas was exciting to me and motivated me to investigate each realm of practice. My in class exposure to managed care pharmacy enticed me to join our local chapter of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP). Through active membership in AMCP, I gained a sufficient understanding of managed care to realize this could be a potential career. With the guidance of a mentor and a well- organized AMCP website, I initially learned about the managed care summer internship with Walgreen’s Health Services (WHS), a managed care organization, in Deerfield, Illinois .

My network of classmates, professors, and co-workers knew little of this program, and so with little direction, I took the initiative to pursue this opportunity to further my development as a professional. I contacted the clinical coordinator at WHS to gain insight. I quickly learned the ten-week summer internship would introduce me to the basic operations of WHS with a focus on pharmacy benefit management and specialty pharmacy services. Originally started as an investment by Walgreen Co. into their mail service division, WHS now offers pharmacy benefit management, mail service pharmacy, specialty pharmacy and home care services supporting health plans, employer groups, union groups, government entities, and third-party administrators. I was intrigued by the opportunity to work closely with a Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM) so I applied for the position.

My decision to choose a managed care summer internship was difficult. I had other options to consider: a summer corporate internship with Walgreen’s, finishing my MBA coursework, or working in a community pharmacy and relaxing before starting a strenuous third professional year. My decision came down to realizing I had this excellent opportunity to expand my knowledge of the managed care industry and develop my skills as a professional. Reading textbooks and attending class provides a limited, and at times biased, picture of the industry. At the same time, this internship would help me continue my quest of determining the path I would take for my future career.