Carson VonAlst grew up with family members who were entrepreneurs and realized he also wanted his own business.
He entered the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis thinking he might want to open his own pharmacy. When he learned about the partnership the university has with the College of Business Administration at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, allowing UHSP students to earn their MBAs alongside their degrees in pharmacology, he thought it would be an ideal way to meld his interests.
After finding the market for pharmacies in this region to be saturated, VonAlst is now considering other options in the pharmaceutical field as a result of having an MBA.
“I really thought consulting was interesting,” he said. “Helping companies maximize their profits and supply chain issues, which correlates to some of the classes we were taking in the MBA program. So that’d be cool.”
The partnership, which began in 2013, allows pharmacy students to simultaneously take courses toward an MBA and streamlines the process by allowing them to take classes that satisfy both degrees, transfer credits to UMSL and does not require the GMAT or GRE exam.
The MBA program helps students gain knowledge in the areas of accounting, finance, information systems, international business, logistics and supply chain management, management, marketing or operations management. This course of study can provide more options to students after graduation, whether they are looking to open their own pharmacy, manage a pharmacy or specialize in an area of patient services.
To date, 28 pharmacy students have completed the MBA program, including VonAlst, Leah Blocker and Jessica Kirk, who graduated last month. Four more will receive their degree this summer, including Abby Herman, who took part in the spring commencement ceremony.
Kirk had never considered getting an MBA until she heard about the joint program but learned how it can be a boon to her professional goals.
“I figured in almost any line of pharmacy I could climb the ladder and then maybe there might be a certain point where, ‘Oh, you have to go back get to your MBA,’” Kirk said. “And if I didn’t do it while I was in school, I probably wasn’t ever going to go back to do it. I think I did it to try and open up more options for me in the future.”
Blocker also felt an MBA would help provide upward mobility.
“My PharmD has given me all the clinical knowledge I need to understand the ins and outs of the pharmacy world,” she said. “Meanwhile, my MBA has helped me further understand the business side of things.”
“MBA/pharmacy students gain business knowledge and skills to enhance their careers,” she said. “During their MBA they will learn about business practices, leadership, accounting, marketing, supply chain, information systems and finance and other aspects of a business. With both a PharmD and an MBA, students will be able to be very competitive in the job market.”
The MBA did prove to be helpful to a recent MBA graduate.
Morgan Dermody, who also went through the program, just secured a new residency in Indiana at a hospital network where she will be more involved in patient care. She believes having an MBA was an asset that helped her get a residency in specialized pharmacy, which she prefers over working in a high-pressure retail setting as a general pharmacist because it allows her to have more involvement with patients.
“The MBA certainly came up during residency interviews, and getting it done during pharmacy school showed my ability to time manage,” Dermody said. “A residency is known as three years of work experience in one year, so recruiters are looking for people who can manage their time well.”
She would eventually like a role in leadership, and the knowledge she gained while earning her MBA could be effective in areas including managing inventory and costs.
VonAlst is on the same page as Dermody, not wanting to work in a retail setting as a general pharmacist. He pictures himself eventually utilizing his MBA as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry. His upcoming rotations will give him a better idea of how an MBA can be used in a variety of medical environments.
Kirk is also contemplating her path after graduation and has thought about entering into a leadership role such as managing a pharmacy or even opening her own in a rural area that’s not already saturated with competition. Part of her decision to get an MBA while in pharmacy school was based on the uncertainty of the future and not knowing what opportunities may require an MBA. She wants to be prepared.
Blocker had similar thoughts when deciding to pursue an MBA and feels strongly about her choice.
“I would have gotten an MBA even if there wasn’t a partnership between St. Louis College of Pharmacy and UMSL,” Blocker said. “However, the partnership was a bonus. I am so thankful for the partnership because it felt like I had all the support I needed right away. The UMSL advisors knew all the answers to my questions before I even had to ask them. Their continuous help sped up the application process and allowed me to enroll in MBA classes much sooner than I thought I would be able to.”
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