College of Pharmacy dean committed to success of others

The new dean of the College of Pharmacy is passionate about many things in her life: her chosen profession of pharmacy; serving as the leader of the college that is her beloved alma mater; her current presidency of a national pharmacy organization; family ties to her hometown in South Georgia; among others. But her greatest passion is what sets her apart—Smith is dedicated to helping others succeed.

Just nine months into the job, Smith is working closely with faculty, staff and students to increase the visibility, impact and outreach of UGA’s pharmacy program. Adopting the motto “Always Be Learning,” she encourages people to think outside the box, be fearless in sharing an idea or thought and work collaboratively to break down barriers and eliminate silos.

The strategy is working as is evidenced by the responsiveness of her team and key new initiatives that are in place at the 116-year old UGA college. Early on, she assembled a group of faculty and staff members in an effort to be more visible, creative and cohesive with the college’s outreach efforts. The group identified more than 70 new and existing outreach programs in the 2018-2019 academic year alone that allowed for the college to reach various target audiences and increase participation in such areas as student engagement, alumni affairs and faculty involvement.

As another example, Smith’s actions to fill available faculty and staff positions have been innovative, according to Ken Duke, interim assistant dean for professional affairs at the College of Pharmacy’s extended campus in Savannah.

“Dean Smith has filled several posts in an interim fashion to allow the college to look at things from a ground-up perspective,” he said. “This will allow us to evaluate what we need and then prepare job descriptions to attract the most qualified candidates to continue to advance our programs, promote our students and expand our reach throughout the pharmacy practice.”

Smith’s journey on her career path began in her hometown of Statesboro, when a mentor told her that “… pharmacists are problem solvers, they help people and they make a difference in people’s lives.” His message resonated with the young Smith, who had a knack for science. She came to UGA, where she earned her undergraduate degree in pharmacy in 1992, a Doctor of Pharmacy in 1993, and did a residency at the University Medical Center (now UF Health/Jacksonville) in Jacksonville, Florida. However, it was another mentor, this one from her UGA classroom, who steered her toward her specific area of pharmacy practice—drug information and policy—which focuses on the evaluation of research and literature as evidence when making medication decisions for patients.

Said this mentor, Rusty May, who still is with UGA as a clinical professor and associate department head at the College of Pharmacy’s extended campus in Augusta, “The field of drug information is a great skill set to bring to the job of educating our future pharmacists. In addition, Dean Smith has vital leadership experience as president for one of the most influential pharmacy organizations in the world, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. This combination of experiences, and, of course, being an alumna of our program, allow her to be perfectly positioned to provide the type of leadership this college needs to develop the best and most innovative pharmacy practitioners for the state of Georgia and beyond.”

Her affinity for all things red and black would lead one to believe that Smith has been at UGA for her entire career. While she is a self-proclaimed, die-hard Bulldog, Smith actually spent almost 25 years in various academic, clinical and leadership roles at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy and its affiliated medical center. Some of her titles included diversity and inclusivity officer, director of residency program advancement, associate dean for academic and student affairs, and interim dean.

“No doubt, the experience I gained while at Kentucky was instrumental in preparing me for my role as dean at this college,” she said. “That time was pivotal in my career; it helped me deepen my understanding of all facets of a college environment and not just those tied to the practice of pharmacy. But I am thrilled to be back in Athens. I have come home to the university I love.”

Through it all, she values connectivity as an invaluable sentiment. “Caring requires connecting with others, while being intentional and inclusive in the processes we develop,” Smith said. “A pharmacist has expertise in disease management and patient communication and can help patients access community and financial resources.”

She added, “No profession may be better positioned to support the physical, mental and social health of the population than pharmacy. If I can connect our faculty, staff, alumni and key stakeholders in a collaborative effort to best prepare our students for stellar careers in research and practice, then we’ve accomplished our mission. We’ve had a good day.”