Alumni/Donor/Volunteer | Richard Ashworth, President Pharmacy and Retail Operations for Walgreens

NSU alumnus, donor and volunteer Richard Ashworth, President Pharmacy and Retail Operations for Walgreens"When I started pharmacy school, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) was Southeastern College of Pharmacy.  They merged with Nova and we moved from the old campus in Miami Beach up to Ft. Lauderdale to a larger campus as NSU. From the start though, there was something special about the faculty, the environment and the curriculum that made me feel that this was the perfect fit for me. NSU has always presented itself as a very progressive place. They didn’t follow the rules all the time, especially for pharmacy school. They went beyond the typical ‘this is the way things are historically done’ and ‘this is how things have always been done.’ They were challenging the status quo.

"NSU was agile and actually kind of hip. It was a learning environment that was ever-changing, and that was exactly what prepared you for an ever-changing business environment. And healthcare has been changing dramatically ever since my days in pharmacy school, and change most certainly continues now.

"Another thing I loved about Nova Southeastern University when we finally moved up to the new campus, was the proximity to allied health professions – Occupational Therapy, Dentistry, D.O. school [Osteopathic Medicine]. There was good interaction between the classes. So you [developed] respect and understanding of other allied professions. I came away from pharmacy school truly understanding and respecting the unique contributions and importance of each of the allied health professions. That made me a better clinician and a better health care partner for other health care professionals, which means better care.

"[At NSU College of Pharmacy,] We’ve got someone [Dean Lisa Deziel] who is passionate about the profession, and who also is thinking about tomorrow. As an advisory member and alumni, and as a donor and a corporate leader, you are pushing NSU to keep pushing the envelope, keep being progressive, keep driving for change because that is what is happening out in the real world. The business world is changing. The competitive world is changing. And consumers and patients are changing. So therefore the education and training of our leaders have to change as well.

"[At Walgreens] we are definitely trying to become customer and patient-obsessed in everything we do. And I think the root of that comes from being patient-focused as a clinician. As a pharmacist, you are focused on the needs of your patients. You’re watching them, you’re listening to them, and you’re looking for what they are not saying. You are trying to understand the totality of the person in front of you. The person in front of you is not just taking medication. The person in front of you has relationships, challenges, ups and downs, emotional states, and mental health states that are important in their overall well-being.  At Walgreens, we like to help champion the rights of everyone to be happy and healthy. That’s what we give and that’s what we focus on, and pharmacy sits right at the center of that. It’s really easy for me as a Walgreens leader to connect back and forth between what NSU is able to do and the job that I have every day."


"Corporately, [philanthropy] is more challenging. First of all corporations have a lot more to give than most people can give on a personal level.   We want to be good stewards of our customers’ money. We want to be true to the brand. We’re also a community resource, and we invest a lot in therapy, in groups like the American Red Cross and in initiatives like Red Nose Day, where all the money goes to help children move out of poverty. We’ve sold 15 million red noses in the U.S. and we’ve raised over $20 million for these charities.

"Walgreens also has the Vitamin Angel project. Every time you buy a vitamin at Walgreens, we donate a life-saving liquid vitamin for a child in a third-world country who doesn’t have access to nutrition. Similarly, we have “Get a Shot, Give a Shot,” where every time you receive an immunization, we provide immunization in a third world country, usually for malaria or some other very serious disease prevention."


"We are investing in our future. I look at our organization and think about leading 240,000 employees. The legacy and the infrastructure that our forefathers gave to put into our hands to make sure we create a company that continues to support families. I feel we have a moral obligation to our employees to ensure that we’ve got a clean, physically and environmentally safe environment so they can live in and take care of their families. At some point, I’m going to have to hand that off to someone else, and that somebody else could be sitting in an NSU classroom right this second.

"I think a lot about investing in our future in terms of new leaders. I also believe that NSU does an unbelievable job clinically preparing a well-balanced pharmacist. It’s about a broad, balanced person who can run a business, who has a business understanding, who understands the political and legal environments, but also has very sound clinical training – you need all those things together to really be able to be successful. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that NSU is one of the progressive leading institutions that is preparing balanced leaders for tomorrow."


"I find that leaders often prioritize experience over potential. For instance, at Walgreens for many years, the only way you could get “job b” is if you had “job a.” And the only way you could get “job c” was if you have “job b.” But what happens in that environment is that you get great groupthink mentality of your business. You get people who know it, and who get to the next level and bring their knowledge of the last one into the next situation. What you don’t always get is rising stars. What you don’t always get is rock stars. What you don’t get is people whose clay and constitution enables them to go from A to F. They never get to “f” because they have to go through all these other steps.

"Realizing potential means taking risks. As an individual employee you need to take a risk sometimes. Maybe it’s a role you weren’t thinking about or excited about. Maybe it’s a class or trade that you didn’t prepare for. You went to pharmacy school thinking you were going to work retail and then you got out and now you are in a nuclear pharmacy or you’re in home infusion, or you’re in the hospital. Taking a risk is one way to realize potential. Realizing potential is faith in yourself and faith in whatever organization you are working for, and faith in the training you received."


"To understand the totality of what NSU does would be a challenge, but I would ask people to spend a little time and really understand what this organization does. And if anything in there resonates with your personal beliefs or your personal focus areas, don’t hesitate to get involved. There’s a willingness by NSU to embrace the alumni community. Actually, it’s a strong desire.

"I strongly believe that you have a responsibility to invest back in the institution that helped you get to where you are. For a long time, I didn’t think of it that way. It wasn’t until I saw students coming out of a different institution, a different school that I saw we really were not getting what we need. I can sit here as a leader and be frustrated by that, or I can get off my chair and help. By investing in just a small thing like being an advisory board member, I have been allowed to help shape the future leaders coming out of NSU. I think that that’s rewarding, yes, but it almost feels like an obligation to me at this point.

"Everyone will say that they don’t have the time, but you do. You can make the time. I will tell you that this job is fulfilling, but very demanding. With 8,200 locations, I fly everywhere all of the time. But even with a hectic schedule I have been able to make time – so it can be done."