Meet Our Expert: In Dave Ehlert’s World, the Bigger the Splash – the Better!

Discover why, to Dave Ehlert, the business of pharmacy is personal.

Read time: 3 minutes

By: McKesson Health Systems Editorial Team, Dave Ehlert

It’s a story we’ve all heard before: An AP Physics class throws a wrench into a high schooler’s well-laid plans. In Dave Ehlert’s case, that’s when and where he realized he wasn’t going to be an aeronautical engineer after all. But for Dave, it wasn’t the coursework or the complex subject matter that gave him pause. It was the simple, yet life-altering realization that he just – well – wasn’t all that interested in physics. Two things he was interested in, though, were 1) helping people and 2) making as broad and as positive of an impact as possible in whatever he was doing. When contemplating how and where he could best accomplish those goals, Dave drew inspiration from a not-so-unlikely source – his older sister, a community pharmacist.

Go big or go home

Dave’s time in pharmacy school was unique, having fallen in the transitional period when pharmacists went from graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy to, instead, a Doctor of Pharmacy. Dave, looking for as much knowledge and experience as possible, graduated from the University of Wisconsin with both. Knowing that he wanted to pursue a non-traditional pharmacy role that could broadly and positively influence the delivery of health care and the practice of pharmacy – but not quite certain yet what that role may be – he followed his education up with a PGY1 residency. At the conclusion of his first residency, the opportunity for a second, specialty PGY2 residency presented itself. Still searching for his niche – one that would allow the scale and scope of his impact to be maximized – he completed a second residency. This one, which was split between the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and McKesson Medication Management, would set the stage for Dave’s career.

Today, Dave Ehlert, PharmD, MBA, FASHP, FACHE – who has been with McKesson since that PGY2 residency – currently serves as Area Vice President for the Central Region of McKesson Health Systems. He and his team have responsibility for all of McKesson’s health system pharmaceutical distribution customer relationships across an 18-state region of the United States. One area where he continues his work to contribute to improved care delivery and patient outcomes on a large scale is through his focused efforts around drug shortages. As one of the founding members of McKesson’s Critical Care Drug Task Force (CCDTF), Dave works to anticipate shifting medication demands, design systems to alleviate the impact of drug shortages, and more. In keeping with his “more is more” motto, he is also focused on addressing the root causes of drug shortages at a higher level – through public policy and legislative reform, work with regulatory agencies, and other efforts beyond the walls of McKesson. And even though Dave likes to think big, he reiterates that it all comes down to improving the delivery of care for the good of the patient. Because, he says, “That’s either my loved one or someone else’s loved one in the bed.”

Jumping in to help

That rare juxtaposition of lofty aspirations with genuine care and consideration at an individual level is evident in Dave’s personal life, too, devoting much of his time to philanthropy in hopes of making a difference for the cause at hand – but, more importantly – for the people living through it. As a die-hard fan of multiple Wisconsin sports teams, Dave – despite residing in the Twin Cities – bought season tickets for the Milwaukee Brewers several years ago. Unable to attend the majority of the games, he (along with his wife and two sons) decided to donate the bulk of their tickets to the Ronald McDonald House® and have done so every season since, allowing dozens of patients and families to make joyful memories during what may be some of their most difficult times.

Dave’s commitment to giving back doesn’t stop with donations. Each winter, you’ll find Dave – sporting his red-and-white-striped University of Wisconsin gameday bibs, no less – jumping into a frozen lake in the Midwest to raise awareness and funds for the Special Olympics as part of the organization’s annual Polar Plunge®. Giving back is something that was instilled in Dave by his parents from an early age, but it wasn’t until after his mother’s recent passing that he learned that two of her own favorite charities were Ronald McDonald House and the Special Olympics – somewhat of a full circle moment for him. This year, in honor of their grandmother, Dave’s sons – 16 and 12 – look forward to once again joining Dad in the Polar Plunge. And "You bet,” Dave says, “they’ll be wearing University of Wisconsin striped gameday bibs of their own.”

Hitting the jackpot

Dave doesn’t play the lottery, but that doesn’t stop him from thinking about what he would do if he won. Packers season tickets? Maybe. A suite at Camp Randall? Tempting. One thing he knows for sure, though, is that he wouldn’t give up on his mission to transform the delivery of care for a better patient experience and improved outcomes. Dave believes that, when used properly, medications can be good investments toward achieving that goal. “Health systems are uniquely positioned to improve the continuity of care with medication use,” he says, “and we need to better illustrate the value of medications – and how health systems directly contribute to it – by quantifying that value through the lens of all stakeholders, from an economic, clinical, and most importantly humanistic standpoint, meaning, for the benefit of the patient first and foremost.” That, for Dave, would be the big win.

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