Dean Angela Kashuba, B.Sc.Phm., Pharm.D., DABCP, FCP, is the first female dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Dean Kashuba first joined the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty in 1997, went on to be named the John and Deborah McNeill, Jr. Distinguished Professor in 2013, and was appointed chair of the School’s Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics in 2015. She also serves as Director of the UNC Center for AIDS Research Clinical Pharmacology and Analytical Chemistry Core. Senate’s Spruha Shah had the pleasure of meeting with Dean Kashuba via Zoom to discuss her distinguished career path, various passions, her advice for students, what motivated her to be a successful leader, and her vision for the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
Sit with Senate (SWS): What influenced your decision to pursue pharmacy and your current position at ESOP?
Dean Angela Kashuba (AK): My mom is who influenced my decision to pursue pharmacy. I didn’t really know that much about the pharmacy profession until she and I went to the open house at the University of Toronto. I was really impressed at how excited the students were about the profession and that really sparked my interest. I took courses focused in therapeutic areas like infectious disease and oncology and they resonated with me. After I finished my pharmacy degree, I pursued a residency and worked for several years as a critical care pharmacist. I then received my PharmD from the State University of New York at Buffalo and completed a postdoctoral clinic pharmacology fellowship. After my fellowship I searched for a faculty position across the country. During this search I quickly realized that only UNC was truly doing multidisciplinary collaborative research. The pharmacy school was excited to connect me to faculty in the infectious disease division in the school of medicine because they knew thy would be my future collaborators. I feel I’ve had a wonderful career so far and am continually excited about our profession.
AK: In terms of what influenced my decision to become dean, over the 23 years that I have been here at UNC I have fallen in love with this school and with this university. I love that this position allows me an opportunity to help fulfill the hopes and dreams of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
SWS: What is your day to day like as the dean?
AK: My day to day as a dean is a lot different now then it was back in October when I started. Currently, it’s composed of a lot of meetings via Zoom. On Mondays I spend time with my lab. We are part of the UNC Center for AIDS Research and my lab houses a core facility that works with up to 100 investigators a year globally helping them with their research. The rest of the week is reserved for the school. For example, this week I will have meetings with the provost around how to come back to campus safely. I also have meetings regarding finances, mentoring, global work, our partnership in patient care with the pharmacy department at UNC Health, and our strategic plan in diversity, equity, and inclusion. There are a lot of exciting things happening in the school that I get to be a part of and it changes daily.
AK: However, the one thing that Zoom does not give me right now, and the biggest thing that I miss, is being able to connect with our alumni. In the time that I have been in this role, I have loved getting out into the state to meet our alumni and hear their stories. They are absolutely fantastic and trying to meet via Zoom has been challenging. We have done a few things with our alumni, but I’m really itching to be able to travel again and see them face to face, and share all the new opportunities we are pursuing.
SWS: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
AK: It’s the people! I love meeting with students, staff, faculty, and alumni. It’s the people that made us number 1 and has kept us as number 1. Being able to vision, dream, and plan for the future with them is really exciting to me.
SWS: What makes ESOP special to you?
AK: Again, it’s really our people, but it’s also the culture of collaboration and innovation, and those low stone walls we have at UNC. Additionally, it’s that unrest in people; they always want to get to that next level, to be better, and to do better is inspiring. I like that sense of urgency of trying to be able to meet the healthcare needs of our society. Our culture is very unique and something that I love about the school.
SWS: What research endeavors are you currently participating in?
AK: My lab focuses on HIV prevention, treatment, and cure. We do that either at a cellular level, at an animal level, or through clinical trials. We are wrapping up one grant from the NIH on visualizing drug distribution into tissues to see if antiretrovirals are going to all places where HIV hides out. We are trying to understand how antiretrovirals get into important areas of the body like lymph nodes, the spleen, or gut. We are also in the middle of another grant from the NIH looking at the value of visualizing drug in hair as a measure of drug adherence. We are also looking at cell systems that might identify effective drug therapies or cures, and help us screen drugs efficacy efficiently. Lastly, we are starting a study with Merck regarding optimal HIV drug dosing in pregnancy for one of their new HIV medications.
SWS: What’s the best advice you’ve received? What advice would you give to future leaders?
AK: There is a quote by Nelson Mandela that is hanging up at the entrance to the laboratory. It says, “It always seems impossible until it’s done” and that is something our lab lives by. We tend to tackle things that nobody else wants to tackle because it’s really hard. The best advice is to never consider something is impossible. Do not be afraid to fail because if you don’t fail you don’t learn anything. I believe failure is just as important as success.
AK: I would remind future leaders to consider what their legacy will be at each place they train or work. Always think about how you can leave a place in better shape than when you got there.
SWS: Do you see any problems in the pharmacy field? How can student pharmacists help?
AK: I love that our students have legislative day because I think the more we can educate our leaders on pharmacy and what pharmacists can do, the better. I think society generally still sees only one aspect of the pharmacy profession and that is primarily in a dispensing role. We have moved beyond that pretty extensively, but we still need to do more to change the community pharmacy business model in particular. We have here in NC the opportunity to help all pharmacists practice at the top of their license. One way that we can do this is to obtain reimbursement for cognitive services in a collaborative practice model for doing comprehensive medication management. I understand that most North Carolinians live within 5 miles of a pharmacy, and we are a trusted profession. With pharmacists readily accessible, and data demonstrating better patient outcomes when pharmacists manage patient medications, we have the potential to have a much healthier society if pharmacists are allowed to practice at the top of their license. It requires a lot of advocacy, education, and collaborative efforts with our clinician colleagues, our insurance partners, and our government representatives. I would encourage our students to continue to educate and advocate for the profession.
SWS: What are your interests/hobbies outside of pharmacy? How do you balance your various roles?
AK: Outside of pharmacy, I love to cook and bake. I love to watch my daughter play soccer and son play ice hockey and lacrosse. I also love watching my beloved Toronto Maple Leaves! Every year, I like to grab a couple non-science books and read those on vacation. Generally, most of what I do revolves around my family, my laboratory, and the school.
AK: In terms of balance, I may think differently than most. I do not think balance is necessarily achieved on a daily basis. Perhaps balance occurs over the course of a week, or the course of a month. I feel in balance when how I spend my time aligns with my values. When I think about what is important to people whether its family, church, community, self care, and/or work, balance happens when the proportion of time that is spent in each of these areas aligns with their importance to that person. For example, one thing that was really important to me when my children were younger was always having dinner together as a family. So, if we don’t have dinner together and everyone is off doing their own thing, which has happened more as my kids have gotten older, then I don’t quite feel in balance because I don’t feel as if we have had that daily touch point as a family. It is important to carve out time on the things that you value.