Competition Drives Pharmacy Passion for Female Students, Alumna

National Girls and Women in Sports Day shines lights on athletics' influence in pharmacy

Kimsey O’Neal Bailey is a clinical pharmacist focusing on specialty medical injectables with UnitedHealth Group/Optum. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Sports bring together communities. More than that, it empowers individuals.

For three talented female University of Mississippi pharmacy students and a basketball all-conference alumna, National Girls and Women in Sports Day (Feb. 5) highlights those qualities that competition fuels in their desire to help others through the profession.

For Kimsey O’Neal Bailey, basketball was a way of life since seventh grade. The 1994 graduate of the School of Pharmacy received a full scholarship to Ole Miss and became one of the women’s basketball program’s most-decorated players as a four-year starter from 1987 to ’90.

Bailey is a clinical pharmacist focusing on specialty medical injectables with UnitedHealth Group/Optum. What she learned about time management, flexibility, leadership and communication skills on the court, she uses in her pharmacy role.

Kimsey O’Neal Bailey became one of the most-decorated players in Ole Miss women’s basketball history as she earned her degree from the UM School of Pharmacy. Photo courtesy Department of Intercollegiate Athletics

“Basketball is a science, and you and your teammates have to communicate to get the job done with verbal or nonverbal communication,” Bailey said. “That is used in the practice of pharmacy in treating our patients.

“Many patients are not able to effectively communicate their concerns, so we must always investigate and take cues from signs and symptoms to help our patients.”

Soccer gave many life lessons to fourth-year student pharmacist Kayla Bourgeois. The Gonzales, Louisiana, native became an all-state honoree at East Ascension High School and played on the Mississippi State University women’s soccer team.

Bourgeois has been around the game for most of her life. Soccer taught her about personal responsibility, accountability, humility and valuing the differences that everyone brings to the field.

When it’s time to start her career, Bourgeois noted that it is the discipline and devotion of the game that will help her succeed.

Fourth-year student pharmacist Kayla Bourgeois credits the discipline and devotion of playing soccer in high school and college with helping her succeed on her road to becoming a professional pharmacist. Photo by Joe Ellis/UM Medical Center

“As an athlete, you must accept all that comes with the title,” Bourgeois said. “There are younger players who want to be just like you, so you must set a proper example.

“Upholding professionalism in pharmacy practice is no different, with meeting deadlines on projects, leading within an organization and being devoted to learning as our careers evolve.” 

Classmate Hayley Davis has softball in her blood. Her mom and aunt earned numerous accolades at UCLA, while her dad played fast pitch in his native New Zealand. Davis herself donned uniforms at Ole Miss and California State University at San Marcos and for the New Zealand 19-and-under team.

Hayley Davis, a fourth-year student in the UM School of Pharmacy, played softball for both California State University at San Marcos and Ole Miss, as well as the New Zealand 19-and-under team, learning about about team building and leadership along the way. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Davis played mostly as a pitcher. While softball taught her about team building, her position brought more individual growth with responsibility and leadership.

“As a pitcher, you get all the glory when things go right, but also all the responsibility when they go wrong, which has helped me prepare for my life as a pharmacist,” said Davis, who grew up in Santa Maria, California. “Playing softball gave me tough skin to bounce back from a variety of tough situations.” 

Kayla White is a junior finishing her final year of the school’s Early Entry Program. She also balances the responsibilities of dancing with the Ole Miss Rebelettes. The Collierville, Tennessee, native has been dancing for 17 years, a natural progression after watching her older sister’s dance lessons and competitions.

With the Rebelettes’ busy schedule on top of coursework, White has learned the importance of organization, discipline and a good work ethic. What dance has contributed is a way to find positive encouragement and push her boundaries.

“I love a good challenge, but making real connections and having an impact on others have always been goals of mine,” White said. “Pharmacy was the perfect way of tying in all the qualities that I’ve gained from dance, but also those that I aspire to have.”

Kayla White is a junior in the UM School of Pharmacy and a dancer for the Ole Miss Rebelettes. Submitted photo

Sports can be a valuable tool for creating strong leaders. Fortunately, young women today don’t have to choose between athletics and academics or a successful career.

“My advice to young females is knowing you can excel in both,” Bailey said. “Others before you have done it, so you can too. Figure out your niche, develop great habits and go for it.”