Beth Chester

Beth Chester

Beth Chester

Beth Chester

PharmD, MPH, FCCP, BCPS, Executive Director of Pharmacy Operations & Therapeutics, Kaiser Permanente

Beth Chester graduated from the UW in 1994 and currently lives in Colorado.

What drew you to Pharmacy?

Interestingly, even though my dad was a pharmacist in the military and I worked as a pharmacy clerk while in high school, I was not planning on becoming a pharmacist. In fact, I hadn’t given it much serious thought until I was finalizing what I wanted to get my degree in before I went to veterinary school. Since the prerequisites were similar between pre-pharmacy and pre-vet, I thought a degree in pharmacy would be beneficial not only from a knowledge-base perspective, but that it might also help pay the bills as I worked my way through vet school.

My perspective as to the career possibilities for pharmacists started to evolve as I began researching pharmacy programs. It was an evolutionary journey that continued once I started classes at the UW. During my time at the UW, I had some very impactful exposures to clinical pharmacy that solidified my career interests and led me to pursue a post-baccalaureate PharmD and residency training in primary care & family medicine.

Describe your current position

For those of you who may not be familiar with Kaiser Permanente, we are the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plan and integrated health care delivery system, serving more than 9 million members. In Colorado, we care for approximately 550,000 members. I suspect many of you are likely familiar with the Group Health Cooperative in the Northwest, a model that is similar to Kaiser Permanente.

As the executive director for pharmacy operations & therapeutics, I lead a pharmacy department of more than 700 employees, about half of which are pharmacists. In my current role, I provide executive line leadership, direction, decision-making, and oversight for the department. I direct the strategic planning, development, implementation, and assessment of a comprehensive array of pharmacy-related services and programs to ensure achievement of organizational goals related to quality, service, and affordability. A significant part of my job involves effectively collaborating with physician and health plan leaders in Colorado and nationally to develop and implement strategies that support the delivery of high quality, cost-effective healthcare to members and patients.

What do you enjoy most about your current work?

I started my career as a primary care clinical pharmacy specialist working in a collaborative team-based environment. Even though I haven’t practiced clinically in quite some time, that is still an important part of my professional DNA and continues to influence my perspective. I am passionate about the value pharmacists bring to patients and the care team. One of the things I love most about my current work is that I am in a position to help influence and advocate for expanded roles for pharmacists, which I believe significantly improves the quality of healthcare patients receive. In Colorado, I have fantastic pharmacy teams that are making a meaningful difference in patients’ lives every day and they’re touching hundreds of thousands of patients each year. What can be better than that?

What is the most challenging?

Healthcare is a dynamic and evolving industry where many stakeholders are competing for limited resources. While this can be challenging for anyone in healthcare, including pharmacy, it’s also an exciting time. Health care reform and related initiatives are creating opportunities for pharmacy to transform the image of the pharmacist from a dispenser of medications to a critical member of the health care team.

Tell us a few fun facts about yourself

Growing up in a military family, I had the opportunity to see many different parts of the country and have lived in 9 different states, ranging from Alabama to Alaska. However, since I graduated from high school and college (Go Huskies!) in Washington (and that’s where my parents have remained), it’s become my de facto home state. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family (a loving husband and two kiddos) and participating in the occasional half-marathon, triathlon or Tough Mudder. I also love to read and typically average two to three books a week on my favorite gadget – my Kindle.

What would you like to share with students considering a career path similar to yours?

Traditional dispensing activities will increasingly shift to technicians and technology. To take advantage of the clinical pharmacy roles that currently exist and that will continue to emerge, you will likely need to complete at least one residency if not two. Start preparing for that now. Interest in residencies has increased in recent years and the demand currently exceeds the supply. You will need to differentiate yourself in school activities, professional associations, etc. to successfully compete for a position. This extra effort at the beginning of your pharmacy career will help ensure that you don’t prematurely close the door on future professional opportunities.

Pharmacy is a wonderful profession and I have enjoyed every role I’ve had along my career path. I sincerely hope that the same is true for each of you.