Educating the next generation to solve complex health problems through design thinking


REFRAME: One Lucky Pharmacist



Questions vs Answers

For this year's pharmacy week and my first REFRAME post, I wanted to reflect on how lucky I am to be doing what I'm doing.

Next year will be my 10th year of clinical practice. Looking back, there have been many ups and downs, seized and missed opportunities, good and bad days...but, if I could, I wouldn't change a thing. I remember being a new pharmacist, nervous and green and hoping for the day when I would know all the answers. Funny because almost 10 years later the main thing I've learned is that the questions are far more important than any answer. That's because answers are fleeting, a moving target. Even the hardest of facts erode into new forms over time or lose significance altogether. Questions, however, are far more powerful. They are the tools of change and adaptation. They exist purely to be replaced by understanding. By their nature, they serve to set one on a journey and encourage growth. From a clinical perspective, one of the most important points I try to teach students is that most questions should be responded with another question. Answer too soon and you risk answering the wrong question! A concept first developed employed by Sakichi Toyoda, an early thought leader in what we now call Lean Methodology, was the "5 Whys". Simply understanding that you can get to the root-cause of any problem by asking 5 whys was transformative to an entire industry. It's funny to think that as humans we are so focused on solutions, that we often forget to fully understand first, the question we are trying to solve. But while we may naturally yearn to find answers, it is the asking and re-asking of questions that excites and nourishes us. 

We are all born with an innate curiosity and questioning nature...but the lucky ones have had others who have encouraged them to question.  I have been lucky enough to have had people close to me who gave me the space to ask questions and those who have inspired me with their own insatiable inquisitive nature. These days, I am frequently asked how did I get to where I am today...and looking back at my adult life, I now realized it was because I asked questions....

The questions that made me who I am.

I asked my parents what profession would give me stability, satisfaction, AND balance....they suggested I look into becoming a Pharmacist.

I asked my boss at the first hospital I ever interned at for a part time job...I graduated with 4 years of hospital work experience under my belt.

I asked a friend how I could be more involved and learn to be leader for the profession...he suggested I look into a pharmacy fraternity. 

I asked my mentors about the prospect of Residency, the Air Force, and Fellowships as career paths...I explored, failed, tried again, learned.

I (half-jokingly) asked my future boss if I could be the Emergency Dept Pharmacist during an interview...he called two months later and said yes.

I asked my new ED colleague out for a drink to talk plans for our new ED pharmacy...she's now my wife, and we have two beautiful girls together.

I asked a friend to let me know if he heard of any jobs in town so I could spend more time with my fiance...a month later I had a new job that was perfect for me

I asked a friend why he was Tweeting about pharmacy stuff...I discovered a whole new way to teach, learn, and grow professionally.

I asked a colleague about this weird thing called Design Thinking that he had been has changed both my perspective and career path. 

Now, every day I teach others to ask questions, but in a whole new way...and I think it will change healthcare as we know it.

I truly am lucky. Thank you to all of those people in my life who have challenged me to ask questions.

This is the first of a series of articles I will be writing called "REFRAME" where I will be exploring the intersections of design and health, and how reframing the challenges we see in healthcare today could be the spark that ignites a true evolution in care.