20 Questions: Cindy Stowe, PharmD

Last Updated on June 27, 2022 by Laura Turner

Dr. Cindy Stowe is a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, where she also completed a general clinical residency and a pediatric specialty residency. Following residency, she finished a pediatric pharmacotherapy research fellowship at LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis, TN. Dr. Stowe has been a part of the medical staff at Arkansas Children’s Hospital since 1996 and has extensive teaching experience as a faculty member at both the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Pharmacy and the College of Medicine.
Throughout her tenure at UAMS, Dr. Stowe has served on numerous committees on both the local and national levels. From leading curriculum revision and directing the Office of Continuing Pharmacy Education at UAMS to participating in AACP’s Academic Leadership Fellows Program and as a site-team evaluator for ACPE, she has had extensive experience in the pharmacy academic realm. Additionally, she serves as a reviewer for Currents in Pharmacy Teaching.
Dr. Stowe is the new dean of Sullivan University College of Pharmacy (SUCOP) in Louisville, KY. Dr. Stowe enters this new role after acting as Associate Dean at UAMS College of Pharmacy since 2005.
Dr. Stowe has kindly agreed to be interviewed by The Student Doctor Network to discuss her career and aspirations in her new role as SUCOP’s dean.
1. If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a pharmacist? If not, what would you have done instead?
I would definitely still become a pharmacist. It is a perfect fit for me. I never had a role model or any family members in the pharmacy profession, but I always knew I wanted to do something where I could take care of patients and make a difference. I don’t know how I chose it exactly, but it has worked out perfectly.
2. Why did you choose your specialty?
Once I made the choice to do both my Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and Doctor of Pharmacy degree, I thought I wanted to specialize in internal medicine. However while completing my experiential rotations, I quickly realized I wasn’t interested in that. I was able to switch out an internal medicine rotation and into a pediatric one. It was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
3. You completed four years of post-PharmD training. Is that unusual?
In the early 90s it was unusual, and I’d say it’s unusual even now! If I were graduating today, I would probably pursue a residency in combination with a Masters or PhD degree option. I knew I was interested in academia and felt that residency and fellowship education would provide me with a skill set that would position me at the best possible spot to start a career in academia. My decision making was similar to most graduates… I was thinking about where I wanted to be in 5-10 years and picking what I thought was the quickest route to achieve my career goals.
4. What made you decide to enter academics after your fellowship?
I made the decision to enter academia before residency or fellowship. I was interested in it because I love the academic setting… teaching, service, and research. Add in direct patient care for faculty in practice settings; it’s just a blast! I was and am still energized by a career in academia. Helping students realize their dreams, making a difference in patients’ lives, advancing the profession of pharmacy, and contributing to scientific discovery and innovation, what’s not to get excited about!
5. Describe a typical day at work.
As associate dean my role is to help fulfill the college’s mission in any way that I can. I spend a lot of time in meetings, talking with people, and working behind the scenes to improve conditions for students and faculty. This job requires relationship building, strategic planning and managing structural aspects to ensure the college is successful. I love what I do, so an average day for me is in the office early, and I usually stay late and/or take work home. This schedule probably sounds crazy, but if you love what you’re doing it’s not work but, in fact, it’s fun.
6. What is your favorite part about your career?
What I’ve always enjoyed about pharmacy, more than anything, is the diversity of opportunity the career offers. You can go any direction you want. I like being in a situation where every day is different, and I am presented with new challenges and opportunities. I like to use this old quote to describe myself, “I’m a jack of all trades but a master of none.” I enjoy the diversity of learning about a wide range of topics and situations. My specialty is even quite diverse. If you specialize in pediatrics, you specialize in every disease state that can exist in a person younger than 21. It’s not a specialty with a narrow aspect, and that’s one of the main reasons I liked it. In addition, I have always enjoyed working on a team. It is amazing what a great team can accomplish; certainly more than a single individual!
7. How has your career thus far prepared you to be dean of a college of pharmacy?
During my time as associate dean, I’ve had the good fortune of working with the best dean in the country! Because of her transparent approach and willingness to share leadership opportunities, I’ve learned a great deal about the role of dean. I’ve been a part of her leadership team that has transformed the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy in every aspect of its mission. At the time Dr. Gardner became dean, the college was 51 years old and it had only had two deans. It was time for a change and a breath of fresh air. I feel like the college was rebuilt from the inside out. On a regular basis I was given opportunities to lead and with these opportunities came both success and failure. I have learned many lessons but know the path of leadership has ups and downs. These opportunities have tested and grown my patience, persistency, and passion.
By far the people in my life, family, friends, and colleagues have made the most significant impact in preparing me this opportunity as Dean of Sullivan. Their patience, guidance, support, and trust have allowed me to grow as a person and make the best of my career opportunities. I am grateful to many for the difference that each have made in my life!
8. What attracted you to the dean position at SUCOP?
So many things attracted me to this opportunity! Probably the first thing would be timing for me in my career… I had reached a point where I was a bit restless and looking for a different challenge for professional growth. In addition, I think the timing was right for the UAMS COP for me to consider other opportunities. I have loved my time at UAMS and what has been built. I cannot wait to see where the UAMS COP goes from here; I’m certain it will be awesome! In my consideration of the deanship at SU, I appreciated a long history of successfully innovative campus leadership committed to education and career success, a youthful enthusiastic well-prepared faculty, a committed knowledgeable staff, and a bright diverse passionate student body. I also recognized and appreciated the challenges facing SUCOP to fulfill its mission and vision. I believe my talents, skill set, experiences, and passion for pharmacy and academia as a leader will be the right mix to propel SUCOP to the next level of success through education, service, patient care, and research.
