An interview with Isaac Butler, vice president of the St. Louis College of Pharmacy’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion encourages broad participation in health care careers and fights disparities in health and other life outcomes.
What makes you a diverse business leader? My multidimensional impact on people and organizations as a pharmacist, ordained minister, certified diversity facilitator and life coach. I am able to use my experiences in corporate, higher education and as an entrepreneur to help people and organizations achieve success and significantly impact others. At the St. Louis College of Pharmacy (STLCOP), I serve on our senior leadership team as vice president for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and teach in several courses as an adjunct assistant professor. My team and I provide leadership to the campus community to embrace and leverage differences in cultures, world views and abilities to help ensure our clinicians are prepared to provide exceptional patient care and our community effectively engages as citizens in an increasingly diverse and global society. We accomplish our mission through recruiting and retention programs, classroom education, and through various campus spaces and programming. In addition to my work at STLCOP, I provide workshops, speaking engagements, and individual coaching to individuals and groups at corporations, nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
What is your biggest accomplishment related to diversity and inclusion? For the past 13 years, I have had the honor to partner as a co-founder and co-director with Steven Player in serving over 600 students as part of the BESt Summer Institute. The program is a collaborative partnership between Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Express Scripts and STLCOP. Each year, BESt serves up to 70 students from 28 area high schools, with the overarching goal of establishing a diverse, culturally competent pipeline of health care educators, researchers and practitioners who are equipped to serve the St. Louis region. Program outcomes include 99% of students completing the program enroll in college after high school, with 87% opting to pursue health care and 40% choosing to pursue pharmacy. Over the past three years, we have successfully recruited 27 students from BESt to attend STLCOP. Our focus is to ensure the students achieve their goals of becoming health care providers. Therefore, we developed a retention and persistence program that has maintained an average GPA of 3.2 and a 91% retention rate.
What else do you want to accomplish? Within the next two years, my hope is to establish a National Institutes of Health and St. Louis regional employer funded program to prepare and support underrepresented undergraduate student acceptance into doctorate and/or terminal degree health care provider programs. We plan to submit for funding in spring of 2020 in hopes of launching the program summer of 2021.
One living person you admire for their work in diversity and inclusion? The person I admire for his faith, family commitment, community impact, and work in diversity and inclusion is Steven Player, executive director for the Center of Diversity and Cultural Competence at Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJH). His work leading the diversity efforts at BJH helps to ensure that patients who access the largest hospital in our state have equal access to high quality care regardless of their social identity. It is a pleasure to serve with him leading the BESt Summer program and learning from his dynamic and transformation leadership.
Your most rewarding volunteer experience? As a liaison with Faith and For the Sake of All. In this role I help facilitate workshops to educate area faith communities about the disparities in health and other life outcomes for African Americans that exist in St. Louis. I travel with other liaisons to various churches, synagogues, ethical societies and other faith communities to discuss the reasons why racial disparities exist in the region and highlight the issues that racial segregation has created.
College? Doctorate of pharmacy, University of Missouri-Kansas City; MBA, University of Missouri-St. Louis; and Bachelor of Science in chemistry, University of Missouri-Columbia. Currently pursuing a master’s in Christian leadership from Dallas Theological Seminary.
Family? My wife, Lakesha Butler, who is a pharmacist, professor and diversity coordinator at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville School of Pharmacy, and we have two children, Isaac II and Kennedy.
Where can people find you if you’re not at the office? When I am not in the office you will either find me at one of my kid’s activities or serving at church. I have the privilege to serve as one of the ordained ministers and a leader for several ministry leaders at the Ark of Safety Christian Church.
What’s on your reading list? Right now I am reading two books: “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” by Peter Scazzero, and “Leading from the Second Chair” by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson.
What’s one thing St. Louis does right and one thing it could do better? Right: St. Louis has a tremendously generous giving community. We have one of the top United Way organizations in the country and countless organizations and individuals who willingly give their resources to better the community. Better: We need to do a much better job of being intentionally focused on implementing solutions that benefit our region. Our lack of collaborative efforts across municipalities, city and county limit our ability to maximize our progress and success as a region.
What can St. Louis do better to promote a more diverse group of people to leadership positions? Be intentional. Organizations in the region must be intentional about what type of diversity is needed for their organization, determine what institutional processes will be followed to help ensure recruitment and retention of the leaders, and provide the development and resources needed for the leaders to be successful.
What can the region as a whole do to make St. Louis more attractive to diverse talent from elsewhere? Be honest about the obstacles and opportunities.