The typical lineup for candidates participating in a College of Pharmacy Commencement exercise is alphabetical order – unless there is a student who defies all odds and makes straight A’s throughout pharmacy school. The seemingly impossible feat allows this “First Honor Graduate” to become the automatic line leader, regardless of where his/her last name falls in the alphabet.
But two honor graduates in the same year?? That’s unheard of. Unless, you know Ryan Bok and Bayleigh Carver. Then, it all makes sense.
On May 7th at 3 pm, Ryan and Bayleigh will each lead a line of their fellow classmates into Stegeman Coliseum for the College’s Commencement Ceremony. Shortly thereafter, the Class of 2022 will be hooded and receive their Doctor of Pharmacy diploma.
These two accomplished PharmDawgs recently reflected on their past four years of pharmacy school, shared the secrets to Straight-A success, and projected on the next step in their career journey as they embark on their respective residencies.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that Ryan Bok is made of true grit, determination, and laser focus. These qualities explain why the Cumming, GA native has made straight A’s since high school. His tenacity will serve him well when he starts a one-year residency program at the West Virginia University Health System in Morgantown this summer.
Ryan says that in choosing pharmacy as his career path, he looked for a practical application for the two science subjects he loves – biology and chemistry. Planning to specialize in cardiology or infectious diseases, he aspires eventually to apply his true passion – teaching.
“My goal is to one day be a clinical faculty member,” he remarked. “The great thing about being a pharmacist, regardless of the setting, is that I will always be teaching. Whether I’m counseling a patient, educating students, or collaborating with a health care team, I will always have the opportunity to pay forward what I’ve learned from others.”
When Ryan speaks of “paying forward,” he is referring to the positive engagements he’s had with CoP faculty members. “All of my professors were awesome. Great examples were Dr. Chris Bland, who was so generous with his time as I was applying for residencies…Dr. Susan Smith, who gave me my first research opportunity…and Dr. Phillip Greenspan, who believed in me from the start. He pulled me aside my first semester of pharmacy school and said, ‘Ryan, you’ve got game!’ I won’t ever forget that.”
Indeed, Dr. Greenspan did believe in him. “Ryan Bok is the most accomplished student I have taught in the past several years,” said the long-time pharmacy professor. “I am encouraged that he wants to pursue a career in academia. I only hope that we actively recruit him when he starts looking for a faculty position.”
The secret to Ryan’s success comes from the aforementioned focus. “If maintaining a 4.0 at UGA is the goal, the margin for error is so small. One may think that the biggest hurdles are the most difficult courses, but even the ‘easy’ courses can bite you if you lose focus. When a goal takes four years to accomplish, both great times and difficult times are bound to come. The most important part in maintaining consistency is to make the most of bad days.” He added that his pharmacy knowledge was solidified by rewriting lecture notes in his own words and in a way that made complex concepts simple to him.
His determination was recognized with CoP scholarships all four years of pharmacy school. In fact, he received the Grace and Kenneth Waters Scholarship in his first three years and the Jim Furman Student Scholarship this past year.
A healthy balance of studies, rotations, work at CVS Pharmacy, and involvement in student organizations was key to maintaining his outlook. While in pharmacy school, Ryan served as President of the Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International, Chair of Operation Heart for the American Pharmacy Association, and a member of the Georgia Society of Health-System Pharmacists, as well as Rho Chi.
His favorite PharmDawg memory comes as no surprise. In his third year, Ryan signed up to be a tutor for P2 students. Knowing that a particularly difficult test was coming up, he developed a review module and invited students taking the test to a Zoom chat. Expecting about 10-12 attendees, he was shocked when more than 70 students logged in – and the review lasted more than two-and-a-half hours. “That was the coolest thing,” he said, smiling. “When they kept coming back during the next two years, I knew it was making a difference. That convinced me to pursue teaching in the future.”
It is the people that this future college professor will miss the most. “I’ve had some incredible peers at the College of Pharmacy,” he reflected. “Look at who I met and worked alongside in APhA alone: Rebecca Bruning, Aliya Abdulla, Kendall Huntt, Kobby Amoah, Daniel Padron, Morgan Easterling, and many more. Each has unique qualities from which I have learned. I felt like I was showing up to an all-star game every day, and that’s what makes this place so special.”
