CoP Stories - Chaz Washington
Jul 26, 2018 11:00 AM
Introducing CoP Stories, a series in which we get to know the intriguing individuals who make the University of Utah College of Pharmacy unique. We will be highlighting students, faculty, alumni, and anyone else who positively impacts our school in order to learn about their experience within the college.
To start us off, we are talking to Chaz Washington, Class of 2012 alumnus. Chaz is a great example of an involved alum, and a student who turned a PharmD paired with a MBA into a rewarding and distinctive career in Managed Care. Read or watch Chaz’s CoP Story below!
Tell us a little bit about your background.
"I’m Chaz Washington, I am From Salt Lake City, and graduated from the College of Pharmacy in 2012. I currently work for Aetna, which is a national health plan. It’s in the area of managed care. I got there because I pursued a managed care residency post graduation. It really helped prepare me for the role I have right now as a Senior Pharmacy Director at Aetna. I work a lot with their Medicare and Medicaid plans and making sure people have access to medications at a national scale, so it's very exciting and impactful in that regard."
So you graduated from pharmacy school, but you are not a clinical pharmacist. How did your pharmacy education translate into a different career path?
"That’s why I like pharmacy; it's a dynamic field, and there are a lot of options [for careers]. When you say I’m not a pharmacist or practicing as a pharmacist, it's still a requirement in my role to be a pharmacist, it just doesn't look like the typical pharmacist that we picture when we maybe think of retail or hospital. So it's another area called managed care, and it has a bigger business focus and population health focus than an individual pharmacist that you may be thinking of."
Why did you decide to go back to school to pursue an MBA?
"I also went back [to school] and pursued my MBA here at the University of Utah, and I think that helped get me into that roll as well. It’s [MBA degree] great, especially in my field, managed care, because there really is a business component to it. We have to look at penal statements, balance sheets, evaluate staffing, and the MBA really serves as a great compliment to the PharmD to bring those additional skill sets. The first question when I came into the [MBA] interview was like ‘oh you’re a pharmacist, tell me why you want to pursue the MBA?’. I talked to them about managed care, and told them why an MBA would provide a great complementary skill set, and they were very excited for the background that I would that I would bring and contribute to an MBA program. To have someone with a PharmD background in sciences, it makes for a more diverse classroom and stimulates a different discussion."
Why did you want to become a pharmacist?
"I’ve always really enjoyed science, and I’ve always really enjoyed working with people, and I thought pharmacy; you get that science component but then you also get to work with people everyday, so that really put pharmacy on my radar. The more I looked into it, I saw how many different options you have with a PharmD. You can go to retail, hospital, managed care; so not just your traditional pharmacy role you’re thinking of, and I really like that aspect of it and that’s why I chose to pursue it."
What is your favorite thing about pharmacy?
"My favorite thing about pharmacy is that I really like how everyday there's something different. Whether it's a new drug coming across my desk, or a new problem we’re trying to solve; and me working in managed care dealing with health insurance on a national scale, we’re always dealing with new problems on how to better improve access to medications to patients who typically have trouble accessing them. It's the problem solving aspect and the dynamic nature of the field that I really enjoy."
Why did you choose to attend the University of Utah College of Pharmacy?
"When evaluating which pharmacy school to go to, I obviously looked at a lot of options. The University of Utah stood out to me because number one it’s reputation. It is regarded as a very top-tier school, and I knew I'd be getting a great education at the University of Utah. I also really liked the fact that the College of Pharmacy is not isolated by itself; you've got Huntsman Cancer Institute up here, a great hospital, Primary Children's, all of which you get exposed to and have learning opportunities in. Also the fact that there’s a Medical school, a Nursing school, a Physical Therapy school [near the College of Pharmacy], so there’s a lot of interdisciplinary activities and opportunities to pursue, and that is something that was very important to me.
Academically, it’s certainly a rigorous program. Just reflecting on what I knew before I went into pharmacy school, and how much I knew leaving it, it was an exponential change. In order to succeed in any capacity, you need need to be able to work with people of different skill sets, backgrounds, educations, cultures, and the University of Utah really exposes you to all of that. With the interdisciplinary activities, you get to work with nurses and physicians, so early on you establish that relationship and are comfortable working with one another. Also, [the College of Pharmacy offers] great tuition; pharmacy school is getting very expensive, and the University of Utah really offers competitive tuition. I’m very grateful that I went that route with the low tuition."
What's your favorite thing about the University of Utah College of Pharmacy?
"I really enjoyed my classmates. They were a great; a diverse group from a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different experiences. [We] really got along well, and bonded with them, and became very close over the four years we were here. I made a lot of great friends and lasting connections; I really think that was probably my favorite part."
Why have you chosen to remain involved with the college as an alumnus?
"I just really enjoy maintaining those relationships, and I’m really happy [the college] provides a lot of opportunities to get together and reconnect. The Alumni Golf Tournament, the Gala for example, the Alumni Dinners are all fun and all the various activities they have. I really enjoy reconnecting with everyone, and the faculty here are great, and I had great relationships with them, so it’s always good to check in and see how they’re doing and to update them on what I’m up to, and I really enjoy that."
What’s the best piece of advice you received when you were in pharmacy school?
"Probably to not be afraid to experience new things and step outside of your comfort zone. Pharmacy can be very scary, especially for an incoming P1, very intimidating, but you just have to dive in and not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and look at areas that initially you may think you’re not interested in, but try them out. That’s really how I got into managed care; I didn’t know that area existed, and so I looked into it further and here I am now with a career in managed care."
What advice would you give to a current or incoming pharmacy student?
"I’d probably pass that same piece of advice on. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Definitely while you're here in your four years, try to experience as many new things as possible, challenge yourself, and try not to stick to the status quo. Gain as many experiences as you can."
*Edited for clarity and grammar.