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PharmAlliance Students Speak with Former Interim Dean Thakker

October 11, 2019
Eshelman School of Pharmacy

The PharmAlliance communications committee for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had the privilege of interviewing Interim Dean Dhiren Thakker last spring. In our lively discussion, we talked about the creation and vision of PharmAlliance, discussed trips and interactions with our international colleagues and remarked upon the future of having a global reach for pharmacy.

1. We heard that you visited Monash University recently. How was your trip to Melbourne?
It was good! This meeting was a very special meeting, it was the first time all domains of PharmAlliance gathered together for a PharmAlliance conference. It was a week long and we accomplished so much by the domains interacting with one another. For example, education and practice domains exchanged information and ideas so that we can work on a joint project in the future. The next PharmAlliance meeting will be in UNC and I would love to incorporate the format we had from the last meeting in Monash.

2. Anything specific you thought it was interesting in Monash?
What’s special about Monash is the people. They were amazing hosts. Dean Charman from Monash always finds something positive about everyone and I really wish to embody that trait. People in Monash are high performers and I can tell that they genuinely enjoy what they do. I really like the buildings in Monash as well. They have pictures in bold colors, which shows the images of young individuals full of energy. I really want to bring this style of artwork to ESOP as well.

3.We know you are a huge advocate for PharmAlliance. Why do you think PharmAlliance is important?
Well, the whole idea started from the thought that we can’t be in a bubble. We needed to look at the world, learn and be affected by one another. I want all of the students to be global citizens and be comfortable with different cultures and settings, because I do believe it is a very important skill and competency to have nowadays. So, when I met the dean of Monash Pharmacy, we had an amazing conversation and we shared a lot of similar thoughts about pharmacy education, and it all started from there. I set up a meeting with UNC’s former Dean Blouin and the Dean of Monash Bill Charman, and later on Dean of UCL Duncan Craig joined in the discussions as well, leading to the formation of PharmAlliance.

4. What more do you want to see from PharmAlliance?
I want each of us to be a better school. I want us to create an impact that would not be possible as an individual institution and create some initiatives that will positively impact healthcare globally. For example, antibiotic resistance is a global problem. I would love to see our three institutions working together to solve the global problems as such. Another global problem PharmAlliance could help solve is with counterfeit medicine. Many of these problems are global problems that require technology, education, policy, big pharmaceutical companies and government. I want our institutions to work together and make a global impact.

5. One of the long-term goals students came up with in PharmAlliance was potentially being involved in research with faculty in Monash/UCL. Do you think this is a feasible goal and if so how do you think we can accomplish that?
The path to having more research collaboration and UNC students working with faculty at UCL and Monash is more possible for doctorate students. Going to other locations to continue research in a different environment can help catalyze the research and bring in new ideas. Students at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy can participate in the Global Pharmacy Scholars (GPS) program which is focused on service learning in pharmacy profession.

6. Recently, the GLIDE module was launched for UNC, UCL, and Monash students to participate. What do you expect students to get from the GLIDE module?
We want students to begin to think about what bigger things they can do together. We want to use the program as a next step. Think of it as the base of the pyramid and how we can climb up.

7. Do you think as the school gains more international recognition that there is going to be an influx of international students applying to the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy?
Unfortunately it is expensive for international students to come and attend our professional and graduate programs. We are continuously creating resources, such as our negotiation with the China Scholarship Council, which will help students from China in attending the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. We are the first pharmacy school to have a relationship with the scholarship council and we currently have the pleasure of welcoming five or six students a year through the program. Our goal is to continue to bring international diversity to the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy through either international collaboration or through welcoming international students. We feel that having a more diverse environment leads to more successful graduates.

8. In 10 years where do you see the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s impact nationally?
Our goal is to have the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy become the “Harvard of pharmacy.” We want our name to be instantly recognized and be known for its quality. With Harvard, their alumni network and graduates create the brand in addition to their top-notch faculty. We want to achieve the same. We want to increase faculty collaboration and also are looking at building our partnerships in other parts of the world. We also desire to continue building our relationship with Monash and UCL and continue to collaborate strategically together.

Overall, our discussion with Dean Thakker was insightful and intriguing. We were able to learn about many other exciting developments outside of the scope of the questions asked in the interview, such as the goal of building an endowment so that every student at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy can be a Global Pharmacy Scholar! We look forward to seeing the goals of PharmAlliance coming to fruition in the future and thank Dean Thakker very much for his time.

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