Van Duong, Pharm.D.

Pharmacist in Charge – Pharmacy Care Concepts Stockton, California

As someone who was heavily involved in school extracurricular activities, I found myself seeking more challenges for professional engagement and development after school. My curiosity to expand and grow beyond my pharmacy doors and also as a person and leader became more evident the more time I spent at work. Although my job was challenging, I felt like it was not enough to stay within the closed borders of my small pharmacy and sought a different avenue to have a wider scope of impact.

One of my new year’s resolutions was to become a better leader and manager for my staff, and I continuously sought relevant books on leadership, self-development, and better managing styles. They have proven to be useful, however, not having anyone to discuss the ideas with or “pick brains” with was unproductive. One of my staff pharmacists encouraged me to apply to Leadership Development Institute as she had just completed the program, and she conveyed her satisfaction and new ability to discover one’s consciousness as a person and leader which is exactly what I was looking for.

The same pharmacist/friend who recommended me for LDI recalled an organization I had started and been fervently passionate about during our times in pharmacy school called Pacific Outreach for Youth Services and Education (POYSE) at University of the Pacific. One of my long-term goals has been to develop POYSE to become an official non-profit to further expand and support the successful methodology behind the organization. I essentially started POYSE during pharmacy school to increase health awareness amongst the community’s youth and elevate higher education resources in the community. As a Stockton native, I saw the life changing effects education allowed to positively direct the course of one’s success, and I wanted to share this with the community that could use more resources and role models for better access to higher education.

Through the LDI program, I was able to engage with other pharmacy leaders who had similar conflicts in work and life balance, and we were able to constructively share our thoughts and processes during the past year. We delved into discussions regarding our infinite resources of articles, books, and videos on leadership and were able to develop a camaraderie that allowed us to grow amongst leaders and now friends. I initially struggled to find a project that was fulfilling to me because I wanted to choose something more relevant to pharmacy, but in truth, observing and satisfying your whole self’s passions into a project that matters personally to you is what will drive the success of your project. Throughout the LDI process through the development of self, passion, and leadership, I found myself returning to the POYSE project because at the heart of my goals, it was highest priority of my long-term mission to continuously give back to broader communities. I learned that becoming a pharmacist is only one portion of who you are, and it is equally important to keep up with your other life’s passions and goals.

My long-term goal would be for POYSE to have a presence in numerous communities so that the youth in disadvantaged cities will make talking about higher education a norm and consider the benefits of thinking about living healthy lifestyles early on. The organization has already spread to multiple chapters and local high schools throughout Stockton since it started in 2012. Our slogan is “Elevation through Education” and by providing role models, resources, and a space for young leaders to encourage each other to be more engaged in the health of their communities and their own education, I truly believe communities will be a better place as we cultivate the leadership potential from our youth. Not only is this method coming from within the community by allowing the youth to develop their own leadership potentials, but the effects will be long lasting and sustainable.

Don’t get me wrong—I love pharmacy, and I love my job (all of it: my co-workers, my impact in our company, the great work we do for patients in long-term care); but as part of LDI, I was encouraged to take a step back and ask, “what else am I missing from my personal self?” I was able to journey back to something that mattered deeply to me. By better aligning with my VISN (values to give back to community, interest to share my educational experience to elevate others in their lives, utilize my community organizing and leadership strengths, and fulfill my need to make a direct impact on my community), I found my way back to a personal passion of mine to take off.

I finally submitted filing for the non-profit status for POYSE and hope to take the leadership development skills I gained through this LDI experience with me in my career and further into other areas of my life’s work. If there are moments I am discouraged, I think about the impact POYSE has already had with the organization’s high school students hosting their own educational workshops for lower classmen to better excel and the potential for possibly a POYSE Leadership Development Group for our younger communities in the future to continue the art of developing leadership throughout communities.

Aside from meeting wonderful leaders in the pharmacy world, LDI taught me that leadership is an art and a continuous learning process. The most important gifts to give someone is knowledge and resources to help them grow, and LDI leaders provided recommendations and access to some of the best literary leadership resources available. One of the first pieces we were introduced to was a video titled, “A Cautionary Word on the Deferred Life Plan” by Randy Komisar that iterates failing to do what you believe in is a deferred life plan. By experiencing LDI, I was better able to identify my true calling of what mattered personally and finally took the steps to get it done.