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Inaugural class graduates from WCU School of Pharmacy

The inaugural class of the William Carey University School of Pharmacy graduated April 10 during commencement exercises at First Baptist Church Gulfport.

The School of Pharmacy is housed at WCU’s Tradition campus. It is an accelerated program, enabling students to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in two years, 10 months, instead of the more usual four years. Classes meet year-round in four terms. One of only a handful of accelerated pharmacy programs in the country, the WCU School of Pharmacy accepted its first students in July 2018.

“The graduation of our inaugural class of pharmacy students is, indeed, an exciting time for William Carey and the Gulf Coast. This is another step in the growth of William Carey’s ability to meet the needs of Mississippi and the Gulf South region,” said WCU President Dr. Tommy King.

The ceremony’s two main speakers came from different points on the same path.

Keynote speaker John Read has served since 1993 in the Mississippi House of Representatives, but he has also been a practicing pharmacist for 50 years. Warren Patrick Hutto of Gulfport, graduating with honors, addressed fellow members of the Class of 2021 as a pharmacist at the start of his professional life.

Both talked about the importance of practicing pharmacy with a servant’s heart.

From past to present

“When I entered the practice of pharmacy in 1970, it was quickly evolving from the traditional role of compounding, labeling and dispensing into something much more connected to the patient experience. I have seen our role become integrated with physicians and other health professionals, all focused on improving patients’ health outcomes and quality of life,” Read said.

“But there’s a common thread that has remained the same – the desire to help people. When I took my first job, I had no idea how close I would get with many customers. I’ve celebrated the good times and I’ve also grieved with people in some of their darkest moments. I have become part of their families, and they have become part of mine.

“Don’t forget the person. There are people and families behind every prescription you fill. You can minister to the mind, the soul, and the spirit as much as medicine can help the body. Get out, talk to people. Learn the names and the stories of the people you serve.

“Don’t allow yourself to simply be part of an assembly line trying to keep up. Don’t forget the person because maintaining true human connections keeps you grounded in the root reason you went to pharmacy school – to help people.”

From present to future

Patrick Hutto was elected by his classmates to speak for them during commencement.

“In Matthew 22, Jesus says, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself,’ Hutto said.

“Our primary call is to enter an intimate relationship with our creator and savior. To trust Him and to grow with him more every day. As we leave this place, take the time to ask your heavenly father to be an active part of your life.

“The second calling that Jesus gives us is to love people. And that can be seen lived out in a career, the vocation of pharmacy. Using your specialized skill set to serve and to help people in need, just as Jesus modeled for us. Showing compassion and understanding for the lost and the hurting. An interesting thing happens when you love God and you love people – you will have opportunities to change the world.

“Class of 2021, it is time for you to become the men and women that God created you to be. It’s time for you to use the profession of pharmacy as an outlet of God’s grace. Let’s go change the world.”

Regional leadership

In his remarks, Rep. John Read also praised William Carey University’s leadership team in seeing the need for a school of pharmacy not only for south Mississippi, but for the Gulf South and beyond.

“Dr. King, I have worked setting policy and funding programs in state and local governments for more than 30 years. I know taking an academic program from concept to tangible product requires a great deal of effort. You lived the character of your institution’s motto, of expecting great things from God, and attempting great things for God,” Read said.

Dr. Michael Malloy, dean of the School of Pharmacy, agreed.

“This is the culmination of five years of implementing Dr. King’s vision of starting a School of Pharmacy at William Carey University. It took great effort, creating a culture and community of family, perseverance and ultimately leading to success by all the faculty, staff and especially the students,” Malloy said.

“This could not have been achieved without all the support we received from the pharmacy community in the state and all of those preceptors and institutions who embraced our students on their clinical rotations. We hope this is the beginning of a long and successful tenure for the School of Pharmacy.”

The WCU School of Pharmacy looks forward to site visits and final accreditation this summer by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, the national accrediting body for schools of pharmacy in the United States.

For more information, visit www.wmcarey.edu/pharmacy.