Alumni Spotlight: Adrian Washington
(July 21, 2021) - The Clayton State alumni office recently sat down with new member of the Alumni Board of Advisers, Dr. Adrian Washington ’87, to discuss his professional path and how Clayton State University—at the time he attended, Clayton State College—helped him reach his goals. Dr. Washington currently serves as Vice President of Client Management for OptumRx, and was previously Director of Pharmacy Services for the Georgia Department of Community Health and the Director of Pharmacy and Therapeutics for Kaiser Permanente.
Alumni Office: Can you tell us about your background and how you ended up at Clayton State as a student?
Adrian: As I look back, the term non-traditional student most likely represented my situation. Having relocated to Georgia and living on the south side of the city, I was looking to continue my education while actively employed in the medical field. As a student, smaller class sizes and personal relationships were always important and vital to my learning and processing of information. After several searches of colleges, I chose Clayton State, which back then was a small college offering a personal learning experience and environment. After completing orientation, I knew I was in the right place and began enrolling in courses. Healthcare has always been my passion and making a difference best describes my purpose! It was through taking a number of science course and labs, I learned about pharmacy and thus pursued that career path.
What was your experience like as a student?
Clayton State offered an environment and structure that stimulated learning.
Were there any professors or staff members who had a positive impact on your experience?
Dr. Fisher comes to mind. He was Georgia Tech graduate and the manner in which he taught chemistry was fun and exciting.
How did Clayton prepare you for your future career?
The academic rigor and support at Clayton State prepared me immensely for pharmacy school (at Mercer University College of Pharmacy) and later graduate school. The tokens and wisdom of knowledge shared by the professor(s) in ensuring students understood the concepts laid the foundational skills which enabled me to do well in pharmacy school and graduate school.
What made you want to go to pharmacy school?
My passion to serve and purpose to make a difference revealed to me pharmacy school was the perfect career path enabling me to understand and articulate the complexities of human body, disease pathophysiology, and health care delivery—and using those to help make a difference in the community and people’s lives. One of great rewards in life is living your passion and purpose!
Can you tell me about your professional background and what you are doing now?
Although a pharmacist by education, in order to live my full potential in passion and purpose, I needed to go beyond the walls of the pharmacy and assume more expansive roles in management and later executive leadership, allowing me to contribute and influence decisions impacting the communities in which I served. Because of the foundational learnings at Clayton State, the rigor taught me to explore and validate my assumptions and positions. Hence, management enabled me to influence and create environments where patients could be better served and helped through understanding the importance of their medications and helping them find lower cost alternatives when financial barriers were present, that could prevent them from receiving care they needed. After serving in several advancing management positions, I returned back to graduate school to complete my MBA. During that time I was promoted to an executive position which created opportunities to where my clinical and business expertise positioned me to be a leader and influencer in several organizations, further enabling me to live my passion and purpose! Having served in managed care pharmacy, health consulting, government (health and policy) and now as a Vice President with Unitedhealth Group.
We’d love to get a little focus on your upward trajectory and how you were able to move up the professional ladder.
The trajectory, honestly, was bring attention and a voice to the under-represented and -served. As a child, and later a teenager, my siblings and I faced many challenges and struggles. The statistics were against us; however, we had a praying mother and a village in our community that helped us dream beyond the current circumstances, towards something brighter and bigger for tomorrow. With a belief in "doing the work to prepare for tomorrow," I had great mentors and wonderful hiring decisions as a manager that enable me to not be afraid to ask the question(s), accept the input and feedback from all, accept I have "blind spots," and creating an environment of inclusion and equity stimulates innovation and change. "The only constant in life is........CHANGE!”
What made you want to be a part of the Alumni Board?
First the emails from the University, and then more focused emails regarding activities at the University had me join the Alumni Association. As with most things, it fizzled out, but then after a few conversations with the alumni office, and, although I have a lot going on, I do realize we are all interconnected and I am willing to support and even come and speak to students if needed.
What do you hope to see accomplished while you are on the Board?
Education is important to me. I have repeatedly shared, Clayton State was one of the most challenging academic institutions I've attended. To that I am thankful as I want to give back and pay forward. Being a part of the board, my hope is to contribute to deepening the relationships between the institution and students through active engagement.