Don’t let her sweet, demure, polite demeanor fool you. When it comes to the likes of pharmacotherapy, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacogenomics, Bayleigh Carver wallops a one-two punch.
The Macon, GA native, who was the Valedictorian of the senior class at Howard High School in Macon, has made only one B in her entire scholastic career (elementary school – PharmD!) –Organic Chemistry I during her undergraduate studies at UGA. She made up her mind that it would never happen again, and she passed O-Chem II with a solid A. While the first-honor graduate achievement is mind blowing, the secret to her academic knockout of a 4.0 in pharmacy school is quite simple – good old fashioned time management and a planner.
“I have to stay organized,” she said emphatically. “Using a paper planner rather than electronic devises allows me to write down everything I have to do for school, work, the organizations I’m in, and my personal life. Physically writing down assigned tasks and responsibilities allows me to remember what I have to do, and it helps me to prioritize, which is key.” A glance at one of Bayleigh’s planners (she holds on to past planners as keepsakes), and you think you are looking at a work of art. Her schedule is laid out neatly, precisely, and is color-coded.
Part of her scheduling has been to make time for the student organizations with which she has been involved. She was on the leadership team for Student Oncological Advocates in Pharmacy (SOAP) and was an active member in the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. “I’ve learned to spread myself evenly among my academics, work and student groups. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends on the weekends, and I like to relieve stress by running, especially on UGA’s North Campus.”
Like her fellow line-leader, Ryan, her perseverance has been rewarded all four years with CoP scholarships. Since starting pharmacy school, Bayleigh has received monies from the Pharmacy Support Fund, the Grace and Kenneth Waters Scholarship, the Millicent McKendry Jowdy Endowed Student Scholarship, and the Senator Buddy Carter Distinguished Leadership Endowment.
Priority is important to Bayleigh, and one of her top objectives has been to obtain a prestigious residency. It is no surprise that this determined PharmDawg achieved her goal; at the end of June, she embarks on a PGY1 specialty training at the renown New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City; she will spend most of her time at Weill Cornell Medical Center and Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She looks forward to her residency helping her determine her ultimate career path, which will be Oncology or solid organ transplant.
Devoted to her family in Macon, Bayleigh said she chose pharmacy as her career, because she wanted to combine her passion for science with a value her parents instilled in her – serving others and making a difference in people’s lives. “My parents have been my biggest supporters throughout time in school. They are my mentors and role models,” she said.
Along with her parents, Bayleigh gave high words of praise for Dr. Susan Smith and Dr. Andrea Sikora. “Dr. Smith is an incredible professor who truly cares about her students and helps them beyond the classroom, including on residency applications. In addition, I was able to work with Dr. Sikora on some research projects, and she offered me a lot of advice for residency training. I really look up to both of them.”
Bayleigh’s ultimate pharmacy mentor, however, is Dr. Deanna McEwen ‘99, a Kroger pharmacist and preceptor at Epps Bridge Parkway, where Bayleigh started as a technician in 2017 and has since continued as an intern since August 2018. While the future pharmacist had high words of praise for her mentor, Dr. McEwen was quick to turn the spotlight on Bayleigh.
“I have had the privilege of working with Bayleigh for four years,” said Dr. McEwen, a former CoP faculty member and a consummate teacher. “Watching her grow from a very conscientious employee to a leader and an asset to our profession has been heartwarming.”
Dr. McEwen added, “In the original article by Hepler and Strand (American Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, Mar 1990) the authors refer to pharmacists becoming change agents for pharmaceutical care. Bayleigh has embraced and championed all tenets of the marriage between pharmaceutical care and the pharmacist patient care process. She is the definition of a change agent. She respects and appreciates the context and experience of pharmacy practice of yesteryears, while moving the needle forward to disseminate her own vision of pharmacy and how to implement safe and economical patient care. Personally, Bayleigh is the most intuitive, kind, personable, empathetic, and empowering friend. She absolutely embodies every attribute of being perfect. Georgia and UGA will miss Bayleigh Carver tremendously as she departs for New York. “Frank Sinatra’s lyrics from his famous song “New York, New York” may need to be changed from “King of the Hill” to “Queen of the Hill.”
“Start spreadin’ the news,” PharmDawgs. Bayleigh Carver is on her way!