A career highlight
National association honors pharmacy alumna with prestigious award
Weeks before members of the U.S. military deploy oversears, they run through a long checkist to make sure they have everything they'll need. Lt. Col. Stacia Spridgen (B.S. '89) and her center ensure one important item isn't left out – their medications.
As the Director of the Department of Defense Pharmacoeconomic Center at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, Spridgen oversees the program responsible for ensuring military treatment providers and pharmacies have the tools available to meet Service Members’ prescription needs before, during and after deployment. For her work, she was recently named the 2010 American Pharmacists Association's Distinguished Federal Pharmacist. It's the latest award in a long line of commendations for Spridgen, who serves as the Director of the DoD Pharmacoeconomic Center.
She has been in the U.S. Army for 23 years and was honored in 1999 as the research pharmacist of the year. Still, Spridgen calls this year's award the "highlight of my career" because colleagues from across the Federal agencies made the selection.
"It's very nice to be recognized by your peers," Spridgen says. "I don't do this and a majority of people don't do it for the recognition, they do it because it's the right thing to do and they're passionate about it. I get a lot of satisfaction about my day-to-day contributions to our pharmacy beneficiaries, most especially our deployed service members."
In her current role, Spridgen helps make pharmacy services more accessible for service members and their families. Her department is responsible for educating deployed service members and providers how to receive medication refills through the mail order pharmacy while in theater. She says making pharmacy management reports for providers and pharmacists involved in the care for our deployed and injured service members as accessible as possible is the most rewarding part of her role. With the help of her department, service members are able to easily order the prescriptions they need both while overseas and also when they return. They serve as the liaison to the military treatment facilities, the TRICARE mail order pharmacy, and providers and pharmacy officers in theater to ensure necessary medicine are readily available. Providing that assistance to service members can also help ease the transition upon return from active duty, she says.
"They have someone they can talk to and not just e-mail to talk about any issues that may come up," Spridgen says. "It makes all the difference in the world. If they have someone to talk to, it cuts down on the red tape."
Before she enrolled at UMKC, Spridgen was pursuing a degree in nursing. She joined the U.S. Army Reserve in an effort to find a career where she could make a difference, and at the time she thought that would be as a direct care provider. But a friend who graduated from UMKC sparked her interest in pharmacy as a different way to be involved with health care. She got involved through the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) campaign, other campus activities and found a passion for helping others. Spridgen says the support she received from faculty, staff and peers at the School of Pharmacy helped her adjust in the early stages of her career.
"It laid the foundation for me with pharmacy and what I wanted to do with my career goals," she says.
Spridgen has been in active duty in the U.S. military since 1989. She has worked as a deputy pharmacy consultant and in the office of the Surgeon General prior to joining the Pharmacoeconomic Center. She met her husband, Mike, a sergeant major, while in the Army Reserves before she came to UMKC. They have spent much of the past 23 years separated by service duties, but joined by their desire to make a difference.
"It is tough, but sometimes that's what makes your marriage stronger," she says.
In October, Spridgen will learn whether she has been promoted to colonel, a move she says would be bittersweet because she truly enjoys the people she currently works with. A promotion could change her job duties, but she would still be heavily involved in providing medication assistance and education to service members.
"I'm enjoying what I'm doing, and I think we're contributing a lot to the mission," she says. "I'd like to stay here as long as I can."
ERICK R. SCHMIDT
Perspectives Fall 2010
Posted: September 13, 2010