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The Next Chapter: Pharmacist Learns the Business of Medicine at the University of Sioux Falls

Mar 29, 2015 12:05PM ● By MED Magazine

By Staff Writers

Avera McKennan Hospital’s Director of Hospital Pharmacy, Thomas Johnson, knew a great deal about pharmacy when he graduated from North Dakota State with his Pharm D in 1997. But a decade in the field taught him that he still had a lot to learn about the business of medicine.

Johnson was teaching at South Dakota State University’s College of Pharmacy when he made the decision to pursue a Healthcare MBA at the University of Sioux Falls.

“I could tell that I probably wasn’t going to continue in my current position for the entirety of my career,” says Johnson. “I knew that I wanted to do something different and I wanted to create some additional options for myself.”

Johnson started on his MBA in 2006. Working several evenings a week while continuing to work full time, he finished the program in 2009. Almost immediately, an attractive new option opened for him. Johnson interviewed for Avera’s Director of Hospital Pharmacy position in 2010 and officially stepped into the role in January of 2011.


Today, he manages not only a multi-million dollar budget, but a staff just shy of 120 people. Neither were things he learned in pharmacy school.

“The USF MBA program definitely helped me know what I was supposed to do in this position,” says Johnson, who now teaches strategic management in the MBA program. “I had a lot of questions when I started and I can only imagine how much I would have had to ask if I had not had this training.”

Johnson says he leans on information he learned in his USF courses nearly every day, depending on what he is being called on to do. He points to Professional Communication, Financial Analysis, Organizational Structure and Design, Ethics in Leadership and Marketing as particularly valuable to his daily work.

But Johnson says the value of the program goes beyond academics.

“One of my favorite aspects was getting to know the people who were going through the program with me,” he says. “I know that I learned as much from them as I did from the course material. You become good friends and you have the opportunity to learn from people in many different areas of healthcare.”

Now, four years into his management role at Avera, Johnson recommends the USF MBA program to anyone who aspires to help direct the future of healthcare.

“If healthcare management is in their future, I would definitely encourage them to seek master’s level training. This is really necessary anymore in order to navigate the complicated world of healthcare. This kind of information makes that role so much easier,” he says.

For more information on the University of Sioux Falls Healthcare MBA program, visit