Illustrating the Vital Role of Pharmacists on Interprofessional Teams
Dr. Joseph Zorek is a born educator. Following undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa, he taught in Germany as a Fulbright Scholar, then at a high school in Oak Lawn, Illinois. He pivoted to healthcare by earning his PharmD at UIC, an experience he credits with defining the trajectory of his career, and one that ultimately led to a published textbook for early learners in pharmacy and prospective students exploring pharmacy as a possible career option.
“Professors like Drs. Nick Popovich and Bruce Lambert empowered me as a student to find solutions to educational problems, and that made an indelible impression on me,” said Zorek. “Leaving UIC, I felt strongly that pharmacists’ knowledge and skills were under-recognized and underutilized within the healthcare system and that this problem was somehow rooted in education.”
Dr. Zorek pursued solutions to this problem as a pharmacotherapy resident at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at Amarillo, where he developed a clinical specialty in geriatrics with a research emphasis in interprofessional practice and education (IPE). His work earned national attention and ultimately led to a faculty position at the University of Wisconsin– Madison School of Pharmacy.
At Wisconsin, Dr. Zorek was promoted to director of interprofessional education and associate professor. Along the way, he developed a new course for first-year students called Pathways in Pharmacy Practice. His idea was to deconstruct incoming students’ biases about the profession, expose them to as many areas of pharmacy practice as possible, and emphasize contributions to interprofessional teams and the impact and value of pharmacists.
Focusing on early learners was key. “The job market is tight and residencies are incredibly competitive,” said Zorek. “Finding a passion within the profession early affords students the opportunity to customize their educational experience, ultimately increasing their odds of career success and satisfaction.”
As the popularity of Dr. Zorek’s course increased, he realized that a textbook was needed, but there were simply no compelling, captivating books to achieve his vision. Harkening back to his mentors’ advice at UIC, he decided to create one.
Several years and dozens of collaborations later, Interprofessional Practice in Pharmacy: Featuring Illustrated Case Studies will be published on March 26, 2021. Fifteen chapters, each devoted to a specific practice area, include a total of 35 illustrated case studies inspired by graphic novels and comic strips—but by no means funny—to augment text and inspire readers. The publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, describes the book as a one-of-a-kind medical text that covers everything needed to launch a successful career in pharmacy.
In 2019, Dr. Zorek was recruited to lead the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which seeks to advance IPE across five schools and numerous educational programs. In addition to this leadership role, he is proud to be walking the interprofessional talk as a tenured faculty member in nursing, where he teaches advanced pharmacotherapeutics to graduate students and strives to elevate health professions education through creative and impactful scholarship.