January 20, 2021
It’s not lonely at the top for Toyin Tofade, MS ‘94, PharmD ‘97, BCPS, CPCC. She reached the pinnacle of her career by mastering a subject as valuable to her as pharmacy: collegiality.
“I believe relationships are powerful,” she said.
To that end, she lists the touch points of her career in names rather than CV entries—former professors, co-workers, colleagues and students. A name familiar to many graduates of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy is first on the list: Fred Eckel. Toyin met him while an undergraduate pharmacy student at Obafemi Awolowo University in her birth country, Nigeria.
“Professor Eckel (now professor emeritus) visited my country in the early ‘90s with his son, [Stephen] (now UNC Eshelman associate dean for Global Engagement). I was in my final year and had applied for master’s programs in medicinal chemistry in the UK, Germany and Africa. But I wanted to do clinical pharmacy,” she said. “I was a member of the Nigerian chapter of Christian Pharmacy Fellowship International and my advisor, Professor Wilson Erhun, who knew I preferred clinical pharmacy, introduced me to Professor Eckel. He sent me an application for the master’s program at UNC, I was accepted and the rest is history.”
Toyin flourished in Carolina’s team-based curriculum. “The students really got to know one another as colleagues, we got to know our professors and we had lots of engagement with patients,” she said. Toyin also began laying the groundwork for her professional network. “I’d speak to people at meetings, ask for guidance, tap people at conferences so I could learn what I would be facing and what I needed to do to get there.”
Professors emeritus Deborah Montague, her preceptor during her MS and Pharm.D. programs, and Steve Caiola, remain among her most valued mentors.
Nine years after graduation when Toyin left the Wake Area Health Education Center as director of pharmacotherapy services, Caiola helped her discern her next steps. She joined the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy as an associate professor and as she rose through the ranks, discovered clinical pharmacy was only one of her “two loves.”
“When I switched to academia, my boss (at the Wake AHEC) told me, ‘patients were your first priority in clinical pharmacy. Now your first priority is teaching students how to take care of those patients.’ That was my pivot.”
In August 2016, Toyin parlayed her experiences at the University of Maryland into the deanship of Howard University College of Pharmacy. Her strengths as a scholar leader, her warmth and congeniality, and her generosity of spirit set her apart from a field of highly competitive candidates. Under her aegis, alumni giving has increased 70 percent. She is also one signature away from achieving a monumental goal for the college. “Howard has 17 partnerships around the world on five continents,” she said. “I would like to have a rotation in every single continent in the world.” Toyin’s vision—and the achievements that fulfill it—inspired recognition on the Howard campus, nationally and internationally.
In 2019, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy chose her to receive the Fred Eckel Pharmacy Leadership Award, and brought her relationship with the professor full circle.
“It was an honor, first because UNC is my alma mater, second because UNC is the number one pharmacy school in the nation, and third because Fred Eckel was the guy who tapped me when I was a nobody in Nigeria. To come from there and be the first black person to win that award…it’s very special.” In another nod to her professional esteem, Toyin serves as president-elect of The Academic Pharmacy Section of FIP, the International Pharmaceutical Federation serving 4 million pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists around the world. She brings with her a passion to balance opportunities globally. “The things we take for granted in America are not available in other countries,” she said. “I’ve experienced both worlds before. I have been in Africa and been here in the US, and believe I can help form linkages that sustain and grow levels of service.”
Linkages—to family, to her faith, to her profession and community—are what drive Toyin’s success. She encourages her students to create them. “Talk to people, build relationships, leverage your network, stay in touch with people,” she said. “If you get along with people, they will share things that you may not otherwise know, and that internal system is powerful. Create a strong work ethic so people will notice you. Mentorships are critical: be curious.”
For a more complete biography of Toyin Tofade, go to profiles.howard.edu/profile/126/toyin-tofade.
Story by the Pharmacy Alumni Association.