head and shoulders photo of michaela almgren

Pharmacy professor finds her place in the classroom

Michaela Almgren pursued career in industry before joining faculty at UofSC

Clinical associate professor of pharmacy Michaela Almgren didn’t always want to teach. Her mother taught high school, her dad was a university professor, but both parents discouraged her from entering the family business. Besides, her interests lay elsewhere.

She loved science and research — she majored in biology and chemistry at Columbia College — and those twin passions led her into the pharmaceutical industry, where she spent nearly 10 years before earning her Pharm.D. degree at the University of South Carolina.

“I always wanted to work in industry,” says Almgren, who also holds a master’s in pharmacy from the University of Florida. “I really felt that that was my calling.” 

So that’s what she did, becoming an expert in the areas of sterile compounding, pharmaceutical regulations and health systems pharmacy practice. She gained additional experience in home infusion and long-term care as well as community pharmacy. 

If you asked me way back when, ‘Do you think you'll be a teacher?’ I would not have thought it would be my calling. But working with students has really turned me around, and I absolutely love it.

Michaela Almgren

But something was missing. She wanted to take her career to the next level, have a deeper impact. “I always felt like I was not really satisfied,” she explains. “I was always looking for something more.”

She found it in the classroom — first at South University, where she taught for three years before coming to Carolina as clinical faculty. Initially, she split her time between the labs at the College of Pharmacy and pharmacy operations at Prisma Health.

“The USC position was exactly what I was looking for,” she says. “Teaching clinical labs was a very much up my alley because of my experience with sterile compounding. And then in 2018 an opportunity came up to take on a clinical faculty position at Nephron.”

The industry experience, the pharmacy experience, the classroom experience — all of it came together at Nephron Pharmaceuticals, where among other duties she now leads a rotation that introduces pharmacy students to the many facets of the pharmaceutical industry, from research to regulations to the new product development pipeline.

One day, students may be involved in discussions about a new type of syringe material or potential regulatory considerations; another, they may be involved in developing an appropriate color scheme for a new Nephron product.

“We teach a lot of theory in the pharmacy school, we teach clinical science, but students really need to go beyond that,” says Almgren. “When they stay with me for a month and they learn about industry, they see how much deeper clinical knowledge goes.”

And it’s hands-on, real-world stuff, which makes it appealing to students who are eager to transition from the classroom to a career. While Almgren’s Nephron rotation is an elective, it’s popular because it provides an opportunity to explore areas of pharmacy that students had perhaps not previously considered — and to do so under the guidance of someone who has a wealth of industry experience herself.

“A lot of the students are still debating what they really want to do after graduation, so I try to introduce them to all that there is, to show them as much as I can of the industry and all that we do in this profession,” says Almgren. “And then I get to see just how excited they become. Many of them really start looking at industry for a potential career.”

As for Almgren’s own career, it’s better than she ever imagined — a perfect admixture of her original ambitions and the passion she has discovered along the way.

“If you asked me way back when, ‘Do you think you'll be a teacher?’ I would not have thought it would be my calling,” she explains. “But working with students has really turned me around, and I absolutely love it. I’ve had some really amazing job offers in the last few years, but I just cannot imagine myself doing anything else.”

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