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Mariava Phillips
May 1, 2023

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) announced UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Associate Dean Adam Persky as the recipient of the AACP Robert K. Chalmers Distinguished Pharmacy Educator Award. 

The Chalmers Award recognizes an individual’s excellence in pharmacy education—including effectiveness in instruction, curriculum development and innovation, national educational involvement, research relative to pharmacy education, professional/public service and outreach and impact on pharmacy education beyond one’s home institution.  

“It’s humbling in lots of ways when you think of those who have won in the past and those that could have won,” said Adam Persky, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Professional Education and professor in the Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics. “Back when I first heard about this award, I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be great to win something like this or at least get to know the people that have won this award.’” 

Persky never expected to be a teacher of any kind or in the pharmacy field. After receiving his bachelor’s in biology from Purdue University, he went on to receive his masters in exercise science from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. It was during his master’s program when he taught for the first time as a teaching assistant (TA).  

As a self-described introvert and student who typically sat in the back of the classroom, Persky found teaching to be out of his comfort zone. “The first time I taught, I stood perfectly still, as tense as I could be, sweating and talking really fast,” Persky said. “I was thrown in the water and had to figure things out, but it was great to be challenged because I learned I had some abilities here.” 

After being exposed to pharmacology, he decided to pursue his doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Florida and continued to grow as a TA, which eventually led him to the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy to complete a fellowship in pharmacokinetics. 

“I loved what I learned during my fellowship, but I still wanted to teach rather than research,” he said. After his fellowship, he was offered a one-year contract to teach at the School, and ended up winning his first teaching award, “PY1 Instructor of the Year”, decided by students. Twenty years later, and a promotion to Associate Dean, he is still teaching pharmacokinetics and physiology to first year students. 

“He has not only taken a role in teaching directly to students and teaching us how to best learn the material for the classroom, but he has also taught us how to learn best throughout our career. He is always thinking of the student experience and how to optimize it. It has been an honor and privilege being a student of his and being able to work with him,” said Libby Powell, Pharm.D. candidate and president of class of 2023. 

Persky is the first faculty member from the School to receive the Chalmers Award. He notes that throughout the years, he has implemented new teaching strategies, based on educational research, in his classroom for students to improve their retention.  

“Adam’s receipt of the Robert K. Chalmers award is a testament to his impact and reach throughout the profession. We are thrilled that he has been recognized for excellence in pharmacy education and we are grateful for the significant contributions and impact Adam has on our students, the School, and the profession,” said Mary McClurg, Pharm.D., Executive Vice Dean-Chief Academic Officer. 

Although he still gets a little nervous before teaching, he credits his relatability to students for creating an environment for learning and an opportunity to encourage them in areas where they feel less confident. 

“Associate Dean Persky’s passion for teaching and his innovation in the classroom is inspirational to me as a student with an interest in pharmacy education. His mentorship in this space will help shape the way I approach teaching others,” said Marshall Winget, Pharm.D. candidate class of 2023.  

Persky describes the Chalmers Award as a tangible thing to recognize how far he has come – in teaching and in pharmacy. 

“I never thought I’d be in pharmacy; never thought I’d be a faculty member. I just followed the opportunities that were available to me and ended up in a great place,” he said. 

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