Q&A with college alumnus and Chief Pharmacy Officer of Portland hospital

Dr. Majid Tanas is currently Chief Pharmacy Officer at Legacy Health in Portland, Oregon. He and his wife graduated from the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2007.

Class of 2007 alumnus Dr. Majid Tanas’ career has spanned all aspects of inpatient, outpatient, ambulatory, and research services. As Vice President of Pharmacy Services and Chief Pharmacy Officer at Legacy Health in Oregon, Dr. Tanas has a world of experience in health systems. Prior to joining Legacy Health, he was Chief of Pharmacy Services at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center and worked in various administrative positions in health systems at Oregon Health and Science University after completing his Health-System Pharmacy Administration Residency at University of Washington Medicine. Earlier this year, Dr. Tanas was recognized by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) for his excellence in pharmacy practice and was designated a 2022 Fellow. Dr. Tanas shares some of his wisdom with current and future doctor of pharmacy students considering a career in health care.

Pharmacy has evolved quite a bit since you were in pharmacy school. What advice can you give to students considering pharmacy school?

There are three pieces of advice that I could offer: be hungry, stay curious, and break boundaries.

Be hungry

As pharmacists, we are notorious for being particular. From the patient care lab, we are taught to review prescriptions and look for what is wrong. This trained thought process makes us limit change in our lives. We find a pattern we are comfortable with and with which it is easier to operate. However, health care, the world, and everything is changing rapidly. COVID has only expedited the speed at which we are moving. It is important to then have a hunger to do more and to make things better, thinking of new ways to try something different.

Stay Curious

Once a pharmacist is locked into a way of thinking, it is very hard to break their mindset. It is important that we do not get comfortable with how things are today. Staying curious gives us the ability to be agile in thought, career, and position. This keeps us pushing to higher limits, both professionally and personally. Without curiosity, we will be passed by as health care evolves.

Break Boundaries

There will always be people who say, “You can’t…” – the unfortunate result of being hungry and curious is that you will often find yourself frustrated by other’s limitations. If you are comfortable in where you are, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. If you aren’t making a mess, you aren’t moving fast enough. You will always have nay-sayers in your life. Stop listening to them and go make waves.

You obviously have had an incredibly successful career. What advice can you give to current students about building success?

Whether you pursue an outpatient pharmacy job, a clinical hospital job, an administrator’s job, or anything else, you are in control of where your degree will take you. The most important thing you can do is think about where you want your career path by developing a Life Plan. There are enough examples on the internet to model afterwards. Life plans must contain your personal and professional plans. Note the order. You need to be personally happy before you become professionally satisfied. Once this is done, make sure that every opportunity you are presented with checks a box on this plan or ‘dance card.’ Don’t forget to celebrate your success AND failures. Any time you think you’ve failed – you’re just figuring out one way that doesn’t work. Keep at it.

How did WSU help to launch your career in pharmacy?

Your training only gives you the tools for your success. WSU helped give me the drive to learn more and to push myself in my career. It is always good to have my Cougar pharmily to journey with. One of which, my class of 2007 WSU PharmD wife, Dr. Laura Tanas, has been with me on this path and for whom I’m grateful for. I had mentors who helped me get early publications that helped launch my career and with whom I have stayed connected with on my journey. To know where you are going, you must remember where you have come from.

Where is the future of pharmacy going and what can students do now to get ahead?

Health care is undergoing a renaissance after the marathon of COVID these past two years. The brokenness of the health care systems was only further exposed, inflationary costs are causing organizations around the country to falter, and the exodus of retirement-aged workers has left workforce gaps.

Understanding these pressures will help us identify the next care need. A lot of care will be automated by big tech. We are already seeing encroachment on existing care models. Pharmacy will need to have driven leaders and clinicians to help push the care/practice models forward. Students should be pushing themselves now to get the most training and board certification to demonstrate mastery of medication management. Simply stopping with the PharmD may not be enough for the future.

You continue to be involved with the college. Presenting at the Career Seminar Series, and staying in touch. Why is that?

I love students, interns, and residents. When I was in your shoes, I had to figure this all out myself. I want to help those coming behind me to prevent them spending time to figure out the landscape of health care themselves. Many get locked in early to a career path they might not find as rewarding as they develop. I want to break the model so that we have WSU Pharmacy leaders who can change the world.

There seems to be a lot of negative sentiment floating around about the future of pharmacy. Are there any bright spots you can shine a light on? 

Change is inevitable. We can’t stop it. We can’t control it. But we can influence it. So, let’s have a dialogue. With the workforce being where it is, I expect there to be a high degree of automation coming.

That said, this change is exciting. We are starting to see the cracks in the barriers that have prevented pharmacists from getting reimbursed for their clinical activity. We are seeing the aging population overwhelm primary care, where pharmacists are the most accessible health care provider. Getting the extra training, board certification, and pushing ourselves to the front lines will require a team effort.

In the US alone, there are roughly 3 million nurses, 1 million providers, and about 300,000 pharmacists. This 9:3:1 ratio means we need to be that much louder about what we can do for our patients. Being well trained and clinically relevant will get our nursing and provider colleagues asking, “Where have you been all this time?” Don’t stay on traditional career paths. Explore and make waves!

Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you would like to add here?

If we do the right thing for our teams and our patients, we are doing our job. Everything else will sort itself out. Go Cougs!