February 25, 2022
OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi chapter of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association hosted three UM alumni for its “Practicing as a Diverse Pharmacist” event, kicking off the group’s Spring Speaker Series.
The panel took place February 10 in honor of Black History Month. For SNPhA President Isaiah Brown, a first-year student at the School of Pharmacy, Black History Month is a time to celebrate how far the Black community has advanced, after progressing through different forms and intensities of oppression.
“I find myself learning more every year about how much of our society today was formed because of people who look like me,” Brown said. “Being engulfed in Black culture during this month always makes me feel appreciative for being born African American. I feel as though this month is important for educating those who desire to be allies to the Black community as well.”
Panelists included practitioners Billy Brown, Erika Webster and Andrew Clark. Billy Brown, who is Isaiah’s dad, is a UM Doctor of Pharmacy graduate and a clinical pharmacy specialist at the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center, as well as clinical assistant professor for the School of Pharmacy.
Webster is a clinical pharmacist at Cigna and graduated with her Pharm.D. from UM before obtaining a master’s from the UMMC John D. Bower School of Population Health.
Clark is the owner and pharmacist at Northtown Pharmacy in Jackson and holds degrees from UM and University of Southern Mississippi as well as a Pharm.D. from the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy. He’s also a clinical instructor for the UM pharmacy school.
Discussions covered numerous topics, from the challenges experienced as a pharmacist of color, advice to current minority student pharmacists, how health professional schools can cover the history and reality of racism in the health care space, to techniques that could be implemented into practice to close cultural gaps.
Clark said he hoped the panel provided encouragement for students to stay committed to pharmacy and take ownership in their talents to blaze new trails.
“Pharmacy can gain talent and a level of expertise that school cannot teach you by having a diverse profession,” Clark said. “People are diverse, therefore the patients that we serve in pharmacy are diverse. The ability to relate to someone that you are caring for makes it extremely easier to care for that patient because the bridge of establishing trust between the pharmacist and patient is made shorter.
“Diversity is more about culture as it is race or ethnicity,” Clark said. “Being from the same culture allows pharmacists and patients to communicate easier, more so because of shared experiences. It is very important that we see ourselves represented in the field of pharmacy on all levels.”
For Isaiah Brown, the wisdom and guidance provided by the speakers far exceeded his expectations. Advice ranged from being authentic in every setting, utilizing UM reporting resources, learning your history, acquiring mentorships and more.
“The panelists’ raw openness allowed for this conversation to progress through topics like dealing with microaggressions, the significance of being the best ‘you,’ and meeting patients of minority background where they are,” Brown said. “My biggest takeaway from the panel came from a passionate declaration from one panelist, encouraging students to never have the mindset that being someone of minority background means having to be twice as good as majority cohorts.”
Outside of the panel, SNPhA has been a big part of Brown’s pharmacy journey, as he has been a member since freshman year. SNPhA is the student chapter of the National Pharmaceutical Association, a professional organization of pharmacists committed to serving the underserved and promoting minorities in pharmacy.
Brown’s involvement, and now leadership role, has provided substantial growth in his personal and professional development.
“The amount of minority pharmacist representation that I have been exposed to because of my membership to SNPhA has been inspiring in itself,” Brown said. “Serving as an officer in this capacity has allowed me to make connections with many of those pharmacists, learn more about how to combat health disparities, and develop my leadership and teamwork skills.”
SNPhA’s Spring Speaker Series will connect more of the school’s alumni with the group. Kandis Backus will outline her journey of becoming a pharmacist after starting her career in research on March 4 at noon CT. Alisha Nicks will present on March 10 at 7 p.m. CT about her experiences in residency, advice on how to get accepted to a program and deciding if it is the right choice. Both will be via Zoom.
Those interested in accessing the panel recordings or how to be a part of future speaking events can contact Isaiah Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org. Students who have a passion for serving the underserved and would like to get involved with SNPhA, can also reach out to Isaiah Brown at his email address.