Sisters Earn Pharmacy Degrees Three Decades after Mother

UM students Ashley and Kelsey Lock follow parents' footsteps toward health care careers

Kelsey Lock (second from right), celebrates receiving her white coat during the School of Pharmacy’s White Coat ceremony with (from left) sister, Ashley; her mother, Dolly; and father, Charles. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – In May 1987, Dolly Mah graduated from the University of Mississippi with her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and began working as a staff pharmacist at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis.

Thirty-one years later, Mah, now Dolly Lock, will again attend the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy graduation ceremony, this time for her two daughters.

On Saturday (May 12), Ashley Lock will receive her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, while sister Kelsey earns a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“I feel so blessed to have my daughters graduating together,” said Dolly Lock, from Collierville, Tennessee. “It’s an overwhelming sense of pride, joy and gratitude. It is fitting that these two sisters who love and admire each other so much will get to share in this defining moment together.”

Dolly’s husband, Charles, worked in cardiology before becoming the CEO of Memphis Lung Physicians. Having grown up with two parents working in medicine, both Lock sisters said a career in health care always felt like the most natural path.

“Pharmacy was never forced on me, but rather, it was something I grew to love and enjoyed learning about as I was gradually exposed to it,” Kelsey said. “I’ve always admired that both of my parents have servant’s hearts and that they put others’ needs before their own, even at the expense of their own time.

“It’s by their example that I hold those same values and hope that my career puts me in a position to serve others.”

Dolly said she believed sharing her work experiences with her daughters throughout her career contributed to their positive view of the pharmacy profession.

Kelsey Lock

She and her husband often prompted their daughters to reevaluate aspirations to make sure each was following her own desires. Once it became clear that pharmacy was in their future, Dolly encouraged them to apply to the Ole Miss pharmacy Early Entry program for high school seniors who want to secure their spot in the school as soon as possible.

Kelsey said her older sister has been a role model for her throughout their lives, and both have enjoyed having each other for support throughout pharmacy school.

“Kelsey and I have always been close, but pharmacy has brought us even closer,” Ashley said. “The journey has not been easy for either of us with pharmacy’s rigorous coursework and busy schedules, but I’m thankful that she understands and supports me during those stressful times.

“I see a lot of myself in her, and I always make an effort to share with her things that I have learned along the way.”

After graduation, Ashley will begin a residency program at University Health System in San Antonio, Texas, and hopes to pursue further residency training in emergency medicine or critical care. Her interest in clinical pharmacy blossomed after she completed a clinical rotation in the UM Medical Center‘s emergency department.

“It was a side of pharmacy that I had never seen before, and I was immediately fascinated by the pharmacist’s role in this challenging environment and the opportunity to serve patients in need,” Ashley said. “This really opened up the world of clinical pharmacy to me, and I have been passionate about it ever since.”

Ashley Lock

During her last year of pharmacy school, Ashley nurtured her interest in clinical pharmacy by serving as president of the Ole Miss chapter of the Student College of Clinical Pharmacy. She won SCCP’s Outstanding Clinical Student Pharmacist Award, as well as the School of Pharmacy’s 2018 Patient Care Award, which is presented to a student who demonstrates superior performance in patient care skills during the experiential component of the Doctor of Pharmacy program.

“I was consistently asked about Ashley by my classmates and teachers, and it made me very proud to call her my sister,” Kelsey said. “Her legacy and the impact she has made on people at the School of Pharmacy inspires me to become a better student and better person, even if it involves stepping out of my comfort zone.

“As a freshman Early Entry student, I saw myself following her footsteps, knowing that if I did what she did, I’d be successful like her.”

And succeed she has. In the 2017-18 school year, Kelsey won the university’s prestigious Taylor Medal for outstanding academic performance and was named to the 2018 class of Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities. She also won the School of Pharmacy’s Merck Award for Scholastic Achievement in Pharmacy, which honors the student with the highest GPA during the first semester of the professional program.

On Saturday, Kelsey will be honored as the 2018 BSPS class marshal, and both sisters will graduate summa cum laude.

While Kelsey has three more years to solidify her plans, it was her experience volunteering at Baptist Memorial Hospital in high school that laid the foundation for her career aspirations, which blend both her parents’ specialties of hospital pharmacy and cardiology, as well as pediatrics.

Dolly Mah, now Dolly Lock, receives her pharmacy degree at the 1987 UM Commencement. Submitted photo

“That experience revealed to me that professions in health care are as rewarding for the ones giving care as they are for the ones receiving care,” Kelsey said. “I walked away satisfied at the end of each day knowing that even the small tasks I completed made a difference in how smoothly patients’ treatment went.”

Over the years, Dolly has seen her daughters’ involvement in pharmacy grow along with their understanding of the impact and possibilities of a pharmacy career.

“I have come to realize just how large the pharmacist’s scope of practice is,” Ashley said. “There are many ways in which pharmacists can impact patient care, and I think each of the different career paths in pharmacy is a testament to that.”

Both sisters say their parents’ work ethic and care for their patients have been the biggest motivators in their decisions to pursue pharmacy.

“What continues to draw me towards a career in pharmacy is that success manifests in our patients’ physical healing,” Kelsey said. “We also have the opportunity to walk on these journeys with our patients and impact their lives beyond just their physical health.”