Dedicating her 30-year career to improving the health and quality of life of older adults, Mila Lasker has skillfully led Jewish Home’s in-house pharmacy and provided hands-on mentorship to 300+ pharmacy students.  

The New Jewish Home, Manhattan, is one of just a handful of skilled nursing facilities across the nation with an in-house pharmacy. While it is common to imagine the pharmacy playing a secondary, technical role, Mila Lasker’s passion and leadership has made her department integral to patients, residents, staff and students. In 2019, Mila received an Excellence in Health Care Award for Quality Improvement Champions from the United Hospital Fund. Mila, along with Nurse Practitioner Sonya Choudhury, was recognized for leading efforts that contributed to a near 40% decrease in anti-psychotic medication use at The New Jewish Home.

By the time Mila graduated pharmacy school, she had already gained experience working in hospital and retail pharmacies. Ready for more clinical involvement, beyond dispensing medications, Mila’s first job after graduating was at The New Jewish Home, working with a geriatric population. Hired in 1994 as a Clinical Pharmacist, Mila remained and grew her career at Jewish Home, eventually becoming Director of Pharmacy.

Mila was motivated to work in long-term care because of her father, who had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and lived in a nursing home towards the end of his life. While Mila was still in school, she saw firsthand how vulnerable and frail older adults became and how many were unable to advocate for themselves. That experience, Mila shared, “is something I carry with me to this day. It’s why I always try to bring comfort to our residents and patients and stay attuned to their needs. I teach all my students to do the same, because it’s extremely important when working with older people.”

Mila’s passion for her work and her warm, inclusive teaching style make her an ideal mentor. Hundreds of young people from wide-ranging backgrounds—from high school students from under-resourced communities to those completing their doctorate degrees—have benefited from Mila’s guidance and supervision.

She has taught students about drug regimen review and how to recognize potential adverse effects that can be prevented to increase patient safety, and how to work with interdisciplinary teams to review patient and resident charts. Running the nursing home’s pharmacy also meant having more control of medical formularies, so Mila can add effective medications for our older population that are therapeutically preferred at the best price—and she teaches her students to do the same.

Mila guides her team and students to effectively provide immediate consultations and answer clinical questions. Thanks to Mila’s encouragement, there are total of three pharmacists on her team who are certified immunizers. Having in-house immunizers is instrumental, as Jewish Home provides more than 1,000 influenza and COVID-19 vaccines to residents, patients and staff each year.  

What Mila finds most rewarding in her mentorship role is uncovering the potential in young people who may not see it within themselves. Mila encouraged a young, talented pharmacy technician, who was unsure what major to pursue, to apply to a Pharmacy PharmD program because she believed he was capable of completing the rigorous six-year program. Thanks to Mila’s support and guidance, he completed the application process and was accepted into the full-time program at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Throughout the six years, Mila continued to provide moral support and encouragement. Upon graduation, Mila hired him.  

Now, with nearly three decades of mentorship experience, she can’t imagine stopping, as “teaching and instilling confidence in others is my way of giving back, and it’s incredibly rewarding to celebrate their wins. It also keeps me on my toes and well-informed of the newest guidelines and practices.” Mila shares that she was “blessed to have wonderful mentors in my life, especially being an immigrant growing up and needing guidance. My mentors helped me find direction, strength, and my potential. I’m the first in my family to graduate college. Being a mentor to others is the least I can do in return.”

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