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ICHP Leadership Spotlight Interview
Meet Jason Alegro, PharmD, BCPS, BCIDP
What is your leadership position within ICHP?
I am currently the President-Elect of the Northern Illinois Society of Health-System Pharmacists (NISHP).
Describe your practice site.
I am an Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences at Roosevelt University’s College of Pharmacy and an Infectious Diseases (ID) Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital. I coordinate and teach the core ID course, advanced ID elective, and deliver various other lectures throughout the curriculum. I also serve as the Faculty Director of Graduate Preparation and co-advise our Pharmacy Student Council. At Mount Sinai, I precept APPE students on their clinical specialty rotation and PGY-1 Pharmacy Residents on their ID consult and antimicrobial stewardship rotations. I also serve as the Pharmacist Chair of our Antimicrobial Stewardship Program and practice as a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist on the inpatient ID consult team.
How would you change pharmacy if you could?
The business models of pharmacy practice clearly need to be revolutionized. With the announcement of Amazon Pharmacy and the projected oversupply of pharmacists in the next 10 years, an abundance of highly educated medication experts will need to assume new roles where they can use their clinical skills to serve a growing geriatric population. We need to leverage our niche in healthcare as providers who can make a significant positive impact on patient outcomes and develop innovative strategies to ensure this model is profitable. Navy Admiral Grace Hopper stated, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘We've always done it this way.’” In this spirit, we must work as a profession to make a significant pivot now in order to keep up with the profound changes happening around us in healthcare and technology.
What pharmacy related issues keep you up at night?
The looming threat of antimicrobial resistance. An ID physician at a recent webinar best said this, “If you wanted to see what a world without antibiotics because of rampant drug resistance looks like, look no further than the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, where our antimicrobial therapies are marginally effective at best.” Without a sustained national effort toward combating antibiotic drug resistance, we are soon to be in a post-antibiotic era. One of my goals in teaching students and residents is to charge them with the responsibility of being an antibiotic steward - wherever they end up practicing - because it is not just ID-trained pharmacists and physicians who will need to play a role to curb these antibiotic resistance threats.
What makes ICHP great?
ICHP is great because it is full of supportive, motivated, and energetic pharmacists, technicians, and students I look to for inspiration and collaboration. These colleagues - who exemplify what transformative leadership is all about - have helped me to grow and learn so much as a new practitioner.
What initially motivated you to get involved in ICHP?
I was involved in ICHP sporadically as a student, but I didn’t get involved as a pharmacist until I was a few years into my position at Roosevelt. Dr. Milena Murray reached out to me to join to the Educational Affairs Division of ICHP after I delivered a presentation at Midwestern, and she really sold the benefits of joining! Since then, I’ve looked up to Milena as a great colleague and mentor who inspired me to write a KeePosted article, help plan the virtual annual meeting, and get more involved with a leadership role in NISHP. To those looking to get more involved with ICHP, it is mentors like Milena and so many others that empower you to become a better version of yourself and that make this a great organization.
Is there an individual you admire or look up to, or a mentor that has influenced your career?
Dr. Sheila Wang from Midwestern University inspired me to pursue a specialty in Infectious Diseases and a career in academia. The subject of ID intrigued me, but it was the way that Sheila taught and showed her passion, empathy, and commitment as a professor that lit a fire in me to follow a similar route. She both challenged and cared for us as students, and the example she set as a leader both inside and outside of the classroom is something for which I strive in my career. I cannot thank Sheila enough for being such a huge influence on me!
Prior to my pursuit of a residency, I was on track to take a job in community pharmacy, with the vision of working for a few years, paying off student loans, and then circling back around to eventually seek a career in ID. I ended up speaking to Dr. Marc Scheetz during the ASHP Midyear of my P4 year, and I told him about my plan. He very bluntly told me that although this is a plan that might work for some, that if I was truly committed to pursuing ID in my career, I needed to apply for residency this year. Suffice it to say, I started writing my letters of intent on the plane back home from the meeting, and the rest, as they say, is history. Thanks for showing me the way at such a pivotal time, Marc!
What advice would you give to student pharmacists?
- When you are experiencing a difficult or less-than-ideal situation in your pharmacy career, just think, “This will be a great answer to a tough interview question.” It really helps give perspective and frame your current circumstance in a more positive or at least a neutral light.
- Be prepared for anything. You can do this by learning as much as you can, showing up, working hard, and staying humble. Nobody knew what to expect when COVID-19 hit, so the only way to be prepared for something like this was to consistently be on top of your game, work with each other, and prepare for the worst. In the words of a famous House, “Winter is Coming.”
- Don’t forget why you got into healthcare. The late nights studying, the investment of your precious time and money into this career, and the reason you are working so hard is so that you can best serve and care for your patients.
What is your favorite restaurant or food? I don’t think that I can ever say no to Chipotle. Even amidst the E. coli outbreaks a few years ago, I was willing to take my chances on a steak bowl. The guacamole and ciprofloxacin cost extra.
Where is your favorite place to vacation? I really loved Amsterdam. The beautiful canals, historic museums, friendly people, bicycle culture, and just overall unique and chill vibes made this such an incredible place to go on holiday.