College of Pharmacy Welcomes Students to NCPA Foundation-UAMS Pharmacy Ownership & Leadership Academy

By Karmen Robinson

This year’s program returned to an in-person format after the 2020 academy was conducted virtually after COVID-19 disrupted face-to-face learning and networking.

Held in late June, the academy is a weeklong program open to students nationwide with a curriculum designed to prepare them with necessary tools to become successful independent pharmacy owners.

“In many states, the chains and mass market pharmacies outnumber independent pharmacy owners 10-to-1,” said Seth Heldenbrand, Pharm.D., the college’s associate dean for experiential education and an associate professor.

Heldenbrand said this means many students who are interested in ownership have trouble finding mentors who can show them the ropes, but students in Arkansas have an upper hand when it comes to independent pharmacy.

“Arkansas is one of four states that has about as many independent pharmacies as it does chain and mass market pharmacies,” said Heldenbrand.

“We have a wealth of pharmacy owners and leaders in this state. This is why Arkansas is a natural choice for this type of leadership program. Without the involvement of pharmacy owners and leaders in this area, we wouldn’t be able to run a successful event,” he added.

Heldenbrand is a co-founder of the academy along with adjunct associate professor Schwanda Flowers, Pharm.D.

One of the main components of the academy is to prepare participants for the annual Student Business Plan Competition sponsored by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

Last year, a team of UAMS student pharmacists won the 17th annual competition for the fourth time, setting a record for most wins since the competition began in 2004. Both Heldenbrand and Flowers were the team advisers. The winner of the competition is announced every year in October during NCPA’s annual convention.

During the academy, students were randomly divided into teams to develop a business plan for an independent pharmacy, which they were expected to present on the last day.

With sessions in the morning and team assignments in the afternoon, the students learned from UAMS faculty, independent pharmacy owners and other experts such as insurance agents and bankers who work with independent pharmacies.

The pharmacy students had the opportunity to apply the information they learned to their business plans, including operational and management organization, pharmacy financials and risk mitigation strategies.

“The students only had two afternoons to prepare their business ideas and their presentations, but they all pulled it off and presented some amazing business ideas,” said Heldenbrand.

“We give them a blueprint for a successful plan during the week, but all credit goes to them for refining an idea for a successful pharmacy and convincing the audience,” he added.

The students also discovered their leadership styles and dove into emotional intelligence as an independent owner – a topic widely discussed as health care employees face an onslaught of personal and professional challenges during the pandemic.