Graduate School and Self-Doubt

2012 Article on Drug Pricing

After earning the PharmD I found myself managing pharmacies and working hard to understand business-related issues in the pharmaceutical supply chain.  My interest led me to write a very brief article to help other practicing pharmacists understand the alphabet soup of drug pricing along the chain.  At the time I was focused on advocacy for patients and pharmacists, but while writing this simple piece a real curiosity about the market dynamics and broader economics involved in drug pricing was sparked.  Even though my retail pharmacy chain valued my accomplishments as a pharmacy manager, an incredible feeling of self-doubt developed as I realized how little I actually knew.

Working with Experienced Economists

Luck (and maybe fate?) landed me in Baltimore, Maryland surrounded by incredible leaders in the field of pharmacoeconomics.  Since 2014, I have immersed myself in both my career as a faculty member and as a part-time PhD student.  I originally thought that this work would strengthen me and I would know more.  I remember listening to one faculty member in my first research methods courses discuss a statistical problem so far over my head that all I could hope for is that some of her excess brain power would spill over for me to absorb.  I also spend a lot of time just watching more seasoned professors interacting with other faculty, students, and external collaborators to see how they build these incredible relationships and leverage those networks to benefit everyone involved.  I guess I thought by watching and learning I would somehow transform until this super-version of me appeared.

A Realization

Unfortunately, that is not how graduate school works.  Instead I find myself continuing to learn only to realize that my feeling of uncertainty continues to grow.  Every study I read these days just leads to more questions, not answers.  I sat in a large conference session this morning enamored with the researchers surrounding me and felt more like an imposter than a colleague.   I am presenting a workshop with 3 great people on the topic of drug prices as it relates to economic models…and I’m absolutely terrified.

Over 5 years have gone by since my curiosity in the field began and I don’t have all of the answers.  Fortunately, I have found a real joy in the journey to answer questions.  The relationships with students, faculty, patients, community partners, and experts all over the globe have helped make this journey incredibly fun.  I started this journey hoping to become an expert, but that goal has changed substantially.  No matter how much knowledge consumed I believe that I will never truly be an expert, but rather a work-in-progress


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Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy located in Baltimore, Maryland. Joey has managed retail and long-term care pharmacy operations in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Leading Over The Counter is a blog of Joey's views and opinions on the topics of pharmacy leadership and management and do not represent the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Joey can be followed on Twitter @joeymattingly.

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