Seminar speaker discusses lessons for leadership, life

Cox find his and his grandfather’s names among the lists of CPPS Rho Chi members. Rho Chi is an international honor society for pharmaceutical sciences.

SPOKANE, Wash. – On October 23 Craig Cox talked to Washington State University (WSU) College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS) students as part of the Preparing for Your Career in Pharmacy Seminar Series. Cox is an associate professor of pharmacy practice and vice chair of experiential programs at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy.

Cox spoke about leadership and how decisions can affect your life. He said, “sometimes we make [decisions] too easily and that’s when you probably know when you’re not making the right decision.”

Cox has familiarity with decisions made too easily. With a community pharmacist for a father, grandfather and brother; and a teacher for a mother, the one thing Cox was sure of in high school was that he would not be a pharmacist or a teacher. Now he is both. After taking an intro to pharmacy class to fill a credit, he fell in love with the profession. “My whole career has evolved to the things that I never thought I would do,” he said, “never say never.”

After completing his pharmacy curriculum Cox chose to pursue residencies. Over the course of a year his focus changed from critical care pharmacy, to medical pharmacy, to family pharmacy, to teaching pharmacy. Cox said he is a proponent of residencies because it was the first time his focus was on himself and his career rather than school work.  It was an opportunity for Cox to get to know himself in a way he hadn’t previously.

Cox emphasized the importance of getting to know oneself, saying, “I hated writing reflections, now I’m a true believer in this is what changes your life.” He explained how he used emotional intelligence and strength finding tools to learn more about himself, “knowing my emotional intelligence and strengths changed my life,” he said, “focusing on the things we’re not good at is all we ever do in life, we’re always gravitating to the negatives.” He encouraged the students to find out what they are good at and to surround themselves with people who have different strengths than themselves.

Cox explained that strengths are one area you cannot change, much the same with personality, learning style, or IQ, “you are who you are,” he said, “emotional intelligence you can change.” Cox described himself as getting along well with everyone, saying that when he took the emotional intelligence test it turned out to be a disaster, “I read all these things wrong,” he said, “it doesn’t do a lot of good if you connect with a lot of people but don’t truly connect.”

He carried this lesson into his work as a preceptor, saying it was important for the students to look for more than a big name when searching for a mentor, but to look for a long-term relationship. “You network to learn what you want to do,” he said, “my connections with other people have changed my trajectory.” Cox recognized that the students were going to have to make a lot of decisions in the nearing future, he encouraged them to talk to people, to try and understand what impact their decisions could make.

He encouraged the students to take calculated risks using their connections to inform their decisions, but also explained there was benefit in things not going as planned, saying, “losses led me to future positions, be willing to fail.”

“The measure of success is not all about the accolades,” Cox said. He explained that he feels most successful when he sees others succeed with his help. He encouraged the students to try to do the same, saying, “You can be that person to classmates, impacting other people, those are the things that keep you going.” He emphasized that you do not have to have the title of leader to have the attitude, saying, “it’s more about you and what you’ve done.”

The college coordinates this seminar series to introduce student pharmacists to career opportunities and leaders in the pharmacy profession.

The seminars are funded through the WSU CPPS Dean’s Fund for Excellence and our community partner, the Spokane Teachers Credit Union. For information on participating in the career seminar series, or to contribute to the Dean’s Fund for Excellence to help expose WSU student pharmacists to thought-leaders and industry innovators, contact the CPPS advancement office at or 509-358-7651.