Linda Garrelts MacLean with pharmacy students
Linda Garrelts MacLean with pharmacy students.

By Jennifer Robinson, Associate Dean for Professional Education and Clinical Associate Professor for Department of Pharmacotherapy

In late January, the American Pharmacists Association named WSU CPPS interim dean, Linda Garrelts MacLean, as one of their 2020 fellows. This honor is the most comprehensive recognition in pharmacy. To receive the award, members must demonstrate exemplary professional achievements and service to the pharmacy profession. Below is an article written by Jennifer Robinson, associate dean for professional education, about how Linda made an impact in her life.

APhA encourages pharmacists to practice at the top of their education to meet the needs of society. It creates a community for pharmacists to learn from one another and work together to advance the practice of pharmacy to benefit the patients we serve.

This is the work that Linda does every day. She encourages each person to be the very best versions of themselves, while putting the needs of community first. I have watched Linda do this with student pharmacists, her colleagues at WSU, the professionals she interacts with through various local, state, national and international organizations and community members. While Linda has made such a significant impact on the pharmacy community, I’d like to share how Linda has influenced my life.

I first met Linda as a Doctor of Pharmacy student at Washington State University. She was one of my professors, and I was an awkward and shy student who had no idea what I wanted to do with my career. Linda was the most professional and driven female I had ever interacted with. I remember sitting in class watching Linda passionately talk about colostomy supplies, how they are valuable to patients who need them, and what we can do as pharmacists to help patients with this health care item. Honestly, the topic of colostomy supplies can be embarrassing and difficult to discuss. Even with an undesirable topic, it was riveting to watch her present. During the class Linda would take time to interject life lessons and challenge us to be better advocates for our community and our profession. She instilled a passion for taking care of others.

Following Linda’s course, I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone and really identify what sector of pharmacy that I was passionate about. It didn’t take me long to recognize that community pharmacy was where I could take care of patients and be innovative in providing that care. After graduation, I was hired as the pharmacy manager at Jones Pharmacy. As a previous owner of the pharmacy, Linda was still heavily involved with the business and would work in the store periodically. Every time I worked with Linda, we would discuss innovative practice ideas, she would help me trouble shoot issues, and we would mentor student pharmacists as they completed projects and rotations in the pharmacy. Linda taught me how to be a better manager, teacher and pharmacist.

After several years working as a community pharmacist, I had the opportunity to return to my alma mater to teach. Moving from working with individual patients in a community pharmacy setting to engaging a class of over 100 students was terrifying. I had frequent meetings with Linda and she provided me with a crash course in teaching theory. She was patient, positive and provided tools that I still use to this day. Every time I would leave Linda’s office, I would have a renewed sense of excitement about what I was doing, and confidence that I could actually do it.

When I first took on an administrative role to be the unit lead for our office of student services, I frequently reached out to Linda to ask for guidance and support as I was getting used to my new responsibilities. This is when I carefully observed Linda’s mentoring style. When responding to the issues I presented, she would carefully guide me by asking open ended questions. By taking this approach she was allowing me to voice my thought process so I could come to my own conclusions. This process was so effective that I now use it frequently with my own staff and student pharmacists.

Every year Linda inspires the next generation of pharmacists. During orientation, Linda holds a session with incoming student pharmacists about the importance of advocating for the profession, being actively involved, and seeking out leadership positions. Nearly all the student pharmacists lean forward in their seats trying to catch every word of the presentation. As the students file out of the room, conversations start about plans to become more involved and what they now think is possible, which may have seemed impossible an hour earlier.

Due to Linda’s influence, I no longer put a limit on what I can accomplish. Recently, I was asked to serve as the Associate Dean over our professional doctor of pharmacy program. When I received this news the first two people I shared the news with were my husband and Linda. After a brief celebration, I then focused my efforts on making sure the faculty and student pharmacists in the college are supported in achieving their professional goals. Thanks to Linda’s leadership I am now a mentor to others as I try to pay forward the work and investment that she has made in me. Without hesitation, I credit Linda with being the main factor in why I have achieved the success that I have over the last fifteen years and the optimism I now hold about what I can accomplish in the future.