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Darla Moore School of Business

Pharmacy graduate builds on clinical knowledge with MBA

June 24, 2020

Recent graduate Gabrielle Pierce (’20 MBA, ’20 USC Pharm.D., ’18 USC pharmaceutical sciences) wanted to be a more well-rounded leader as a pharmacist, so she decided to combine her Pharm.D. with an MBA from the Moore School.

A student of the USC College of Pharmacy, Pierce said that the science-centered curriculum only required her to take one course dedicated to management and leadership. However, she knew that pharmacists are quickly placed in a leadership role in the workplace as they must manage student interns, technicians and other support staff. With this in mind, Pierce enrolled in the Moore School’s Professional MBA program in addition to her pharmacy program.

“From the time I entered undergrad at USC, I intended to pursue my Pharm.D. and MBA because I hoped to pursue a non-traditional pharmacist role after graduation,” Pierce said. “At the time, I did not know specifically where I wanted to work but that it would likely be in industry, medical affairs or some kind of specialty clinic environment. The job market in pharmacy is becoming extremely saturated, and it is almost a requirement that you find a niche to stand out and find a role that makes you happy.”

The Moore School’s Professional MBA program is designed for working professionals who have other obligations during traditional work hours. Most Professional MBA program classes are held in the evenings and Saturdays to accommodate these obligations, and students have the option to attend class virtually.

“I was able to tailor my [MBA course] schedule to fit the busy schedule of both the didactic classes of my third year of pharmacy school and the clinical rotations of my fourth year of pharmacy school,” Pierce said. “The night classes allowed me to attend pharmacy classes or rotations during daytime business hours and then still attend class virtually during live time. I was traveling a lot for rotations, and the Professional MBA [program]’s use of technology to livestream classes to students across the state made this a very easy transition.”

Pierce said that the business classes she took that covered strategic management were particularly applicable to her career in pharmacy. She added that she also became knowledgeable about small business law, innovation and technology development strategies, small business management and general financial and managerial accounting.

“As a pharmacist, I do not need to be a fully trained accountant, financial advisor or statistician, but the courses I took through the Moore School provided a basic understanding of these concepts so that I am knowledgeable enough to participate in those conversations,” Pierce said. “I can look at financial statements and draw conclusions; I can evaluate marketing strategies.”

Pierce said she plans to use her business knowledge to lessen the “disconnect between the expectations of clinical pharmacy staff and administrative leadership that are making most staffing and workflow decisions.”

“Pharmacists want what is best for the patients, and upper-level health system managers are often not health care providers and want what is best for the business,” she said. “I think that pairing my Pharm.D. with an MBA will give me the perspective to combine these priorities.”

Having experienced the overlap between the pharmacy and business industries during a clinical rotation before even starting the Professional MBA program, Pierce said she was tasked with evaluating workflow management and determining cost effectiveness of the administration procedures for a certain kind of therapy. Although it was overwhelming at the time, Pierce said she found that she enjoyed the collaboration the project required between pharmacists, sales representatives, company leadership and ordering managers.

Pierce is starting a career in specialty pharmacy, beginning with a post-graduate year one residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Through this program, she will provide pharmacy services in several clinics, complete a teaching certificate and spend time learning from the administration team of the specialty pharmacy.

“I think that having both [a Pharm.D. and MBA] will open more doors for me throughout my career. Though I am still early in my pharmacist career, I do believe that having formal business administration training provides me with a more unique perspective and has provided me with experiences not offered through traditional pharmacy schooling,” Pierce said. “The networking opportunities have also been great – I have met entrepreneurs, financial advisors and teachers who have provided me with invaluable insight into their careers and respective fields.”

Ultimately, Pierce said that she wants to use the tangible business background she obtained from the Moore School to better advocate for what is best for patients and justify decisions based on clinical, financial and managerial considerations.

-Erin Mooney

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.