Debbie Tapley, MBA, ‘84, is the recipient of the College of Pharmacy’s inaugural Outstanding Friend of the College award.
Tapley found her way to Columbia in 1978 after graduating with her Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy from the University of Connecticut. She joined Richland Memorial Hospital’s pharmacy residency program.
“I really had no intention of staying for more than a year but then one thing led to another,” she says.
Her interest in pharmacy was inspired by her grandmother, a medical technologist in their hometown hospital in Hartland, Maine.
“I would wander around the hospital and thought I wanted to be a technologist as well, but my mother suggested I should look at something more demanding,” she says. “A friend suggested pharmacy, and after I looked it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica, I never thought about anything else.”
Following residency, Tapley took a pharmacist position on the night shift. After the pharmacy director asked her to consider managing controlled substance distribution in surgical services, her career began an upward trajectory. She earned her MBA from the University of South Carolina in 1984 and advanced to director of the hospital’s pharmacy, eventually rising to system vice president of clinical operations for Palmetto Health.
Throughout her career, Tapley saw the significance of the hospital's affiliation with USC and the importance of expanding the pharmacy residency program.
“After I became director, my entire livelihood centered around the ability to get great, qualified people onto our staff, and a significant portion of those individuals came from USC,” she says. “Over my career, I have watched the progression of the profession and how fast it has changed. Having students around ensures you must constantly stay abreast of the most current trends in the industry.”
Tapley has always felt mindful about the profession’s future practitioners.
“I think about how this incredible education has contributed to my life,” she says. “I believe we have a responsibility to give back and to support the program.”
Tapley says she is honored to be recognized as the first recipient of the Outstanding Friend of the College award, which is presented to non-alumni who best exemplify commitment and support of the college through volunteerism, philanthropy and service.
“The college has been a significant part of my journey but has been on its own journey as well,” she says. “The profession has grown and changed over the years, and I cannot wait to see what it will look like in the future. By staying affiliated with the university, I get to see that journey.”