3 Ships for Your Journey

SoftWriters COO Tim Tannert was invited back to his alma mater, Ohio Northern University, this past weekend to be the keynote for their Professional Commitment Ceremony where P3 students received their White Coat and recited the Pharmacy Pledge of Professionalism. Addressing the students, here are the highlights of what Tim shared:


Today is a day where you are accepting the tremendous responsibility of clinical service and patient care. This responsibility is not to be taken lightly. From this day forward, every time you place on your White Coat, you are shouldering a mantle of responsibility that this profession holds dear. I would like to discuss with you three aspects of this responsibility. These are the three ships that will guide you as you enter this journey of your career. The three ships are Mentorship, Leadership, and Stewardship.



Two ONU graduates, Tom and Meg Lamb, owned a little independent retail pharmacy that I began working for my junior year of high school. The most important thing I learned from them had nothing to do with any of the activities of filing a prescription. The most important thing I learned from Tom and Meg was the difference they made in the lives of the people who walked through their pharmacy’s door.

I witnessed the bonds they built with their patients. I watched them comfort new parents whose child was sick for the first time, I watched them be the shoulder to cry on for people who just received a devastating diagnosis, and I watched them always make time to lend an ear to an elderly shut in who simply needed someone to talk to.

Tom knew the best medicine was indeed humor, and had his patients laughing before they left. Every day, I watched Tom and Meg make an impact on the people that walked through their pharmacy’s door by not only being a respected part of the healthcare team, but by also by being an indispensable part of the community.

One day, Tom asked if I would be interested in becoming a pharmacist. That simple little question changed the trajectory of my life. From that day forward, Tom mentored me, coached me, and corrected me. His guidance and advice were invaluable in helping me get to where I am today.

Please do not underestimate the power of mentorship throughout your journey. Take advantage of building relationships with the mentors that you met this morning. Mentorship is a powerful vessel to get you to where to want to be.



One day when I was COO of Absolute Pharmacy in North Canton, OH, I had a gentleman named Garry Beltz walk into my office. Garry was a simple man who owed a small company cleaning the air vents in HVAC systems. One day out of the blue, Garry’s wife Karon was diagnosed with breast cancer and their lives were never the same. After losing his wife suddenly, Garry decided to donate the $6,700 worth of unopened medications he had just purchased.

Garry quickly found there was no legal way to donate the medications. That was the genesis to Garry’s mission. Through working with the legislature and State Board of Pharmacy, Garry learned all of the legal reasons why medications not under the supervision of a healthcare processional and not in unit-of-use packaging can’t be reintroduced back into the health system.

But that lead him to another fact, which was that medications in nursing homes are unit-of-use and are under the care of healthcare professionals, which means they can be donated and not destroyed. Garry used his leadership abilities and built relationships with the legislature, pharmacies, and free clinics in order to build consensus and to pass what is known as Karon’s Law.

Karon’s Law went into effect in Ohio in 2003. In 2004 the Ohio Board of Pharmacy finalized the rules for the program and in 2006 I am proud to say that I was the first pharmacy to operationalize the law. Garry facilitated the law’s passage not only in Ohio, but in most of the 50 states, and hundreds of thousands of doses have been donated as a result of Gary’s hard work.

Garry’s leadership in getting Karon’s Law implemented not only in Ohio but throughout the country had nothing to do with his position. It had to do with his ability to influence others, effect positive change, and get things done.

Now that each of you is wearing the White Coat of our profession, I would like to inspire you to become leaders of this profession. It does not matter if your title is intern, extern, fellow, or CEO. Use your God given talents to build relationships, create consensus, and enact change to improve patient care and to improve our profession as a whole. Leadership is a powerful vessel to get you to influence change for the better.



Finally, the last ship for your journey is that of Stewardship. I hope that from everything I have said today you realize that you cannot take this journey in life and in your careers without the people around you. It takes our families, friends, teachers, deans, and mentors to help you throughout your journey.

The key to a rewarding life in my opinion is not simply being successful and making an impact on patients’ lives. The truly rewarding part of this journey is turning around and helping the people after you make the same journey. Stewardship is merely “paying it forward”. There are countless examples around this campus of stewardship – the plaques and stones that speak to others who have given back to our profession and to the people that are coming up behind them. Pharmacy needs people that will guard and protect the profession and people who will ensure that the profession is strong for the next generation.

Paying it forward is not just about money however. Look around this room and look at all of the people here today volunteering their time and effort to be mentors. Stewardship is a powerful vessel to get others to where they want to be. Please take a moment to recognize mentors here today for their stewardship.


Closing Remarks

In closing, I would ask that you never take this White Coat for granted. This coat is not just something to put on over your nice clothes so they are not ruined. This coat is a mantle of responsibility. Every time you put on this White Coat you are shouldering the responsibility of your profession, you are shouldering the responsibility of living up to all that came before you.

Make a difference in this profession, in delivering exceptional patient care. Make it better. You can make it better whether you are an extern, a clinical pharmacist, or some guy building software. Use the ships of Mentorship, Leadership and Stewardship to help you along your journey. Finally, remember that Life is like the sidewalks here at Ohio Northern; there is no straight path to any destination.

Thank you again. God Bless.

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Tim Tannert is Chief Operating Officer at SoftWriters, a leading software solution provider servicing pharmacies that provide care to long term post-acute care patients, assisted living residents, independent living residents, pharmacies servicing group homes, correctional facilities, specialty pharmacies, and pharmacies servicing 340B contracts. Tim has an obsession for improving patient care through technology to improve processes and to help ensure the best possibly quality.