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Growing our next leaders

College of Pharmacy alumni help students build leadership skills

Students in the College of Pharmacy have a lot on their plates, from lectures to lab work to rotations. Much is demanded of them to become skilled in their profession. 

Just as important are their leadership abilities, which can take on many distinct roles. While some students have a natural tendency to lead, others step into leadership gradually by participating in extracurricular programs, involvement in professional organizations or joining study groups. No matter how a student gains leadership skills, those abilities will serve them throughout their career.

What other ways will students learn except by having mentors who came before them? Being a mentor reinvigorates me.

Jennifer Bair, ’99, executive director of Pharmacy for Prisma Health – Midlands, did not recognize how much she would gain from her leadership roles in college until she moved into her career. Active in several organizations as a student, Bair advocates that, to get things done, networking is key.

“Creating relationships is important to leadership,” she says, “and getting involved is a way to create those relationships throughout your entire career.”

Bair, who helped launch the college’s chapter of the Student Society of Health-System Pharmacists and was also a member of Kappa Psi, Kappa Epsilon and the Student National Pharmaceutical Association, says that observing how others led helped her develop her style of leadership.

“Different people have different leadership skillsets, and watching others helped me determine how I wanted to be as a leader,” she says. “What other ways will students learn except by having mentors who came before them? Being a mentor reinvigorates me.”

Sam McCallum, ’18, is associate safety director for Genentech, a biotechnology company researching groundbreaking science to discover and develop medicines for people with serious and life-threatening diseases. 

McCallum participated in Phi Lambda Sigma and Phi Delta Chi and served as president of the college’s American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists chapter. 

“Getting involved always seems to position people for success,” he says. “There is an adage — ‘opportunity looks like hard work’ — and that cannot be more true for student organizations.”

As an alumnus, McCallum feels an obligation to support students in finding their futures.

“My path has been paved by those who stepped out of the mold of the traditional pharmacist,” he says. “It takes alumni involvement to serve as role models and reveal those connections to new opportunities.”

Meg Freiter, ’19, is a senior manager of pharmacy practice with the American Pharmacists Association. She completed a legislative internship with the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists and rotations in health care advocacy with APhA and the National Community Pharmacists Association. 

Freiter served as class president, vice president of Rho Chi, and graduated with leadership distinction as a Walker Leadership Scholar.

“My career has been entirely impacted by the Walker Leadership Scholars program,” Freiter says. “I had the chance to collaborate with faculty, doing needs assessments, and put what we developed into practice. It gave me hands-on experience in program development.

“Remaining connected to the College of Pharmacy is a wonderful way to remain inspired. It serves as a reminder of how you can be a spark for someone else.”

Asia Johnson, ‘21, served as president of the Student Government Association, along with a host of other student organizations, including KE, PLS, APhA, ASHP, and ACCP.

“Taking part in all these organizations taught me so much about myself,” she says. “Interacting with others helped me learn how to communicate with various personalities and gathering context on the best way to work with others.”

Jordan Jones, class of 2023, who is a member of the Pediatric Pharmacy Association, PLS, president of Rho Chi and a Walker Leadership Scholar, spent her first year as a pharmacy student trying to determine in what field of pharmacy she might want to concentrate.

“I decided to apply for the Walker Leadership Scholars program to grow more confident as a leader. I chose to run for president of Rho Chi to further build on my leadership experience and was able to become more organized,” she says.

Shannon Leighton, class of 2023, is president of SNPhA and a member of PLS, APhA, KE and a Walker Leadership Scholar. She also volunteers for the Gamecock Pharmacy Assurance program, providing insight to pre-pharmacy students as they transition to the professional program.

She also feels supported by alumni of the Walker Leadership Scholars program.

“Prior scholars who have graduated have reached out to us and shared their experiences,” she says. “To have their insight helps me discern what I want to do, and I hope to be able to do the same for others after I graduate.”

Emily Brackett, class of 2023, is the current Student Government Association president and is active with SNPhA as chair for Carolina Cares 4 Kids, among other leadership roles.

“When I get to rotations, preceptors will be looking for problem solvers, and serving in these roles has taught me how to work under pressure,” Brackett says. “I want to encourage alumni to stay active with the college. We love to hear from them in how they chose their goals, and it’s important to remember that someone did it for them.”

If you would like to learn more about supporting students at the College of Pharmacy as a mentor, friend of the college or through financial support, please contact Terry Dixon.


Topics: Alumni Programs, Support the College

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