How 2 pharmacy leaders became hospital CEOs

As more systems create a C-suite role for pharmacy leaders, health systems and hospitals are increasingly promoting these executives to non-pharmacy roles, such as CEO.

Montez Carter, PharmD, and Wendy Horton, PharmD, spoke Dec. 4 at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists' midyear conference about their paths to the top, according to an ASHP news release. 

Dr. Carter is the president and CEO of Trinity Health of New England in Hartford, Conn., and Dr. Horton is the CEO of University of Virginia Health University Medical Center in Charlottesville.

In September, the two leaders shared with Becker's their advice for pharmacy leaders who want to step into other executive positions. They both said pharmacists are already equipped with multiple skills for non-pharmacy leadership roles, including supply management, budgeting, interdisciplinary collaboration and patient care delivery. 

"Never think that there's a role too small," Dr. Carter told the ASHP audience, "because it's really about applying your skill sets."

Dr. Carter has been in his current role for about a year, and he is at the helm of five hospitals, four urgent care centers and 100 ambulatory care sites across two states. He recommends pharmacists who are seeking higher roles in health systems focus on "the four Cs": communication, coaching, conflict management and change management. A focus on the first two will mitigate the need for the latter two skills.

Dr. Horton's career path has been guided by random chance and the choice to follow her husband's higher education and career aspirations, according to the release. Her openness to train in non-pharmacy disciplines unlocked opportunities, including a pharmacy and technology assessment role at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. 

"Little did I know, this was probably the most important piece of my career, because it was my first foray outside of pharmacy," said Dr. Horton, who then earned her MBA and filled more non-pharmacy leadership roles, including surgery director at UW Health in Madison, Wis.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, her system's CEO stepped down to work on the front lines and she rose to fill the spot. 

"Being a pharmacy leader is the most important skill set you could possibly have," Dr. Horton said. "We really know how to take that and then scale it to other institutions."

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