Walgreens VP of Pharmacy Programs & Initiatives Fauzia Somani: “To truly lower healthcare costs, we need to redefine what a pharmacist does”
As a part of my series about “Lessons from the Leaders of Healthcare” I had the pleasure of interviewing Fauzia Somani. Fauzia is the Vice President of Pharmacy and Initiatives in the Pharmacy and Retail Operations Division of Walgreens. Fauzia began her career at Walgreens in 1995 as a pharmacist. In 2011, she joined Apple, and held various roles in Operations. In 2015, Fauzia returned to Walgreens as the Senior Director of New Health Initiatives. In that role, she was responsible for the strategic implementation of new and existing health and wellness initiatives. In December 2016, Fauzia assumed the responsibility of her current role leading working teams for larger projects/programs, impacting multiple functions within her division including adherence, digital business lead, operational pilots, pharmacy systems and automation.
Thank you so much for joining us Fauzia. What principles or philosophies have guided your life?
I am fortunate in that I have parents who have a very strong moral compass and very strong ethics. That kind of start for me is always in play, whether in my personal or business life. The core principles around being kind, treating others the way you want to be treated, and being fair can be applied to everything that you do.
And the idea that it is critical to stand up for these things. When you see that these things are not happening, that people are not treated kindly, fairly, you must speak up.
Maya Angelou has a famous quote that states that people will forget what you have said, and people will forget what you have done, but they will never forget how you have made them feel. This is very tantamount to who I am. I believe that what is essential for a leader isn’t what you have accomplished, what projects you have been a part of, or what revenue number you helped bring it. At the end of your career, people will not talk about those things. What they will talk about is what kind of influence you have had on others, how you have made others feel. The idea of leaving everything in a better place than you have found it is critical to who I am.
Thank you for sharing. Let’s jump to balancing integrity and your career. In tricky ethical situations, how do you balance between doing what your job asks asks you to do and what you believe is right?
This has happened to me more than once. I am very honest with my leader. I will express my concerns, and share why I have reservations or hesitation, and I will ask for an alternative collaboration in a way that allows me to continue to be led by my moral compass. In one instance, I left the job because of an inability for compromise. It is more important for me to be able to sleep at night knowing that I have done the right thing. So, the first choice is to help share your reservations. The last resort is to walk away.
What are 3–5 habits that have helped you succeed?
Vision. When a problem arises, know that there is nothing we can’t do. So start with the mindset around what you can do, rather than what you can’t. Be able to articulate what that vision is.
Collaboration. Once we have that vision, allow a lot of dialogue and collaboration, and bring a diverse perspective and people to the table.
Allow people to be creative. Understand that the best ideas come from everywhere and that job titles do not matter
When faced with a challenge, how do you move forward? When do you pivot?
This is a great question, and a lot of it is experience. It is so easy to get so attached to an idea, and you can’t see past that. I have tried to focus on what the outcome is so that I am less worried about how we get there.
For me, we can pivot as often as we want, as long as we get the outcome that’s desired, and the experience that we wanted to create.
The future of work is a common theme. What can you do to future proof your career?
That’s another great question! Even as I look at my career, what I thought I would do and what I ended up doing are two very different things. That probably has happened several times throughout my career. I left Walgreens altogether at one point and had an opportunity to work for Apple, which was one of the most humbling and terrifying experiences I’ve ever had. That experience allowed me to be better today.
So my advice is, to future proof your career, is always to be open to new opportunities. Go into spaces that you are uncomfortable in, and that allows you to experience a diversity of thoughts and experiences. And protect your space. Being the new kid on the block is tough. You have to be humble, and allow others to teach you and guide you. You have to be able to ask the right questions.
And finally, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. You are at the table for a reason. Allow people to see the value that you bring. By speaking up, you can future proof your career.
What was your experience moving from healthcare to the tech industry, and back to health care?
Apple is one of the most incredible companies that we could work for. The level and the talent that exists is very humbling. What I love about Apple is its mission. Apple’s goal is to enrich lives.
While at Apple, I found myself missing healthcare. I found myself wondering how I can take the experiences, the diversity of thought and talent, and the mission to make a difference in everyone that we come into contact with, and how to bring that back into healthcare. What I learned at Apple is that it’s not really about the technology, it’s about the relationships.
At Walgreens, we epitomize that. We have billions of opportunities every year to be in a better place, and we can do that with a conversation. We truly believe that innovation and technology will start to evolve. We are going to put the best technology in the hands of our people who serve our community and allow them to do their best work. It’s exciting to see the world of technology and the world of healthcare come together.
Have you met Tim Cook? What was he like?
Tim Cook is absolutely phenomenal! Everything you have seen about him heard about him, read about him pale in comparison to actually being in a room with him and listening to him. He is passionate about people and leaving the world in a better place. He’s remarkable. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak more than once, and there just aren’t many leaders in the world like him.
What global challenge are you trying to solve?
The future of healthcare and the role of the pharmacist is changing. It used to be that if you were on every corner and you can sell prescriptions safely, quickly and efficiently, you can maintain your competitive advantage. Now, there is a shift in the industry, and the role of pharmacists will change. For example, how do pharmacists fit in with tele pharmacy?
I want to see us evolve and allow pharmacists to practice at the top of their license. Pharmacists should be the best clinical resource in every community. Pharmacists are the connector between your healthcare providers and your insurance plans. So how do you leverage our presence in our communities to deliver a better outcome? To truly lower healthcare costs, we should redefine the profession.
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About the Author:
Christina D. Warner is a healthcare marketer at Walgreens Boots Alliance. She is a Duke Business School alumnus and has innovated commercially for Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Veniti (now Boston Scientific) and Goldman Sachs. Christina is a regular columnist for Authority Magazine and Thrive Global and has been quoted in many national publications. You can download her free ‘How To Get Into the C-Suite and More: top secrets from CEO’s, political figures, and best-selling authors. Connect with Christina at LinkedInor Twitter