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On a cold day in February, the Sit with Senate Committee, Jessie Kim, had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jo Ellen Rodgers, Pharm.D. Dr. Rodgers is not only known as a clinical professor in the Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics but also as the number one role model of many students at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. In this week’s faculty spotlight with Dr. Rodgers, learn about her career path, research endeavors, advice for students, and activities outside of the classroom.

“(On the question of: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?) Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Graham’s epitaph reads ”End of construction. Thank you for your patience”. It is the idea that we are always under construction: learning, growing, thus becoming smarter and better.I believe that this is the mindset that we should all have in both our personal and professional lives: be more humble and patient with yourself.”

Sit with Senate: How did your career path lead you to your position?
Jo Ellen Rodgers: I never thought about teaching when I started pharmacy school. However, as the opportunities arose, I wanted to see whether I would enjoy teaching or not, so I applied for the TA position. My TA experience was very challenging, but it made me learn the pharmacy materials better, and ultimately, teaching experience molded me into a better future practitioner. Furthermore, my impressive group of students and fellow TAs made my experience so much more enjoyable. Since I enjoyed the aspects of teaching so much, when I was looking at residency programs, I particularly looked for programs affiliated with the major schools of pharmacy in academic medical centers. I completed my residency at VCU,  in Richmond, Virginia. After my residency, I realized that I wanted more exposures to research, so I completed a fellowship at UNC.  Now, there is not a day that I regret taking the time to do the fellowship after my residency because, in all honesty, every single day at my practice, I get to use the skills that I’ve learned both from residency and fellowship. I will say that completing both fellowship and residency was the best decision I’ve ever made! 

SwS: Were you always interested in Cardiology? Why Cardiology?
JER: There were tons of things that I was interested in such as psychology and drug information. Every time I finished my rotation, I could almost see myself in that particular field. However, unlike many other interests that I had, my love for cardiology started back in the classroom. One thing that I attracted me the most to cardiology was that I could spend a fair amount of time with patients in the hospital, while also having outpatient pharmacy experience. Also, in cardiology, there are many phases of care (from intensive care to a primary prevention clinic) and tons of research opportunities as well. I find my field very fascinating and rewarding! 

SwS: What kind of research are you currently working on?
JER: In my clinic, DOAC is frequently used but dosing of anticoagulant drugs is all over the place and every doctor has different prescribing methods. So, my fellows and I are currently studying the appropriate dosing of DOAC in order to prevent adverse health outcomes for patients and provide dosing guidelines to doctors as well. Also, I am one of the advisors of the Research and Scholarship in Pharmacy Program (RASP), so I am working with a PY3 students to find the influence of beta-blocker therapy on the hemodynamic response to inotrope infusion in patients with acute decompensated heart failure. 

SwS: Do you see any problems in the pharmacy field?
JER: There are no doubts that our healthcare system is broken and I know for sure that fixing it will take a lot of leadership and manpower. There are so many things that I want to see improved within the healthcare system, and part of it includes making sure all pharmacists are utilized. There are a lot of pockets in the United States where many healthcare providers don’t understand the full capabilities of pharmacists, and they also don’t expect to see us working in less traditional workplaces such as at the hospital participating in rounds and using clinical judgment to make recommendations alongside physicians. I would like to see our healthcare system continue to improve within the context of how much they utilize the pharmacists in both outpatient and inpatient settings.

SwS: What are your perspectives on the new curriculum?
JER: Curriculum transformation was a very big and a bold movement of ESOP. However, I believe that our new curriculum is definitely moving in the right direction! Professors and faculty members are open to student feedback, and so far you guys have given us a lot of constructive criticisms regarding the new curriculum. Every time we get any type of evaluation, we read everything line by line and try to pick up on the consistent themes regarding what students really need to succeed as a PharmD student at ESOP. I also want to mention that early immersion experiences provide context to students and help them to understand the studying materials better! 

SwS: What is a piece of advice you want to give to students?
JER: Accountability. Whether you are working at a pharmacy, doing an early immersion/rotation experience or taking lectures at school, assume the responsibility of a pharmacist. Pretend that no one is looking over your shoulder and you are IT – you are the last line; patients’ health outcomes and getting things right or wrong all depends on you. This will really change your perspective and it will make you get engaged more deeply in learning.

SwS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
JER: Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Graham’s epitaph reads ”End of construction. Thank you for your patience”. It is the idea that we are always under construction: learning, growing, thus becoming smarter and better.I believe that this is the mindset that we should all have in both our personal and professional lives: be more humble and patient with yourself. 

SwS: What do you like to do when you are not working?
JER: I definitely love to exercise, and there are a couple of reasons why I enjoy it so much. The first reason is that it really keeps me more balanced and energized throughout the day. Also, it helps me to tackle problems in a more level-headed way. Another reason is because it gives me an extra room for a cookie at night! (JER laughs out loud) But all jokes aside, here is why I appreciate and love exercising so much: I typically run very early in the morning with an amazing group of women when everyone else is still asleep. While we are running, we share our dilemmas, give each other advice, laugh, and most importantly, keep each other accountable. Since I am very busy throughout the day, morning runs with my friends are the only time I get to truly socialize and their support help me to start the day off on a more positive note! I believe that it serves many different great purposes, don’t you think?  

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