"I think it was inevitable that I’d eventually find myself in a career in academia..."
University of South Carolina alumna Caitlin Musgrave Mardis (2011 Pharm.D.) will tell you that from a young age, she's had a passion for teaching. Returning to her alma mater allowed her to lean into this passion, as both the Director of Continuing Education and a faculty member who tries to bring a little "magic" to her classroom.
Tell us about what you do:
In my current role as a faculty member at the College of Pharmacy, I am lucky to have the opportunity to coordinate education both for students and for actively practicing pharmacists and pharmacy technicians! I teach various topics throughout our Pharm.D. curriculum (immunosuppression, transplantation, women’s health), co-coordinate our Clinical Assessment lab course for P3 students (where I draw on my background practicing in both the outpatient and inpatient settings to help better prepare students for rotations), and coordinate our P4 Clinical Seminar course (through which I particularly enjoy helping students improve and feel more confident in their presentation and public speaking skills).
The College of Pharmacy is an ACPE-accredited provider of continuing pharmacy education, and in my role as the Director of Continuing Education, I plan college-hosted CE activities and also work with hospital systems and organizations throughout the state and country to facilitate and accredit CE events for their employees and members. I love working with pharmacy residents throughout the state to improve their preparation and training to develop quality CE activities throughout their careers as well as finding ways to continue to expand the college’s contributions to the continuing professional development of our alumni, preceptors, and pharmacy community.
How did you originally get interested in your field?
My path to my current position wasn’t a direct one, and I’m very grateful for that! Though I worked exclusively in the community setting during pharmacy school, I ultimately developed a passion for solid organ transplant pharmacy and completed two years of residency training at MUSC. I then practiced as a transplant pharmacist at VCU in Richmond, Virginia prior to returning to MUSC first as a transplant pharmacist and then as the Assistant Director of Transplant Quality. My husband Andrew (another transplant-trained pharmacist!) and I ultimately moved back to Columbia to be closer to family and friends, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join the faculty at my alma mater.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Our son Max will turn two in April, and there is no question that being “Mama” is both the hardest and most rewarding job I’ve ever had!
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Though I know “teacher” is a default answer for many children, it was an honest answer for me. My AP teachers in high school (shout out to Mrs. Dockery, Mr. Ford, Mr. Sacco, and Mr. Kosanke) took so much pride in their students’ performance, and I would not have been as motivated to work hard if I hadn’t felt that they were working equally hard to ensure I had the best educational experience possible. As a result, I came to UofSC as a freshman English major and planned to become an English professor. While I ultimately decided that I wanted to pursue a career that wouldn’t require me to give up my passions for math and science and interest in health care, I think it was inevitable that I’d eventually find myself in a career in academia.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
It’s funny how much the pandemic has put things in perspective, isn’t it? Right now, my dream is to be able to resume two dinner parties that were a weekly occurrence for us until March 2020. The first is with my parents, who would drive down to Columbia once a week to spend time with our son Max; we’d grab some take-out after work and enjoy time together before they headed back to Fort Mill. The second is with our best friends Elliot (another Class of ’11 grad!) and Ryan – each week for the 3 years since we moved to Columbia, we had “Plated for Four” night where we’d spend the night cooking together and eating far too much food. These have been some of our greatest losses of the pandemic, and we are counting down the days until we are all fully vaccinated!
What would your superpower be?
I would personally rather be a wizard than a superhero, and I would love the ability to be able to disappear (“disapparate”) from one location and then reappear (“apparate”) in another location. Can you even imagine the increased efficiency and time gained?
What is your advice for current students / future pharmacy professionals?
Given that I’ve held several different roles in my career thus far, prospective students often ask me which has been my “favorite” and are surprised when I don’t have an answer for them. Each of my past roles has given me the experience necessary to be effective in my current position, and I have always been intentional about identifying what I find personally fulfilling and enjoyable in each role and committing to that as my purpose – whether that was getting to know patients in clinic, working with the multidisciplinary team on the floor, identifying opportunities to improve patient safety and outcomes on a program-level, or educating and mentoring pharmacy students.
Everyone’s career pathway will look different: some may find their “dream job” immediately after finishing their training and remain there for the rest of their career. Others may find that their dreams change. Others may find ways to adapt, adjust, and advance their current position or to create a new one. Regardless of the path your career takes or what role you find yourself in, don’t lose sight of all of the good that you are doing and the positive impact you are having on others.
Why did you choose the University of South Carolina?
I have a very distinct memory of sitting in the lobby of Capstone with a yellow Walkman listening to a Beach Boys cassette. I was 8 years old at the time, and my older brother Ethan was moving in to begin his freshman year at UofSC. Two years later, it was my brother Adam’s turn to move in (to the since-demolished Honeycomb Towers). Those years were full of trips to Columbia for Honors College picnics on the Horseshoe, Parent’s Weekend football games at William’s Brice (my sincere apologies to the lady sitting in front of us who had to deal with my elementary school-self hitting her in the head with a pom pom for an entire Tennessee game), and graduation ceremonies at the old Coliseum. When it was finally my turn a decade later, there was no question about where I was going to attend college; in fact, I didn’t go on a single tour of another campus. After all, I had already been well-conditioned to the scorching heat and unrelenting humidity.
What is your favorite course or subject to teach?
Though I’m sure students would say that I’m willing to talk their ears off about any subject, the most fun I have at the college is coordinating the solid organ transplant elective that I co-teach with my husband. This year, we had a semester-long Hogwarts-style “House Cup” competition between our four organ-themed houses: Gryffincor, Huffandpuff, Renalclaw, and Sliveryn. We also have a “fact or fiction” assignment that requires students to evaluate episodes of popular TV shows to assess their accuracy in displaying transplant scenarios. We try to have as much fun as possible with the course, and we love getting to introduce students to an area of pharmacy that they otherwise would have little exposure to during their didactic coursework!
If you have questions related to Continuing Education or are interested in developing CE activities or serving as a speaker, please contact Caitlin and the Office of Continuing Education at CE@cop.sc.edu.
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