Transitioning from Life-Long Health Care Provider to Executive Director

Margo Farber
June 16, 2022

Greetings! My name is Margo Farber. I am currently the Executive Director of the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP). The bulk of my professional career (35+ years) has been in the hospital/health system setting as a medication use policy (MUP) pharmacist, specifically as Director of MUP at two different academic medical centers. My original motivation to become a pharmacist was the curriculum—a great love for math and science. Upon graduating from pharmacy school and completing a post-graduate residency, I discovered several aspects about my personal professional needs: (1) variety in day-to-day activities; (2) a challenging work environment that offers both direction/deadlines as well as open-ended opportunities for creativity and improvement of processes; (3) regular engagement with both the public as well as multidisciplinary professionals (of multiple disciplines); (4) opportunities for mentorship/teaching/precepting; (5) opportunity (and requirement) to be a life-long learner; and (6) flexibility to allow for work/life balance.

Each of the above “needs” is more than met as a director of MUP in academic medical centers. No single day was ever the same. While I reported to an executive director of pharmacy, I was able to direct my own unit of MUP pharmacists where we met our specific deadlines/objectives, yet we were encouraged to develop new programs and initiatives. The single greatest aspect of the job was the interaction with multiple disciplines, departments, patients, and more, yet my direct reports ranged from four to eight pharmacists/interns minimizing human resource responsibilities, something I have always abhorred. I served on multiple committees and honed my skills in consensus building while respecting the evidence. I taught didactic courses at colleges of pharmacy and medicine. Also, during this time, I was able to precept countless students and residents during their training serving as a mentor to many. Life-long learning is required of the health professions. While one envisions clinical/scientific learning in this context, I have been fortunate to receive extensive training in quality improvement, systems analysis, and group dynamics. Last, but not least, given the more administrative aspect of MUP or as I used to say, “clinical on paper,” there was great flexibility allowing for an early departure to catch a youth basketball game or choir concert knowing that the development of a clinical guideline could occur later in the evening.

After several decades, the daily grind began to wear me down, especially winter commutes along with far less time for creative thinking or problem solving and greater demands on cost containment. Timing is always everything. At a particularly uninspired time in my journey, I was offered a part-time faculty position coordinating a course that was the essence of my entire pharmacy experience and, as luck would have it, I was also contacted about a consultant job reviewing the clinical aspect of managed care formularies for an analytics company. These two new positions offered new challenges with a schedule of incredible flexibility and somewhat similar pay at about half the time of a full-time job. Glorious! Despite the incredible advantages, something was missing. That something was organizational and many of the professional motivators identified above.   

The SIDP Executive Director (ED) position was brought to my attention. A part-time (0.25 FTE) role within a specialized pharmacy organization. Despite zero experience within this environment, I had held several leadership positions in local, state, and national organizations AND it provided the opportunity to work with talented specialists on an ongoing basis. Even better, SIDP contracts with a management group, Affinity Strategies, which handles ALL THE DETAILS relative to organizational management (meeting arrangements, HR issues, administrative support, etc.) that have never appealed to me. I am uncertain if it is because I lack to core competencies in this area or simply the desire (or a combination of both)! So far, so good. I can participate within a forward-thinking pharmacy organization, lead in certain aspects, yet work to build consensus relative to other issues and get my regular injection of organizational dynamics involving professionals, students, residents, the public and pure science.  While conversant around infectious diseases, this position has required a deeper dive into the specialty, and once again, learning beyond the science (e.g., diversity, equity and inclusion, ways to engage young professionals, and more). The learning curve was initially somewhat steep, but with the assistance of both the committed professionals within SIDP and at Affinity Strategies, it has been an incredible journey and rewarding career decision.