National Leaders Convene for Leadership Symposium

May 01, 2016

When you want to change the world, but need help with exactly how or a boost past an obstacle, pick up the phone and call a mentor, and think of Zada Mary Cooper.

That was the message delivered to more than 100 people with Iowa pharmacy ties – including students, young professionals, and experienced leaders in the profession – who gathered at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center on Saturday.

A leader is anyone who is trying to close the gap between the way something is and the way it could be.” -- Harles Cone, Leadership Consultant, as referenced by Jenelle Sobotka

“I am Zada. You are Zada,” said Melissa Murer Corrigan, BSPh, the Vice President, Social Impact Strategy and Programs at ACT, who spearheaded and kicked off the Zada Cooper Leadership Symposium. “I really marveled when I learned about this remarkable woman and the trailblazer that she was. … She showed tenacity and grit.”  Cooper, 1875-1961, was a pharmacist and educator when there were very few women doing so. She founded two major pharmacy organizations having to do with scholarship and leadership: Kappa Epsilon and Rho Chi. She advocated for the profession and other women in it.

“There’s an extremely high likelihood that she was the first tenured female faculty member of any College of Pharmacy in the United States,” said Dean Donald Letendre, who added that tenure did not actually exist then. “For a woman to go from assistant professor to associate professor was virtually unheard of back then, and it’s a reflection of the high regard she was held by her peers.”  

What is a Leader?

Symposium attendees were inspired to be bold and transformative in their careers through leadership and mentorship. Letendre spoke directly to students in the crowd, asking them to reflect on what they want to change in the world and how they might facilitate that change.

Jenelle Sobotka, '87 BSPh, '89 PharmD – a professor and endowed chair at Ohio Northern University – noted that leaders can come from all levels.  She quoted a favorite definition from Leadership Consultant Harles Cone: “A leader is anyone who is trying to close the gap between the way something is and the way it could be.”

Leaders are good at seeking guidance from people they respect, many speakers and panelists said.

Nurture Your Network

Maureen Donovan, PhD, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Professor at the UI College of Pharmacy, illustrated the many types of guides a person could have in life and career: A sponsor, mentor, advisor, teacher, role model, or coach. “Take advantage of every single person who is willing to give you advice, talk to you, or work with you to improve the system,” Donovan said. “But keep in mind it’s your choice which advice to follow.”

Donovan said her parents boosted her confidence as a child by having her be a school crossing guard for younger students, and her two older brothers taught her to stick up for herself. She also counts herself as lucky to have had a sponsor – someone who goes out of the way to help someone else succeed. It was Susan C. Miller, PhD, a faculty member at the University of Minnesota. Miller took Donovan under her wing and introduced her to influential people in the pharmaceutical sciences.

Presenters and panelists urged attendees to find mentors from all areas of their lives, and praised the people who opened doors for them, pointed out opportunities they would not have otherwise seen, or gave them a push – whether nicely or not.  “The first true mentor I had really got to know what made me tick,” said Leslie Williams, BSN, MBA, and the Director, Founder, President, and CEO of ImmusanT. “I will go through a brick wall to bring a treatment to a patient. … It’s not about your career as much as who you are and what you want to become. That will change and your mentors will change.”

Go and do great things, because they’re watching.” -- Lucinda Maine

“When you find a good mentor, you do want to give back, because you know how it’s changed your life,” added Williams, who is one of the few women in her specialty area to rise to the level of CEO. “This is what we need to change. I am mentoring back,” she said.

Other keynote and featured speakers and panelists included Susan Winckler, '92 BSPh, Esq – the Chief Risk Management Officer, as well as a lead contributor in the firm’s alliance management and regulatory consulting activities, for a health care intelligence firm; Lucinda Maine, PhD, RPh – Executive Vice President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy; Kelly Brock, '02 PharmD – the President of KB Pharmacy Solutions, Inc; Brittany Bruch, '14 PharmD; and Victoria Parker, a third-year PhD candidate in the college’s Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry program. 

An audience member asked Maine how to be a good mentee. Her advice? Pay it forward, and write a note thanking your mentor for their generosity, because they might not realize what they have meant to you. And one other thing:

“Go and do great things, because they’re watching.”


Mentor a pharmacy student


Conference Presentations

For all the images from the conference, please click here.