“I was the first pharmacist making rounds at Wake Med. I was always there for morning work rounds and attending rounds. I was dedicated in responding to questions from physicians and other health professionals. If I didn’t have an answer, I always followed up. I worked hard to build a relationship of trust so that they could depend on me. It was a great time to help physicians, nurses, and other health professionals realize how much pharmacy can contribute to the healthcare team.” – Dean Joyner
Dean Pamela Upchurch Joyner Ed.D., M.S. Pharm is a trailblazer and innovator in the field of pharmacy. Dean Joyner was not only the first clinical pharmacist at Wake Med Hospital, but also the first female associate dean at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Her passion for the School and its students is evident. Emily Garcia of the Sit with Senate Committee had the pleasure of sitting down with Dean Joyner in March to discuss her distinguished career path, dedication to service, her advice for students, and what she is most looking forward to doing upon her retirement.
Sit with Senate: You’ve been a Tarheel for many years. Where is your favorite place on campus?
Dean Joyner: I graduated with my first degree from Carolina in 1974, and I still get that warm, fuzzy feeling at the Old Well. For me, it is so symbolic of UNC. It is also adjacent to where we have our white coat and graduation ceremonies. It is really special in the springtime for our students to file out of Memorial Hall and get their photo taken at the Old Well.
SWS: What advice do you have for future leaders in the profession of pharmacy?
DJ: A leader has to have a vision for the area that they are leading. Build trust with people that work for you. My philosophy here has always been to set a good example – you can’t expect the people working for you to do their best if you aren’t a good role model. Also, a good leader needs to be adaptable. At the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, we train our students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.
SWS: What has it been like at the forefront of creating the School’s new curriculum?
DJ: We already had a strong curriculum producing jobs for our graduates, but we were looking to the future, to the job of the pharmacist in years to come. I am especially pleased with the curriculum’s immersion experiences that allow students to apply what they are learning in the classroom. A lot of students come to pharmacy school not sure what they want to do upon graduating, and that is perfectly okay. Students should have the opportunity to see what [roles in pharmacy] they enjoy, and what they don’t, before making a career decision. Also, a growing number of our students want to be involved in research – RASP and the student-led practicum have been great additions to the curriculum.
SWS: How did your career path lead you to your position [as the executive associate dean for education]?
DJ: For my doctorate in education at NC State, I did my dissertation on a needs assessment for an off-campus PharmD program for working professionals. Dean Campbell used my dissertation and research to get funding [from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy] for this program. A week after I graduated, the School called to inform me of a new position, Director of External Professional Programs, to implement my project. I applied, and was very fortunate to get the position. Two years later, the School created a new associate dean position. People encouraged me to apply due to my practice experience and teaching experience. I think what really gave me the edge [in the application process] was my education degree. At the time, very few faculty in the country had education training. I thought, opportunities like this don’t come around often, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I remember the afternoon that Dean Campbell asked me, “How would you like to be associate dean?” I was absolutely thrilled. I certainly didn’t grow up thinking about academia, but it was really about taking advantage of opportunities as I progressed [in my career]. I had a job that I really liked, but I still wanted to grow professionally and have career options. I think it’s important to always be prepared for more than one position. I felt that at any time, if need be, I would be available and ready for a different path.
SWS: You recently received the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Service to School. What does service mean to you?
DJ: I really feel that all of us need to give back to our profession, and that is what service means to me. You need to be a “change agent.” We need to look out for pharmacy as a profession, and it takes us working together. I have been involved in professional associations since I was a pharmacy student, and it has meant a lot to my career. I have made great colleagues and friends through professional associations that have been very helpful to me – pharmacy is a small world. After retirement, I will remain involved in professional organizations, because I believe that it is an important thing to do, and I enjoy it.
SWS: You are retiring in April after more than 20 years of service to the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. What are you most looking forward to doing in your free time?
DJ: I see service as more than professional, and I am looking forward to volunteering in my retirement, to give back to my church and my community. My grandson and I want to work in soup kitchens and homeless shelters – I think it is important for him to see that part of service, and it feels so good to know you are helping others. I will certainly miss the school and the students. I always say that the best part of my job is working with students. It is a rigorous program, but I am impressed with all the things that students do for service – both in our school and in our communities.