As Dean of the South College School of Pharmacy, Dr. William Gentry has two aspects of his job that are by far his favorite. The first is that he personally calls every student accepted into the School of Pharmacy, letting them know that they’re being offered admission. Talking to those students – and hearing them accept that offer of admission – brings him great joy. His second highlight is hearing about the positions and residencies our graduating students have been offered and the steps they’re taking to further their education and careers.
For Dr. Gentry, everything really is all about the students. “The success of our program depends upon the success of the student. We are trying to mold and educate and train our students to practice at the highest level of their license,” he says. “Our faculty, even though they are involved in research, their number one priority is educating the students. We have an open door policy. Our faculty are easily accessible and readily available for students. All of our faculty members teach our courses, and each new student is assigned a faculty mentor at the start who coaches that student all the way through the program.”
Dr. Gentry joined South College in 2010. He’d been in the pharmacy field since 1994, holding leadership roles at several large pharmaceutical companies, including a position as Vice President of Medical Affairs. In his industry career, he enjoyed presenting to sales teams, leading medical grand rounds, and working with key decision makers throughout the country. The transition to academia felt natural and he was one of the first faculty members hired for the South College Pharmacy team. Right away, he recognized the value of the accelerated 3-year Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program based on his own experiences in a traditional 4-year program.
“As students, we would come back for the fall semester and the professor would say, ‘Remember what we learned last semester? We’re going to build upon that.’ The professor starts talking and it’s like, ‘That was three months ago. I’ve had the summer off. I’ve forgotten all of that.’ The professor would have to back up and reteach that concept/topic,” Dr. Gentry recalls. “With the accelerated program and quarter system at South College, we have typically two-week breaks between quarters. So, when that faculty member says, ‘You remember what we learned last quarter,’ that’s a factual statement.”
The other aspect that attracted Dr. Gentry was the school’s vision to actively participate in the community and serve diverse patient populations. As Dr. Gentry moved from teaching into school leadership and eventually his current position as Dean, he has helped to achieve this vision by facilitating student involvement in a range of organizations, outreach programs, and pharmacy practice experiences.
For example, South College Pharmacy faculty, students, and alumni are currently taking an active part in distributing the newly released COVID-19 vaccinations. “A major hospital has asked for our faculty and our students to help them at their facility in vaccinating their employees,” says Dr. Gentry. “I’ve also spoken with two major pharmacy chains that have asked for our students to intern with them to help out with the community rollout of the vaccination.”
As Dean, Dr. Gentry sees vast potential for every student in the South College School of Pharmacy. “When you Google pharmacists, most of the images are a person in a white coat behind the counter dispensing medication, but there’s so much more that you can do with a PharmD. There are jobs in academia and research and hospitals and clinics and on and on. Pharmacists have many wonderful opportunities to impact patient cares and patient outcomes,” he says. “If you’re smart, good in math, and you like science – this is a great career for you.”