The PharmAlliance communications committee for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had the privilege to interview interim Dean Thakker this past Spring. In our lively discussion, we talked about the creation and vision of PharmAlliance, discussed trips and interactions with our international colleagues, and remarked upon the future of having a global reach with pharmacy.
*Some of the responses have been paraphrased*
1. We heard that you visited Monash University recently. How was your trip to Melbourne?
Dean Thakker: “It was good! This meeting was a very special meeting, it was the first time all domains of PharmAlliance gathered together for a PharmAlliance conference. It was a week-long and we accomplished so much by each domain interacting with one another. For example, education and practice domain exchanged information and ideas so that we can work on a joint project in the future. Next PharmAlliance meeting will be in UNC and I would love to incorporate the format we had from the last meeting in Monash.”
2. Anything specific you thought it was interesting in Monash?
Dean Thakker: “What’s special about Monash is the people. They were amazing hosts. Dean Charman from Monash always finds something positive about everyone and I really wish to embody that trait. People in Monash are high performers and I can tell that they genuinely enjoy what they do. I really like the building in Monash as well. They have pictures in bold colors, which shows the image of young institution full of energy. I really want to bring this style of artwork to ESOP as well.”
3.We know you are a huge advocate for PharmAlliance. Why do you think PharmAlliance is important?
Dean Thakker: “Well, the whole idea started from the thought that we can’t be in a bubble. We needed to look at the world, learn, and be affected by one another. I want all of the students to be global citizens and be comfortable with different cultures and settings, because I do believe it is a very important skill and competency to have nowadays. So, when I met the dean of UCL, we had an amazing conversation and we shared a lot of similar thoughts about education and it all started from there. I set up a meeting with UNC’s former Dean Blouin and the Dean of UCL, and later on Monash joined our PharmAlliance as well.”
4. What more do you want to see from PharmAlliance?
Dean Thakker: “I want each of us to be better schools. I want to create an impact that would not be possible as an individual institution and create some initiatives that will positively impact healthcare globally. For example, antibiotic resistance is a global problem. I would love to see our three institutions working together to solve the global problems as such. Another global problem PharmAlliance could help solve is with counterfeit medicine. Many of these problems are global problems that require technology, education, policy, big pharmaceutical companies, and government. I want our institutions to work together and make a global impact.”
5. One of the long-term goals students came up with in PharmAlliance was potentially being involved in research with faculty in Monash/UCL. Do you think this is a feasible goal and if so how do you think we can accomplish that?
Dean Thakker: “The path to having more research collaboration and working with faculty at UCL and Monash is more possible for PhD students. Going to other locations to continue research in a different environment can help catalyze the research and bring in new ideas. PharmD students at Eshelman School of Pharmacy can participate in the Global Pharmacy Scholars (GPS) program which will be focused on service learning going forward.”
6. Recently, the GLIDE module was launched for UNC, UCL, and Monash students to participate what do you expect students to get out from the GLIDE module?
Dean Thakker: “We want students to begin to think about what bigger things they can do together. We want to use the program as a next step. Think of it as the base of the pyramid and how can we climb up that.”
7. Do you think as the school gains more international recognition that there is going to be an influx of international students applying to Eshelman School of Pharmacy?
Dean Thakker: “Unfortunately it is expensive for international students to come and attend. We are continuously creating resources, such as our negotiation with the China Scholarship Council, which will help students from China in attending Eshelman School of Pharmacy. We are the first pharmacy school to have a relationship with the scholarship council and we currently have the pleasure of welcoming 5 to 6 students a year through the program. Our goal is to continue to bring international diversity to Eshelman School of Pharmacy through either international collaboration or through welcoming international students. We feel that having a more diverse environment leads to more successful graduates.”
8. In 10 years where do you see the Eshelman School of Pharmacy impacting nationally?
Dean Thakker: “Our goal is to have the Eshelman School of Pharmacy become the Harvard of pharmacy. We want our name to be instantly recognized and be known for its quality. With Harvard, their alumni network and graduates create the brand in addition with their top-notch faculty. We want to increase faculty collaboration and also are looking at building our partnerships in other parts of the world. We also desire to continue building our relationship with Monash and UCL and continue to collaborate strategically together.”
Overall, our discussion with Dean Thakker was insightful and intriguing. We were able to learn about many other exciting developments outside of the scope of the questions asked in the interview, such as the goal of building an endowment so that every student at Eshelman School of Pharmacy can be a Global Pharmacy Scholar! We look forward to seeing the goals of PharmAlliance coming to fruition in the future and thank Dean Thakker very much for his time.