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Alumna wins prestigious Albert B. Prescott Pharmacy Leadership Award

The Pharmacy Leadership & Education Institute and Phi Lambda Sigma recently recognized Dr. Afton M. Wagner, PharmD’07, for her exemplary leadership qualities as a pharmacist.

Northeastern alumna Dr. Afton M. Wagner, PharmD’07, was recently presented with the Albert B. Prescott Pharmacy Leadership Award. Awarded by the Pharmacy Leadership & Education Institute and Phi Lambda Sigma, the Albert B. Prescott Pharmacy Leadership Award is given annually to a pharmacist no more than 10 years into his or her career that has demonstrated exemplary leadership qualities. The recipients are young leaders in the profession that show great promise in continuing on their impressive trajectory.

“There are some amazing leaders that have received this award in the past,” she said. “Honestly, I never thought to nominate myself for it and never thought I deserved it. It’s just so humbling to see that I’m making a difference.”

Wagner is the only pharmacist that works for a global nonprofit health information technology organization that focuses on improving health through IT. As Senior Manager of Federal Affairs and Pharmacy Initiatives at HIMSS, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, a major part of her role is to comment on regulatory agencies new proposed rules or finalized regulations. When an agency comes out with a notice of proposed rulemaking, or NPRM, it is up to Wagner and her team to analyze the policy and gauge the potential impact it will have on healthcare professionals. She is also the staff liaison to the Federal Health Community, a group of approximately 1,300 federal government employees that are all HIMSS members.

David Zgarrick, acting dean and professor in Northeastern University’s School of Pharmacy, nominated Wagner for the award. “David called me up one day and asked if he could nominate me and I was just floored,” she said. “I prepared my CV for him and found five or six people to write supporting letters of recommendation. I think that was the best part of this process – it was great to hear what other people had to say about my career so far.”

As this year’s recipient, Wagner was invited to give a lecture on a leadership topic of her choice at the American Pharmacists Association meeting on March 27, 2017. Her lecture, titled “The Intersection Between Pharmacy and Advocacy in Value-Based Care,” focused on new federal regulations coming down the pipeline, the impact they will have on pharmacy, and how the field is shifting from a system that pays for volume of services to a system that pays for value. She is currently working on turning this lecture into a manuscript for publication in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

She is the first woman in nine years to be recognized with this prestigious award. “I’m thankful to be in a profession that promotes women,” she explained. “Women have really come forward in the field as leaders. We have an opportunity to bring a lot to our profession, and not just sit back and watch but actually step up and lead.”

She credits much of her post-graduate success to the support system she built at Northeastern. Dr. Margarita DiVall, clinical professor and director of assessment in the School of Pharmacy, sat her down during orientation to explain the program and why pharmacy was an important degree field to go into, which ultimately led to Wagner applying to pharmacy school. Mark Yorra, senior co-op coordinator, helped her get through the highs and lows of applying for, and being rejected from, co-op positions. Todd Brown, vice chair in the Department of Pharmacy and Health Systems, encouraged her involvement in local Massachusetts Independent Pharmacy Meetings and advocacy efforts. “It was a group effort to get me where I wanted to go and they saw something in me that I never did,” she said.

For the pharmacists of tomorrow, Wagner has some tested advice: don’t take yourself too seriously. “There will always be somebody better than you–you’ve got to be the best you can be. Don’t get too upset or wrapped up in the day-to-day grind and think big picture. Think about how the skills you’ve learned on co-op can be transferred to the jobs that you want. Tell folks the value you can provide to their worksite, and you’ll be in good shape.”

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published May 2017