Ronald Hugh Small, former pharmacy executive at Wake Forest Baptist Health, died Oct. 29, 2023. He was 81 years old.
Small is credited with many accomplishments during the more than three decades he served as chief of the North Carolina health system’s pharmacy department.
Under Small’s leadership, the department transitioned from a distributive service to one focused on patient care; implemented a robotics system for inpatient drug dispensing; documented the financial benefits of clinical pharmacy services; initiated a communitywide continuity-of-care program; and established a patient-focused quality management environment.
Small’s passion for leadership extended beyond the pharmacy department and underscored the concept that even natural leaders can improve their skills. He earned a Six Sigma yellow belt and was an International Coaching Federation-certified executive coach and a certified quality improvement trainer.
And, as a faculty member of the ASHP Foundation Pharmacy Leadership Academy (PLA), Small helped many pharmacists develop their own leadership skills.
“Ron was a wonderful, caring person and an exceptional and inspiring pharmacist and leader,” said ASHP CEO Paul W. Abramowitz. “During his years as a PLA faculty member and throughout his career, he exemplified good leadership while teaching others how to become better leaders themselves. His death is a loss for ASHP, and the pharmacy profession.”
Billy W. Woodward, former corporate director of pharmacy for the Scott & White Health System in Temple, Texas, got to know Small well when they served together as PLA faculty.
“He was such a good teacher and a mentor to a lot of people — and he was a great friend,” Woodward said. He called Small a natural leader with a solid set of principles and a strong work ethic who cheerfully stepped up when asked to take on unexpected tasks.
“He did it all so well, and he took things in stride and kept his sense of humor,” Woodward said.
Small’s service to ASHP included representing North Carolina in ASHP’s House of Delegates and participating as a member the ASHP Pharmacy Practice Management Advisory Group. He was named an ASHP Fellow in 1997.
Small was also active as a pharmacy educator and leader in his home state. He held adjunct faculty appointments at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the Campbell University School of Pharmacy. Campbell University awarded Small an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2004.
He served a term as president of the North Carolina Society of Hospital Pharmacists in 1993–1994 and was the 1995 recipient of the pharmacy society’s Innovative Practice Award.
Small received the SunHealth (Premier) Innovator Award in 1995. He was named a Fellow of the American Pharmaceutical Association in 1999.
Small was born Sept. 8, 1942, to Willie Hue Small and Annabelle (Hagwood) Small of Burlington, North Carolina. The first member of the family to attend college, Small studied pharmacy at UNC–Chapel Hill, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1966. In 1987, he received a master’s degree in business administration from UNC–Greensboro.
In an essay he penned for the 2014 edition ASHP’s Letters to a Young Pharmacist, Small credited his mother with inspiring him to follow his passion and find a career that helps people. As a teen, Small met a local community pharmacist who hired him to deliver medications and do odd jobs around the store. The pharmacist, Homer Andrews, became an early mentor as Small worked his way through UNC and earned the scholarships that helped him complete his studies.
Small practiced pharmacy at Medical Park Hospital in Winston–Salem, North Carolina, before moving to nearby Baptist Hospital in 1975. He remained with the organization, now known as Wake Forest Baptist Health, for more than 35 years, taking on new responsibilities as the hospital and its affiliates expanded.
Small served as the medical center’s director of pharmacy and, from 2002 to 2004, he was chief pharmacy officer for Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Under Small’s leadership, the Institute for Health Care Improvement recognized the hospital in 2003 for excellence in quality related to antimicrobial management.
In 2004, Small was promoted to vice president for quality outcomes, a new executive-level position with responsibility for pharmacy services, infection control, and outcomes management.
After retiring from the health system in 2011, Small worked as a traveling consultant and executive coach for The Joint Commission and other organizations. He continued this work until 2022.
Jeannell Mansur, principal consultant in medication management and safety for Joint Commission Resources and Joint Commission International, fondly recalled working with Small on site visits to exotic locales.
“Ron and I had the opportunity to dine alongside the Panama Canal, walk the Great Wall of China (partially!) and see the Taj Mahal as we conducted workshops on sterile compounding,” Mansur said. “I will miss our calls and our reunions at the Midyear Clinical Meeting.”
Small is survived by his wife of 47 years, Pamela Jo (Beroth) Small; daughter Kimberly Myers; brother, Larry Small; and grandchildren Jordan Myers and Joseph Myers.