OXFORD, Miss. – Several pharmacists greeted David D. Allen, dean of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, as he walked into Rose’s Super Discount Drugs in Hazlehurst. The professionals reminisced about their days in pharmacy school and smiled for a photo.
“It was great to have the opportunity to reflect on our time in Oxford,” said Mike Rose (BSPh 76), who owns the drugstore with his wife, Kathy (BSPh 76). “We have a lot of Ole Miss ties in our family. I’m thankful to the dean for stopping by.”
While not unusual to see Allen in a small-town pharmacy, the visit coincided with a special occasion. Allen, who has been visiting practicing pharmacists across the state since he became dean in 2012, visited Hazlehurst, his 100th Mississippi town, on Nov. 18, a meaningful milestone for the Kentucky native.
“In the beginning, we didn’t really have a strategic vision for the visits,” Allen said. “I just knew that in order to better connect with our alumni base, I needed to get out of the building. Many of our alums aren’t able to come see us, so I go to them.
“The more I traveled, I began to realize how significant this is for the School of Pharmacy. It allows me to hear firsthand about opportunities and challenges that practicing pharmacists are facing. This, of course, is invaluable for us as educators of future pharmacy professionals.”
Allen spends at least one day per month visiting alumni and other practicing pharmacists. He either travels from his office in Oxford or from his office in Jackson at the UM Medical Center. He has visited a variety of practice sites, including hospitals, chains, independent pharmacies and closed-door pharmacies.
“All practice sites and pharmacists are fair game,” Allen said. “If we go to a town, we try to visit all the pharmacies in a certain area. And if we can’t, we’ll put it on our list to come back. If you are practicing pharmacy in the state of Mississippi, you are important to our school.”
Allen has enjoyed the opportunity to meet several generations of pharmacists with unique stories to share. In Hazlehurst, he spoke with H.C. Rose (BSPh 49) about his experience playing football for the Ole Miss Rebels. After driving across town to Allred’s Pharmacy, he learned about the history of the store from owner Jackie Thompson (BSPh 74).
On his first visit in January 2012, Allen traveled to Moss Point to introduce himself to Wendy I. McKinney (BSPh 86) and John A. McKinney (BSPh 86) at Burnham Drugs. Allen said he remembers their meeting “like it was yesterday.”
The McKinneys told him the story of their efforts to provide care and medications to Gulf Coast residents during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They did whatever they could to help patients get their medications, even when it meant resorting to filling prescriptions in the mud with a flashlight.
“Their story was heartrending,” Allen said. “It almost brought me to tears. Without hesitation, the McKinneys stepped up and did what they had to do for the community after Katrina. This is just one example of pharmacists going above and beyond the call of duty.”
Another memorable visit was with Jerry Morgan (BSPh 72) at Okolona Discount Drugs.
“Jerry gave us a tour of his pharmacy and their gift shop,” Allen said. “Jerry loves Ole Miss and the School of Pharmacy. I remember that he told me about his mentor, John Dewey Ownings (BSPh 49). John left an impression on Jerry throughout his pharmacy career and passed away in 1997. Jerry showed great passion and emotion while telling me about him, and I’m honored that he shared this with me.”
So far, Allen has visited more than 250 practice sites – and has no plans to stop.
“This is all about reaching out to the pharmacists in our great state,” he said. “I’m privileged to meet them and offer any help we can provide. With some 1,100 pharmacies in Mississippi, I have my work cut out for me, but I can’t wait to see what the journey will bring.”
To inquire about scheduling a visit with Allen, contact Erin Garrett, communications specialist, at 662-915-1015 or firstname.lastname@example.org.