Finally, the location of the SUCOP position was also personally of interest to me – my parents live in Marshall County, I went to school in Lexington, and I’ve always considered myself a Kentuckian. I think the opportunity for me both professionally and personally is what attracted me to the position.
9. SUCOP is an accelerated three-year pharmacy program. What are your thoughts on the differences between 3- and 4-year PharmD programs?
I believe that there are distinct advantages of an accelerated program. I feel it is important to be diligent and committed to recruit students and faculty who will thrive in this environment. The culture must be student-centered; if not, even the best students will struggle. I know the challenges of being a student in a traditional 4-year program; it’s not easy! I know it is stressful, and there is a need to help students balance and grow. An accelerated program is not just stressful for students, but faculty too. The recruitment and retention of the faculty will have to be a priority as well. I will learn more about the dynamics of the 3-year program first hand soon and remain focused on creating the best environment for student and faculty success.
10. Students in 3-year PharmD programs often have less time to work during school than their 4-year program counterparts. Do you think this is a significant drawback?
I don’t think it’s necessarily a drawback but it eliminates special summer internships. I think experiential education within accelerated programs is even more important than in a traditional 4 year program. Being able to interweave experiences within curriculum is so important in making what is being taught didactically have greater meaning and relevance to students. My guess is that even within an accelerated program there are a number of students who hold pharmacy intern/technician jobs for the experience, networking, and financial benefits.
11. What is your vision for your new position?
Initially, my plan is to get to know Sullivan University and the College from the inside and out from campus administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and external stakeholders. I want the very best for Sullivan, but right now I don’t know exactly what that is. Positioning Sullivan in the community at large and building relationships external to the school is critical, not just for IPPEs and APPEs, but for research, residency opportunities, and advancement of pharmacy practice. Developing relationships with stakeholders in an effort to advance the goals of SUCOP and craft a vision that students, faculty and administrators can get their hands around is important. It is essential to have a strategic plan that everyone can get behind to help fulfill the vision. There is a lot of work to be done on my part to be well informed and knowledgeable about SU and the College of Pharmacy. Dr. Walter Soja has done a wonderful job as interim dean at a critical time, which makes my job easier.
12. From your perspective, what is the biggest challenge pharmacists face today?
The number one challenge is moving the profession from a mercantile-based profession to a non-product dependent patient-centered profession. The most critical part of that is a payor model that includes pharmacists as providers and an electronic communication network that allows access to patient information.
13. How do you feel the field of pharmacy has changed since you graduated?
In some ways it has changed drastically and in other ways it hasn’t changed that much. The drivers of the business model will hopefully more fully engage the profession in direct patient care activities. Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers – perfectly positioned to take advantage of opportunities emerging with healthcare reform. I couldn’t imagine doing some of the things new graduates do now when I was just starting out. It’s an exciting time to be a pharmacist!
14. What changes do you see ten years from now?
I think pharmacy will look totally different. Instead of seeing the dispensing function when you look at a pharmacy, the profession will be more oriented towards direct patient care. The central activity of the pharmacist will be more service based instead of product driven.
15. What advice would you give to students considering pharmacy as a career?
Be diligent in your academic preparation. You must be prepared to manage the rigorous academic load of a pharmacy student. Tackle prerequisites so that you have a solid foundation of math and science. Don’t overlook the soft sciences! Pharmacists must be able to communicate and interact with people, problem solve and think critically, be empathetic, and function well in a team.
16. What factors should a prospective student consider when choosing a pharmacy school?
Students should pick an environment where they feel they can thrive. There will be many factors to consider. For instance, it might be important to go to a school close to where you live. You must figure out what’s best for you. I think all colleges in the country are capable of producing successful graduates. Students should choose based on the culture of the institution and how its goals meet their own. Regardless of what school you choose, you have to be committed to it and work hard. It’s an effort to become a pharmacist, even for the very best students.
17. What do you feel are the best predictors of how students will perform in pharmacy school?
The literature certainly supports the use of GPA & PCAT scores as viable predictors of success in pharmacy school. Of course that’s not the whole story in seeking the best candidates for pharmacy school… a holistic approach with an effort to paint a complete picture of the candidate is the goal. Certainly students must be academically prepared in math, science, communication, and problem-solving/critical thinking. In addition to these areas we strive to identify students with the right attitude and behaviors that will lead to a highly successful professional. We look for the qualities that we all want in the person that will care for our healthcare needs.
18. Is it important for students to be involved in student activities and/or professional organizations? Why or why not?
Yes, absolutely. I think it’s a great way to get students integrated into the profession. Professional organizations provide opportunities for relationship building, professional networking, leadership development, service learning, and professional engagement. Extracurricular/co-curricular activities certainly complement and support the goals of the program – all colleges want to produce leaders and these activities go a long way in helping developing the best pharmacist.
19. How important do you feel it is for pharmacy students to pursue a residency after graduation?
I do think doing a residency is important and I encourage all students to seriously consider doing one. You can never go wrong with more education! I believe doing a residency is an investment in your career that will pay off in ways that are not always clear at the beginning of your career. Doing a residency doesn’t come with a decidedly improved salary but it does come with greater opportunity. All pharmacy programs should prepare graduates to be successful in entry level practice with or without a residency.
20. How do you spend your free time? Can you share any advice on finding a balance between work and life?
I’m an avid sports fan and enjoy going to sporting events and watching on TV. I love to play golf, even though I’m not very good. I also love to travel. On finding a balance, the most critical aspect is doing what you love both professionally and personally. To me if you can do that, you’re going to be happy and that’s what you want in the end. Find a job that will add energy to your life so that when you leave work you feel refreshed and have the time and energy to have fun with family and friends.