School of Pharmacy News & Media Center
The University of Mississippi

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Celebrating Women’s History Month

Spotlight on Dean Emeritus Barbara Wells

Dr. Barbara Wells, first female dean of the School of Pharmacy

Q: When did you serve as dean?
A: I was fortunate to become dean of the School of Pharmacy in June of 2001, and I remained in that position for 10.5 years.

Q: What did it mean to you to serve as the school’s first female dean?
A: It was a great honor to be chosen to be the dean of the School of Pharmacy. I was well aware that I was the first woman pharmacy dean at the institution. I was also the first woman dean at Idaho State University College of Pharmacy from 1995 until 2001 and the fifth woman pharmacy dean in the history of pharmacy education in the U.S.

Pharmacy education in the U.S. began 200 years ago with the founding of Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. Sadly, 164 years passed before a woman was given the opportunity to serve as a pharmacy dean, other than in an interim position. The first woman dean in a college of pharmacy in the U.S. was appointed in 1988 at Temple University. So, women being given the opportunity to serve as pharmacy deans was a long time coming.

As I stepped into the deanship at UM, I was well aware of my responsibilities to the school and university to continue and advance the school’s record of excellence in teaching, research, service and leadership, and also to be an effective role model and mentor to help women and men envision their own leadership roles. Today, there are approximately 143 U.S.-based pharmacy schools and approximately 35% of the deans are women.

Q: What are you most proud of from your time leading the UM School of Pharmacy?
A: To be clear, everything that was accomplished while I was dean was not my accomplishment, but our accomplishment. I worked with an amazing leadership team, including associate deans Dr. Charles Hufford, Dr. Leigh Ann Ross and Dr. Marvin Wilson; Dr. Larry Walker, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research; and our department chairs who worked tirelessly and creatively to support their faculty and their research programs.

The dedication and competence of our superb faculty played an essential role in increasing research funding and bringing distinction to the school for research and teaching. Our staff could not have been more dedicated to students and faculty and the success of all our initiatives. Also, Chancellor Dan Jones, Provost Morris Stocks and Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs Alice Clark deserve enormous credit for their encouragement and support. Very importantly, the generosity and support of our loyal alumni were also essential to our success.
One of the things that I am most proud of is that we were able to expand and improve our physical facilities in the School of Pharmacy. The 250-seat centennial auditorium with atrium and the pharmacy practice building on the UMMC campus were constructed, and Faser Hall was expanded and partially renovated. Very importantly, we were successful in raising $31 million for the 96,000 sq ft second research building for the National Center for Natural Products Research complex, which was constructed after my retirement.

These facilities have been pivotal to improving and expanding our teaching and our research enterprise (including funding for research) and improving our national rankings. These expansions were possible because of a series of federal grants and generous contributions to the Promises to Keep campaign, the first-ever capital campaign for the School of Pharmacy.

I am so proud of the successes of our competitive and smart student body, which won countless competitive awards throughout my tenure and demonstrated extraordinary success in a very demanding curriculum. They maintained an impressive pass rate on the national licensure exam each year. They were active in student professional associations and have assumed leadership roles in local, state and national professional associations since graduation.

Our pharmacy practice department deserves great recognition for advancing from a strong program to a truly outstanding and nationally-recognized one. This was accomplished under the leadership of Dr. Joe Byrd and Dr. Leigh Ann Ross. So many of the pharmacy practice faculty are realizing their potential and truly making a difference in the lives and health of their patients.

I am also proud of establishing the Distinguished Teaching Scholars Program, which recognizes and rewards outstanding teachers in the School of Pharmacy. This program is funded by the Thelma Cerniglia Endowment.

The Academic Leadership Fellows Program is a one-year leadership development program that was established by the staff of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. It is a program derived from the focus of my presidential year within the AACP, which shined a light on the academy’s need for leadership development. Five Ole Miss faculty members participated as fellows in this program during my time as dean (Drs. Christopher McCurdy, Leigh Ann Ross, Noel Wilkin, Stephen Cutler and Donna West-Strum) and five more since (Drs. Kris Harrell, Adam Pate, Kayla Stover, Kim Adcock and Katie McClendon), as have approximately 600 faculty members from across the country.

These individuals have advanced their careers and truly made a difference in the quality and success of schools of pharmacy throughout the U.S. In July, AACP celebrates the 20th year of this program at their annual meeting in Boston.

Q: Why did you want to be a pharmacist?
A: Since the 8th or 9th grade, I planned to become a pharmacist. My maternal grandfather and my father were pharmacists. I was inspired by observing them having a genuine impact on peoples’ lives and health and by the way they were perceived in their communities. Pharmacy has afforded me remarkable opportunity. I should add that my husband was also a pharmacist, as is my brother. I have never regretted my decision a single day.

Q: What’s the best advice you have for pharmacy students?
A: Always put patients first. Learn throughout life. Participate in professional associations during pharmacy school and join at least one local, one state and one national pharmacy association after graduation. Exceed expectations qualitatively and quantitatively in all undertakings. At all times, have an up-to-date personal strategic plan which includes your goals and the steps required to accomplish them. Remember, all that you accomplish is by the grace of God and with the facilitation and support of many others. Start saving and investing early and continue this practice in increasing amounts throughout life. Love your neighbors. If you are grateful, kind, fair and humble, you will have many friends and few regrets.