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Dean of UT Pharmacy College in Memphis Knows Business

For release:  February 18, 2014

By: Kevin McKenzie
Posted in The Commercial Appeal Monday, Feb 10, 2014

Marie Chisholm-Burns, pharmacy college dean at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, heads a college whose students are virtually guaranteed six-figure incomes once they graduate as pharmacists.

Within about two months of becoming dean of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 2012, Marie Chisholm-Burns enrolled at the University of Memphis to earn an MBA.

Chisholm-Burns’ purpose was to experience a dual degree program available to pharmacy students so she could advise them, but she earned a new perspective as well as an MBA.

“Everything is a business and I think we’d be better suited, just in life, if we view it like that,” she said.

“And I think that sometimes in health care we forget about that because we want to help people so much.”

The latest news about Chisholm-Burns, 46, a married mother of a 10-year-old son, is that the American Pharmacists Association chose her for its 2014 Research Achievement Award, adding to a large collection.

“I like to write, I like to influence and to get an award is just gravy on top of everything,” she said.

Chisholm-Burns said she earned her bachelor’s and doctor of pharmacy degrees at the University of Georgia just about the time that retail pharmacies including Walgreens and CVS began multiplying.

Demand for graduates of the Memphis-based UTHSC College of Pharmacy remains high, although signing bonuses of BMWs and large checks for staying five years have waned.

Ninety-seven percent of the Class of 2013, which had 147 graduates, were employed three months after graduation. Fifty-five percent went to work for chain pharmacies and a one-third went on to pharmacy residencies, specialty training, in institutions such as hospitals.

With median starting salaries of $110,000 to $120,000 and flexible careers, the four-years and student loans that can top six figures are worth the investment, Chisholm-Burns said. Tuition of about $22,000 a year at the UT pharmacy college, which has a campus in Knoxville and a clinical education center in Nashville with expansion in its future, is at least about 30 percent less than other colleges in Tennessee.

Giving UT pharmacy graduates a unique edge is the reason for dual-degree MBA program with the U of M, she said. A nuclear pharmacy program and having students graduate with a medication therapy management certificate are others.

From a business point of view, pharmacists perhaps shouldn’t be reaching for the most expensive medication when another will do, or not tie up their budgets by keeping too large stocks of expensive medications in inventory.

“I think it’s critical that the business side is really promoted,” said.

Transplant medicine is one of Chisholm-Burns major research interests and she founded the Medication Access Program in Georgia to help people with transplants get medications they need.

Education research is another favorite for her and technology that puts information at the fingertips of students and makes faculty video conferences common are making big differences.

“It just makes the dynamics of learning a lot better,” Chisholm-Burns said.

For the original Commercial Appeal article, click here.

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Last Updated: 2/18/14