"When an exciting opportunity presents itself - Just do it!"
Posted on: March 13, 2020
Posted on: March 13, 2020
University of South Carolina alumna Donna J. Walker (1979 B.S., pharmacy, 1984 MBA) created and endowed the Walker Pharmacy Leadership Scholars Endowment Fund, launching a student leadership initiative that identifies, educates, and recognizes pharmacy student leaders at the UofSC College of Pharmacy.
I did not follow a linear path in my profession. When I graduated from the College of Pharmacy, I worked in my father’s pharmacy in community practice. After I passed my boards, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to work with the American Pharmaceutical Association in Washington, D.C. It was an incredible experience.
From there, I started graduate school – I came back to the University of South Carolina and got my MBA. I combined that business knowledge with my clinical professional background and went to work for 3M, progressing through their ranks to become the Director of Marketing for 3M Pharmaceuticals in Minneapolis and then Director of Sales and Marketing for North America with the 3M Telecom Division in Austin, Texas.
In 1996, my husband and I started a family foundation, The Pulido-Walker Foundation, to help youth who may not have the support and opportunities that we had to “get to the starting line” to run life’s race. A few years later, in 2006, we bought property in Napa and now have a winery. We’ve taken a more scientific approach to wine-making. We bought 115 acres that had never been planted with vineyards and studied its potential with five years of weather station data, over 100 soil pits, and correlation studies to determine the potential for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon grapes--so for the last 10 years that’s what we’ve been doing.
I’m always going to be a pharmacist, even if I’m not practicing pharmacy. Working with the College of Pharmacy and the Walker Leadership Scholars keeps me connected to the profession.
My father was a pharmacist and really a “renaissance guy.” He practiced clinical pharmacy before there was such a field. He had a fountain in his pharmacy where the doctors in the area came in the afternoons and they talked about their patients and developed programs to monitor them. He really demonstrated compassion – taking your education and helping people – that inspired me.
On a professional level, I have led many high performing teams to achieve major goals across both the pharmaceutical and telecom industries of which I am very proud — But my greatest achievement personally is in my job as mother to an incredible son.
My husband and I both over time developed the mantra we actually used for the Walker Leadership Scholars program – “Pursue the possible.” Everybody has different possibilities, but I think that if you determine that you’re going to go after whatever that is and seek excellence in that, then the possibilities of what you can achieve are endless. The other thing we taught our son always is, "Dream big, work hard, and give back.”
I love to walk on the beach—my happy place—or in the vineyards. Or read a great book. My family loves to travel and explore. Our adventures include outdoor, nature, and wildlife. Most recently we went to Rwanda and went gorilla trekking — it was so amazing.
I would like to have a diverse group of people representing many different facets of like — so my dinner party would include: Condoleezza Rice, Pope Francis, Maria Shriver, LeBron James, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Bono.
Recently I have read Brene Brown’s Dare to Live, Nikki Haley’s With All Due Respect, and Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers.
A few tips:
My time at Carolina was very formative and gave me incredible leadership opportunities and experiences that grew my skills. I had just started pharmacy school when Dean Julian Fincher asked me to represent the College of Pharmacy at a regional student leadership meeting in Memphis, Tennessee. I had never been to Memphis before so I agreed.
That was a transforming experience – I met pharmacy students from all over our region that I would see again at the national meeting a few months later. Collectively, we developed policies that went to the student delegation and those that passed went on to our more senior colleagues in the “real world.” It was eye-opening for me to see what an impact we could have as student-leaders. In addition, I met four incredible women through these meetings that are life-long friends. These friendship have been a gift in my life.
I am so blessed in my life with incredible friends, family, and life experiences. My family has been fortunate to have travelled to some amazing parts of the world — But a few things on the top of my bucket list are: