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Profile of a Pharmacy Innovator: David Sohl

Navy Pharmacist

From the day Lieutenant David Sohl entered pharmacy school, he knew that the traditional pharmacist career was not for him. Now, currently a Pharmacy Naval Officer in Corpus Christi, TX, Lt. Sohl has taken the profession to different depths, literally. The tragedy on 9/11 inspired a great deal of patriotism in the US, including Lt. Sohl himself. It was also the pivotal moment that spurred his interest in pursuing the military as a career. His valuable skills in motivation and guidance could not be contained behind the counter.

Lieutenant David Sohl attended Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, graduating with a Chemistry degree in 2000. He then attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he graduated with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2004. Lt. Sohl has additional education in lipid management, basic life support and as a pharmacotherapy specialist. In November of 2005, Lt. Sohl was hand-picked to provide guidance to the Navy Surgeon General in managing a Navy military treatment facility pharmacy benefit. The board directives include uniform cost-saving formulary decisions, automation implementation processes, and guidance on complying with multiple Joint Commission initiatives. These decisions affected over 5 million individual beneficiaries through guiding operations of all Navy hospitals and clinics.

The Navy has offered Lt. Sohl the opportunity to embrace leadership in his own field by serving as the Head of Pharmacy at the Corpus Christi Naval Hospital for almost 3 years. Lt. Sohl leads 40 staff members and volunteers in providing service to more than 35,000 patients annually and manages a $14 million dollar budget. Lt. Sohl has held staff pharmacist and management level pharmacy positions while participating in various professional activities. Some of this professional involvement has included service as a physician peer review coordinator, along with involvement in several professional organizations including the Department of Navy Pharmacy Advisory Board, Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, and American Pharmacists Association (APhA).

Lt. Sohl has been accountable for operations such as long-term ambulatory healthcare clinic planning, Joint Commission survey prep, Department of Defense-wide test of GE Centricity Pharmacy System, and incorporation of the civilian system into the military environment. Using his advanced skills in health informatics and data analysis, Lt. Sohl developed expertise, working with the military’s administrative health care data to generate key reports used in health care decisions made by the Naval Hospital Corpus Christi (NHCC) and the overall Navy community. Lt. Sohl was also chosen to be a part of a Department of Defense team of ten pharmacists to be the first super-users for the new Military Pharmacy Management Software and established significant databases needed to initiate the project. Lt. Sohl has served on the committee responsible for planning and executing the Joint Forces Pharmacy Seminar (JFPS), the largest annual gathering of federal pharmacy professionals. After his promotion to Navy Chair for this committee, he worked to host a record breaking JFPS conference. The conference centered on appropriate and safe drug therapy for patients, offered thirty hours of CE credit, supplied important opportunities for networking, and allowed attendees to share best practices within the federal pharmacy community. After being awarded lead Junior Officer Representative to the Navy Pharmacy Specialty Leader, Lt Sohl designed a new web-based forum. The forum opened conversation among young officers and led to the organization of a Junior Officer Workshop at the conference. In addition, he worked to help fortify a partnership with APhA by serving as a co-sponsor for meetings.

Officers often share common personality traits and are frequently described as being competitive, self-motivated and dedicated. Sohl’s abilities and commitment go beyond those traits and make him uniquely able to face a myriad of challenges. “People have misconceptions of what being in the military entails. The misconceptions range from deployment risks to time at sea to poor compensation,” explains Sohl. “Although they may put up a stern front, military leaders face personal obstacles that they don’t anticipate until they experience them. I had to get past a lot of these notions myself to realize that being a Navy pharmacist is similar to being a civilian pharmacist with varied responsibility and the pride of serving our Country”. With the greater responsibility for the Country comes greater opportunity for change and innovation in the profession. As in civilian pharmacy, military pharmacy seeks enhancement. When asked about how the practice is advancing within the military environment, Sohl believes “the most significant areas in which the Navy is making progress are medication cost control and pharmacy technician roles. With the Navy covering nearly 100% of medication cost for service members, families, and retirees it is crucial that cost control be an important part of our mission. Additionally, we have the most highly trained technicians in the world. Their valuable skill sets allow pharmacists to step back from the dispensing role to focus more on process improvement and patient care”. Another key to Sohl’s success is his willingness to seek the advice and counsel of his peers and superiors when it is needed. “I spend a significant amount of time networking both at meetings and on the phone. There are people out there smarter and more gifted than me.”

Whether traveling by sea in a submarine, crossing the desert, or flying by sky, the practice of pharmacy plays an essential role in the military environment. But as Lieutenant David Sohl demonstrates, opportunities for entrepreneurial leaders in pharmacy are 'over-the-counter'. As he states, being a Navy pharmacist is a lot like being a civilian pharmacist, just with the additive the pride of serving our Country.