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Brittany Jennings
March 27, 2020



In this time of uncertainty and new normals, it is still clear that the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy stands strong despite the recent challenges and disruptions caused by COVID-19.

The School’s first priority is its people – to ensure the School’s students, faculty, staff and alumni feel engaged, connected and supported, especially as we face unknown hurdles like this pandemic.

In the past few weeks, faculty, staff and students have been incredibly busy adjusting to their new schedules and continue to succeed and shine as a School community. So far, here’s what they’ve accomplished:

Students and Support:
We have moved classes and programs completely online for a student body of approximately 100 postdoctoral fellows, and a combined more than 800 Pharm.D., Ph.D, and M.S. students.

We are currently teaching over 50 courses remotely. Together in March, we logged more than 10,700 hours of Zoom video conferencing, with over 13,000 participants. That’s more than 445 24-hour days and roughly the population size of Davidson, North Carolina!

In March, the majority of our clinical sites became unavailable to our students, as they began work to fulfill their clinical mission around COVID-19.  Our preceptors were generous with their time, and protective of our students, and graciously allowed them all to finish March rotations remotely.  During this time, we worked closely with our accrediting body (ACPE), the NC Board of Pharmacy, and Provost Bob Blouin.  Our new curriculum allows our PY4s to have an on-time graduation and be eligible for licensure.

While we have one of the premier global scholar programs in the country, COVID-19 brought about much uncertainty for students who were abroad, and those scheduled to go abroad.  During this time, we safely brought home all of our students who were on global rotations and are working on alternative experiences in North Carolina while travel bans are in place.

Our students continue to inspire us. Students like Diana Lee, a third-year Pharm.D. student. Diana mobilized students to call local nursing home residents to let them know they are not alone and that they are being thought of daily during this crisis.

Finally, our Office of Curricular and Student Affairs sprang into action quickly and created an exceptional virtual meeting space for Pharm.D., Ph.D. and MS students, which can be accessed live for immediate service.

Research:
Our research laboratories had to shift course quickly.  With reduced staffing, they are ensuring critical research initiatives continue, and are coming together for virtual lab meetings, journal clubs, and scientific discussions. Several of our laboratories remain open and conducting critical research related to COVID-19.

We remain bolstered with the continuous news of our faculty’s large grant proposals being funded, and new ideas being submitted for funding.  This has become a good time for the laboratories to work on papers and funding opportunities.

Finally, we’ve quickly scaled up our communication to students, staff, and faculty with a daily note from the dean to keep them well-informed on how COVID-19 policy changes will impact their daily routines, so that they can stay ahead of the curve.

Faculty and Staff:
Our faculty and staff are also now fully functioning remotely from their home offices. This includes more than 120 full-time faculty and 200 permanent staff members.

Alumni:
Our alumni continue to work tirelessly on the frontline of this response, serving patients in need. We’ve heard stories from many of them, including those of Chocky White and Dave Smithwick below:

Chocky White, BS Pharm ’68 manages Medical Arts Pharmacy in Henderson, N.C. with his three children. They’ve been serving the community since 1971.

Today, Chocky and his team are educating patients on ways to limit the spread of COVID-19, compounding hand sanitizer to supply customers and local businesses, and offering drive-thru dispensing and delivery of medications. Pictured, Chocky’s daughter Cara White Kirby.

Dave Smithwick, BS Pharm ’91, of Southern Village Pharmacy in Chapel Hill, N.C. is ensuring patients stay healthy while still receiving the medications they need by offering curb-side pick-up.

We love hearing and sharing these stories!  We share stories likes these multiple times a day on our FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn pages. Dean Angela Kashuba is also sharing these stories on her Twitter account. We would encourage you to share your stories with us by submitting your photos and captions to ericamccready@unc.edu.

Each month, the School also update’s its alumni through the Carolina Pharmacy eNewsletter. The quarterly print edition in April will feature a COVID-19 fast-facts spread, and highlights from our alumni working on the frontlines of this response.

Staying in Touch:
To keep our faculty, staff and students informed, the School launched a COVID-19 intranet site as an information and resource hub. If you would like to see more in-depth details on our School’s response, we welcome you to visit this site.

We know it has been an anxiety-stricken few weeks. However, the School is so proud of the work being done by our students, faculty, staff and alumni to keep our neighbors safe and healthy. Together, we will successfully get through COVID-19 and continue our mission of Advancing Medicine for Life

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