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College of Pharmacy

  • Screenshot of female speakers on video call

COP Celebrates Women’s History Month

Pharmacy students, alumni, faculty and staff recently joined together for a virtual panel discussion as part of the college’s celebration of Women’s History Month. Topics centered around advocating for yourself in the workplace, work-life integration, leadership roles in pharmacy and mentoring.

Several alumni took part in the panel including Christi Epps, (’97), chief pharmacy officer of HopeHealth, Inc. in Florence, South Carolina; Carrie Smoak (’04), staff pharmacist with Medicine Mart Pharmacy in Lexington, South Carolina; Summershone Graham, (’14), pharmacist in charge with Kaiser Permanente, Southwood Outpatient Infusion Pharmacy in Jonesboro, Georgia; Krutika Mediwala Hornback, (’15), infectious diseases clinical specialist with the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina; and Reina Shimozono, (’17), clinical informatics pharmacist with St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon, Illinois.

As the panelists individually represented various graduation time frames, each brought a unique perspective to the discussion. While some panelists experienced roadblocks in finding leadership roles for women, they noted that more opportunities have opened up for women in the past several years, especially given the increase in the number of females graduating from pharmacy programs.

Women have been underrepresented in leadership roles in my experience. I was typically the only female in the room ...

Christi Epps, Pharm.D.  Chief Pharmacy Officer, HopeHealth, Inc.

“Women have been underrepresented in leadership roles in my experience,” says Epps. “I was typically the only female in the room. I had to learn to communicate my point of view so that it did not appear to be negative.”

The panelists agreed that advocating for one’s own self, whether for a professional or personal issue, is key to achieving their own goals.

“Early on in my career, working for a large company, I could not voice my opinion,” Smoak says. “I had to learn to stand up for myself, but in the past 15-20 years, I have seen a huge shift in the role that women play in pharmacy.”

Graham feels that she faces multiple challenges as a woman of color.

“Being a woman and a Black woman, sometimes I feel that my peers don’t see me as being a pharmacist,” she says. “I have to be confident in what I’m saying, to be trusting of my knowledge and let them know I have a voice.”

Each panelist also acknowledges that having a mentor or even several mentors helped them along their career paths.

Hornback says many of her professors who were mentors are now her colleagues.

“I have had some great mentors and now I have chats with strong women who I can bounce ideas off of,” she notes. “Don’t be afraid to have more than one mentor because they may meet different aspects of your life.”

Having crucial conversations with both mentors and mentees is important ...

Reina Shimozono, Pharm.D.  Clinical Informatics Pharmacist, St. Elizabeth's Hospital

Shimozono believes that women have a greater understanding of what each is facing in their profession.

“Having crucial conversations with both mentors and mentees is important,” she says. “Being in that group of coworkers and knowing that they are supporting you and listening to you is significant.”

The panelists also stressed the importance of having a good work-life balance.

“Practicing grace is number one,” says Hornback. “Colleagues are at different stages of their lives. Things will shift and you can prioritize what is important to you.”

“Nothing says you can’t be a successful pharmacist in whatever you do,” adds Smoak. “As your circumstances change, as your family changes, your passions may change as well. Take that passion and do something with it. Do not let it burn out.”

Topics: Alumni Programs

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