Sally Huston, an associate professor in the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, believes entrepreneurship is essential for the pharmacy profession to progress, and for pharmacists to embrace new opportunities and roles in an evolving field. So she was understandably intrigued by a study stating that five factors—being proactive, interested in innovation, willing to challenge rules, self-confident, and motivated to achieve—measure entrepreneurial drive.
Huston set out to test this idea and to learn whether it was true of pharmacy students. Teaching at the University of Georgia at the time, she surveyed third-year pharmacy students about their inclination toward entrepreneurship, both generally and specifically in pharmacy.
“My major finding was that the five factors noted in the earlier study did not, in fact, form a single scale related to entrepreneurial intent,” says Huston, whose research results appear in the article “Factors Associated with Entrepreneurial Intentions in Doctor of Pharmacy Students,” published in the November 2018 issue of the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education.
Huston determined that general entrepreneurial intentions were significantly influenced by three factors: gender, a proactive disposition, and having taken a course related to entrepreneurship. She also found that gender did not directly influence students’ entrepreneurial intentions pertaining to pharmacy, although proactivity and having to take an entrepreneurship course did.
“To me, that’s an important finding because women have outnumbered men in pharmacy schools since the late 1970s, and the profession recently shifted to having more females than males,” says Huston.
She notes that the women in her study indicated lower entrepreneurial intentions than the men, but she believes pharmacy schools could take steps to address the gender difference. These include recruiting more women with proactive dispositions, offering entrepreneurship courses and encouraging women to enroll in them, and exposing female students to women who are entrepreneurs and can serve as examples.
“It’s an important issue,” says Huston. “Expanding the pharmacist’s role is critical for optimal health in the United States.”
“Because women now comprise more than 50 percent of the pharmacy workforce, we need to encourage them to become entrepreneurial.”
Even before publishing the results of her study in Georgia, Huston began follow-up research with pharmacy students at KGI, where she has been a faculty member since 2013.
This time, she is not only studying a different student population, but also taking a longitudinal approach to determine the impact of the pharmacy curriculum on the factors important to entrepreneurship. For the past four years, Huston has been conducting a survey of incoming students and repeating it during their third year of the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program. Her goal is to provide guidance to both pharmacy and other health educators seeking to increase entrepreneurial intentions in pharmacy students.