Meet Sharon Jhawar, PharmD ’01, chief pharmacy officer at SCAN Health Plan, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans.
A board-certified geriatric pharmacist who also holds an MBA, Jhawar is passionate about helping older adults keep healthy and independent through affordable medications and quality care. With nearly 20 years of experience at SCAN, she works alongside other leaders to improve senior care in the United States by optimizing prescription benefits, clinical programs, healthcare policy reform and the development of innovative, pharmacy care solutions that ensure safe and appropriate medication use. She manages a $1.6 billion prescription drug benefit and her passions are to ensure older adults are on the right medications as they age and reduce unnecessary medication use in the United States.
Here, she talks about her 20-year career at SCAN, describes the “ride or die” friendships she developed with her USC School of Pharmacy classmates, and offers advice to current students.
Could you tell us about your career? What are some highlights?
Some of my career highlights include: (1.) Specializing in geriatric pharmacy care. There are many difficult things in life and aging, I believe, is one of the most difficult. (2.) Providing 90% of medications to seniors for $0 copay through rigorous contract negotiations all throughout the supply chain. (3.) Combating misuse of opioids in older adults. (4.) Reducing the inequity in medication adherence among Black and Latinx older adults. I also recently co-authored a publication in Harvard Business Review about reducing disparities in medication adherence. One of my coauthors was fellow Trojan Matthew Dinh, PharmD ’11, Senior Director of Pharmacy Quality Care & Experience at SCAN.
How did your experiences at USC affect where you are today?
The Trojan Family and the relationships, connections and friendships you build at USC are hands-down unparalleled and surpass all other pharmacy schools. The bond between Trojans you meet throughout the rest of your life is one of service and lending a helping hand to one another.
I am a firm believer that you are a product of the people you surround yourself with. My friends and the experiences I had at USC, along with great mentors throughout my career, have molded me into who I am today and enabled me to make a difference in so many older adult lives and their well-being. Each of my friends in the workforce is an exceptional leader within the pharmacy sector they work in. They have advanced the profession of pharmacy for over two decades and continue to mentor the pharmacists of the future. By surrounding myself with exceptional pharmacy leaders, I have also transformed into a key leader in managed care pharmacy. The friendships made while at USC continue to be my “ride or die” people over 20 years later. This summer, about ten of us, along with our families, spent the weekend together at an estate in Temecula. We are a group of pharmacists who know how to make things happen and do so each day!
What advice do you have for current students?
You can accomplish anything if you possess 10 things that require zero talent each day in your own life: (1.) Be on time. (2.) Make an effort. (3.) Bring good energy. (4.) Have a positive attitude. (5.) Be passionate. (6.) Have good body language. (7.) Be coachable. (8.) Do a little extra. (9.) Be prepared. (10.) Have a strong work ethic.
Is there anything else about your experiences that you’d like to share?
Learning from your mishaps makes you stronger. I would want other pharmacy students to learn from what I would do differently if I could relive being a pharmacy student such as: Seize the opportunity to participate in all school activities, certifications, or workshops the school provides. These experiences will prepare you for your future quicker and better than studying textbooks and memorizing things. Take the time to learn about each of your professors – you will learn so much more than the curriculum they are teaching you. Lastly, study hard and play hard. I did it and so can you!