April 14, 2021
In this alum spotlight, we chat with Patrick Brown, Pharm.D. (Class of ’13), Senior Program Manager at the North Carolina Division of Public Health.
Q: Please describe your novel practice setting. What makes your career path unique?
A: I joined the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on January 19 as a Senior Program Manager in the Division of Public Health. Right now, I am exclusively focused on COVID-19 response, specifically working to support our COVID-19 response efforts in long-term care facilities and vaccine rollout into those facilities, and I am also the operational lead for North Carolina’s for community pharmacy vaccine rollout.
Q: What led you to this career path? What steps did you take?
A: I came into pharmacy school thinking I wanted to be an independent pharmacy owner. But, when I was getting closer to graduation, I realized I wanted to get a broader perspective of pharmacy before I made any major career decisions, so I pursued a community pharmacy residency. My residency really made me realize that I like the bigger picture stuff more than the day-to-day of pharmacy operations. So I came back to UNC after graduation to pursue a fellowship where I got to continue to explore that. From there, I joined Mutual Drug where I was lucky to spend almost five years supporting independent pharmacies in a variety of roles. From there, I started to really think that maybe I would be interested in broadening my horizons. This opportunity came up at the NC Division of Public Health and I decided to make the jump and move into more of a public health role.
Q: What does a typical workday look like for you?
A: Right now, most days are meeting heavy, with a heavy focus on coordinating our vaccine rollout. It’s been an all-hands-on deck approach at the state, and there are a lot of moving pieces to say the least. Most of my day-to-day is working to connect the dots between all of the different teams working vaccine and Long Term Care response at the state to our frontline providers.
Q: Describe the most exciting or rewarding aspect of your (novel) practice role?
A: Right now, it’s being a part of the vaccine rollout. It’s a once in a century moment. As overwhelming and tiresome as it can be, it’s pretty incredible to be helping to coordinate this effort.
Q: Describe the most challenging aspect of your role?
A: It’s all of the moving pieces. This is a monumental undertaking trying to rollout vaccines to the 10+ million North Carolinians. So it’s about the speed at which we have to move, especially since I joined after the rollout had already started.
Q: How can someone learn more about this unique practice setting and the career opportunities it presents for pharmacists?
A: There are a surprising number of pharmacists involved in this effort. If pharmacists are interested in public health, I think the biggest thing is to find ways to network outside of conventional pharmacy circles. Go to meetings, lectures and symposiums that aren’t just pharmacy-related, but are health care-related. The other thing is to look into jobs that don’t necessarily have ‘pharmacist’ in the title. Throw your name in the hat. The hiring manager may have never considered a pharmacist for a role only for it to prove to be a perfect fit. That’s how I found my way to this current position.
Q: What advice would you give to a current student pharmacist who is interested in pursuing a similar type of practice role in the future?
A: There is an MPH dual degree program at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. For students who are really interested in public health, that would be a good way to broaden your horizon. And always keep an eye out for internships or fellowships and lean on the student affairs office to connect with others in similar roles. And certainly find ways to network with Public Health students at Gillings.
Q: What general advice would you give to a high school or college student who is interested in pursuing a pharmacy career?
A: High school or college students need to understand that pharmacy is more than just working at the drug store on every corner. Those are great jobs, but those are not the only jobs for pharmacists. Come into pharmacy school with an open mind about the profession. And be ready to blaze your own trail.
Q: Can you share a brief story about a time you had a positive impact on a patient, population, or community in your role as a pharmacist?
A: In my current role, the most impactful thing we are doing right now is trying to help long-term care facilities gain access to COVID-19 vaccines. It’s been especially rewarding to be able to connect long-term care facilities and group homes who have not been able to get their residents and staff vaccinated to pharmacists in their communities that can help. The relief in someone’s voice when they hear that a vaccine event has been scheduled for them can be quite powerful. We still have a long way to go, but it’s nice to be contributing towards the effort to get back to normal.