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University of the Incarnate Word
4301 Broadway, CPO #99
San Antonio, TX 78209-6397
Founding Dean, University of the Incarnate Word,
Feik School of Pharmacy
An interview with the Dean
What inspired you to become part of the pharmaceutical profession?
When I was a little girl, I knew what I would not do. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I knew I was never going to teach. I come from a family of teachers. I would often hear my parents and their friends complain about teaching. I also knew I didn’t want to be a medical doctor because I thought they hurt people.
I was always very bright. I started kindergarten at 4 years old in Linden, Texas. Then I completed second and third grade at the same time. There was a big discussion about whether I should go to fourth grade at age 6.
When I was in the ninth grade, I remember being sick one night. The pharmacist fixed something up for me, which got me through the night. Her name was Ruth Bridges and she was the only female pharmacist that I ever saw. In the sixties there were very few women in the field.
I always wanted to do something different than the crowd. I wanted to go to the University of Texas, School of Pharmacy, but my mother said no, even though I was valedictorian and would have had my tuition paid. She didn’t want me to get lost in a school of 25,000 students. After considering Langston University, I finally decided on Dillard University in New Orleans. I visited the campus, and I knew this was my home. I walked into the registrar’s office and asked to apply. I had excellent grades, but I needed money. I was able to get a scholarship. Because there was no pharmacy program, I studied chemistry at Dillard and completed four years there.
I wanted to go to New York to get my Ph.D. Columbia turned me down, so I went to NYU. I studied chemistry and I hated it with every ounce of me. This was a turning point in my life at 20 years old — for the first time in my life I had to give up on something. It was then that my first love resurfaced. I reapplied to Columbia University, School of Pharmacy. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it, but with a wing and a prayer my fate was determined when I was accepted.
At that time, I knew I wanted to practice hospital pharmacy. I worked at Montefiore Hospital in New York during the mid-70s. It was on the cutting edge. The director of pharmacy at the hospital, Kurt Kleinman, took an interest in my career. He would send me to meetings and allowed me to work the weekend night shifts, where I could be in charge and learn as much as possible. He told me that the only way that I could have his job someday was to get a doctorate. I decided on Mercer University in Atlanta. I knew that the rest of my career depended on my doctorate, so I graduated number one in my class. One of my classmates took notice of my achievements and recommended me to help build the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Florida A&M. They brought in four clinical pharmacists to build the program and within one year I was the director. I helped build a branch campus in Miami, Florida I taught everything in the curriculum. I loved and hated it with the same passion.
What is your specialty, and why did you decide to choose it?
I found out that academia/teaching was where I belonged. It was a place where I could build something.
How long have you been involved in the profession?
What is the one goal that you have set for yourself relative to your career?
I once wanted Kurt Kleinman’s job as hospital pharmacy director at Montefiore Hospital. At Florida A&M: to produce the best doctorate program that I could; To excite my students to make much-needed changes in pharmacy; To empower them as change agents. Some of the ideas that I had 25 years ago are coming to fruition today. At Hampton University, to produce the best pharmacy school that I possibly could. I believe we have achieved that. Our graduates passed the NAPLEX and we were able to secure significant research and other funding in just a few years of existence.
On March 1, 2004, I resigned from Hampton University. My time was up. There were external forces at work — fate. That same day my husband, Larry, who was the Associate Dean at Hampton University, was asked to have lunch with a friend to talk about me working at the University of the Incarnate Word.
What do you like best about working in the pharmaceutical field?
There could not possibly be one thing. In academics, seeing the students finally get it.
In pharmacy, being close to cutting-edge medicine techniques and new drugs and how they are used. I am close to medicine, but far enough away that I can escape the daily pain of human suffering.
What are your most proud accomplishments in your profession? In your life?
Personal – my family and friends.
Professional – helping to build the first doctoral program on the campus of Florida A&M; building the school at Hampton University; and the products of each, such as Dr. Vivian Johnson who is now the director of pharmacy at Parkland Memorial Medical Center in Dallas,Texas. I am the only female AA to ever found a school of pharmacy and the only female to start two schools of pharmacy.
What goes through your mind before you go to work each day?
I know there will be challenges today. Am I up to them? YES! And I’m glad I’ve got the challenges to keep me excited about life.
What is your favorite part of the day?
I’m not a morning person. Between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. the kids are asleep, the house is quiet, old movies are on TV, my computer is up and running. It’s my time for introspection and creation. It’s up time for my mind and down time for my body.
What, if any, barriers or challenges have you personally had to overcome?
When I had to find an internship at Columbia, I interviewed at 30 places. Even if I heard about a job, when I got there it was closed. At the last place they decided to give me a chance. I had three strikes against me – I was fat, black and female. They took a chance, and discovered I was the best thing that they could have hired.
Are there challenges within the profession? If so, what are they?
It takes six calendar years to complete pharmacy school. That’s a lot of time and money for some. Encouraging students to select pharmacy over other medical careers can be a challenge. Then, the cost of equipping a pharmacy program with appropriate faculty, facilities, and training sites, is challenging for new schools and for many of the established programs. To some extent, the profession is caught in a catch 22—we need more pharmacists to help us produce more pharmacists.
How do you address health care disparities among minority populations within your profession?
I have been dealing with this issue since the ‘80s when I introduced disparity research projects to my students. I was able to secure two grants while at Hampton University. I have been involved with the Association of Minority Health Profession Schools and the National Center for Minority Health. In San Antonio, the majority population is Hispanic, introducing language and other barriers that need to be addressed.
Who is/are your role model(s) or mentor(s)?
I had a math teacher at Dillard University, who showed me that I can control a classroom. I keep expectations high for student performance and require them to present themselves professionally at all times.
Another mentor for me was Dr. Charles Walker, former Dean at Florida A&M.
Additionally, I have learned something from every colleague with whom I have worked.
What are your plans for the future?
I wanted to retire early, but I have a college student who deserves the same opportunities that his sister had. I will dedicate at least the next seven years to building a pharmacy school at Incarnate Word. And then we will see where the world takes me.
What words of wisdom do you have for students just graduating?
Get personal liability insurance. Get a financial planner.
Treat each patient as if you were on the other side of the counter.
Participate in pharmacy organizations.
Give back to the profession, to your community.
Do something that changes the way pharmacy works. All changes begin with one person.
What do you like to do in your spare time (hobbies, interests, sports, travel, volunteering)?
I love to travel. We took family on a tour of America in a mobile home. I spent a year in Saudi Arabia where I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I hope to get back to playing piano. I like to sew work with crafts. I am involved with the activities of my sorority.
Please provide spouse and children names (if appropriate)?
Son – Lawrence Marshall, Engineering student at North Carolina A&T University
Daughter - Ehriel, Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
Husband – Larry Fannin, Dean, University of Southern Nevada College of Pharmacy, South Jordan, Utah campus