Three-time Bearcat takes the helm in pharmacy

New interim dean credits faculty flexibility for positive change in UC’s College of Pharmacy

While the COVID-19 virus shook many institutions to their core, Pamela Heaton, the University of Cincinnati’s new interim dean in the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy, recognizes the challenging time as an opportunity to spotlight the key role of pharmacy in modern public healthcare.

Portrait photo of Pam Heaton, UC College of Pharmacy 2021 interim dean

Pamela Heaton

“I’m honored to be at the helm of academic pharmacy at a time when we’re playing such a valuable role in developing and dispensing life-saving medications and vaccines on a national and global level,” says Heaton, also UC professor of pharmacy practice and administrative sciences. “While our faculty and students were busy transitioning to a new virtual world of learning, they haven’t skipped a beat while rolling up their sleeves to make a life-changing impact on the development of novel treatments and dissemination of the vaccines.”

Heaton’s new appointment as interim dean follows outgoing dean Neil Mackinnon’s announcement at the end of 2020 about his new position as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Augusta University in Georgia.

Points of pride

Pharmacists have been vaccinating people for well over 25 years but Heaton says the pandemic has really highlighted the key role pharmacy is playing in healthcare across the U.S.

“As soon as the vaccines came out, pharmacy was at the forefront helping to distribute them nationally, even to the tier-one healthcare providers,” says Heaton. “UC has several faculty who practice at different pharmacy locations, along with many of our students who are either employed as interns or volunteering — all actively involved in administering the vaccines across the city.  

Since 2002, UC’s pharmacy students are giving the vaccine efforts a “shot in the arm” through extensive training at the college level and continually achieving national certification in order to vaccinate. Pharmacists and students in all 50 states administer vaccines, including those for the flu, pneumonia, shingles, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, HPV, chicken pox, meningitis and the measles, mumps and rubella, as well as other less common vaccines required for international travel. 

“The interplay with public health has been building over the last two decades as pharmacists continue to step up and do more public health screenings and expand their scope of practice to be more patient centered,” Heaton adds.

UC's Pam Heaton stands with colleague while holding an award at the American Pharmacists Association conference.

As editor in chief of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, Heaton recognizes her deputy editor, Spencer Harpe from Midwestern University.

Heaton is especially excited about the way faculty stepped up and transitioned almost the entire doctor of pharmacy and graduate programs to an online, virtual format last spring. Additionally, the college of pharmacy has online graduate programs in Cosmetic Science, Drug Development, Pharmacy Leadership and the new Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Healthcare — all of which have increased their enrollment substantially in the last two years, touts Heaton.

“I truly am inspired everyday by how hard our faculty have worked to pivot in the middle of these very difficult times. Their effort, dedication and their willingness to go the extra mile ensures that our students continue to have a positive, engaging and high quality learning experience,” says Heaton. “Even with all the challenges of last year, our students scored a 96% pass rate on the national licensure exam, above the national average.

“It’s a new day in education and we are going to see further buildout of programs that are designed and developed to be delivered online.”

Bearcat bonds

Pam Heaton with teaching colleague in North Africa's Central African Republic.

Heaton was inspired to go into academia after serving two years in the Peace Corps teaching biology and health in French to high school students in Northern Africa's Central African Republic.

As a three-time Bearcat, Heaton’s UC legacy began as an undergraduate earning a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy in 1985. 

“Because of my strong desire to work in service to care for the poor and underserved, I immediately joined the Peace Corps where I spent two years teaching biology and health lessons in French to high school students in the Central African Republic in northern Africa,” says Heaton. “It was my valuable teaching experience in Africa that helped inspire me to go into academia.”

After returning to the U.S. Heaton joined the world of community pharmacy, first as a pharmacist and later as a corporate manager for the SuperX pharmacy chain at their headquarters in Cincinnati. Shortly after a SuperX corporate buyout, Heaton returned to UC to further her pharmacy skills, earning a master’s degree in 1998 and her PhD in Pharmacy Practice and Administrative Sciences in 2003, where she immediately accepted a faculty position at UC.

As a UC pharmacy faculty member for more than 20 years, Heaton has been at the forefront of pharmaceutical research, winning several clinical research awards from top-tiered peer-reviewed journals, as well as from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). 

In addition to being named Fellow of the APhA in 2018, she is currently serving as editor in chief of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

Family affair

UC College of Pharmacy interim dean Pam Heaton's daughter Elizabeth and son Paul as college students in 2021.

Heaton's daughter Elizabeth is currently a neuroscience doctoral student at Emory University. Her son Paul is a two-time Bearcat earning a second bachelor's degree in computer science after achieving a bachelor's at UC in chemistry in the spring of 2020.

Heaton isn’t the only one in her family with Bearcat ties. Her brother obtained a master’s degree in engineering and her father, William Hart, was also a professor in UC’s University College and College of Evening and Continuing Education from the 1960s to the early 1990s before retiring. Now in his 80s, Heaton credits him as the strongest influence in her decision toward academia.

“I also have two children in college,” says Heaton. “While my daughter is a third-year doctoral candidate in neuroscience at Emory University in Atlanta, my son is a current Bearcat. After completing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry this past spring, he is now in his first year working toward another bachelor’s degree in computer science in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.”

Heaton says she enjoys her new position and sees the pandemic as the catalyst for many positive changes in pharmacy.

“I’m proud of what the faculty and students are doing, especially during these challenging times,” says Heaton. “I think the flexibility of our talented faculty to digitally transition so swiftly in the workplace is truly the key to our success. 

“The college of pharmacy supports a strong legacy of research, teaching and clinical service both locally and nationally, and with our exciting new programs I see a very bright future ahead.”

 

 

Featured image at top: UC's James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy. photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand