Clinical leadership case study: pharmacist and chief operating officer


John Quinn, Chief Operating Officer, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, on becoming a clinical leader.

My journey

I started my career as a hospital pharmacist at Northwick Park Hospital where I was a resident and undertook my MSc in Clinical Pharmacy. I had a good training and grounding there which set me up for a career as a clinical pharmacist specialising mainly in cardiology. After a period in academia undertaking research into the education of clinical pharmacists, I started my career in pharmacy management eventually becoming a chief pharmacist. In that role I was good with budgets and strategy, hence got more involved in corporate projects supporting the trust more widely. That was how I got noticed as someone who may have the potential in a more senior role.

I took on general management roles in addition to being Chief Pharmacist, which got me skilled in this with the safety net of my professional role. I then left that organisation to become a divisional manager leading large divisions in a major London teaching hospital. This helped me develop my leadership and management skills further until I was ready to apply for executive roles.  

I am currently Chief Operating Officer with responsibility for clinical operations, performance, emergency preparedness, private practice and service improvement.

The turning point

My first non-pharmacy role was Associate Director of Operations for clinical support which I was able to undertake while still being chief pharmacist. This was an excellent way into a corporate leadership role. 

Key barriers/challenges and how I worked through these

It is difficult in some clinical professions to progress, as you have to leave behind your own clinical profession in a way that medics or nurses do not need to do. I have managed to keep my professional links either directly through managing as a pharmacist at the same time as having a leadership role or managing pharmacy in my portfolio. Recently though, I keep involved in my profession through working with my professional body and supporting leadership in the profession.

Organisational support to make this happen

I received access to leadership programmes, in my case The King’s Fund and executive coaching, both of which were invaluable. 

My top tips

  • Get involved in beyond your remit and support your organisation more widely. 

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