ALBANY — Leesburg native Melody Clay Sheffield never thought she would take a position in academia, much less have the word “dean” in a title, when she started her career as a pharmacist.
However, when the pharmacy profession changed in 2000, shifting from a bachelors of pharmacy to a doctorate of pharmacy as the entry degree, Sheffield began a doctorate program for non-traditional pharmacy students at the UGA College of Pharmacy that would lead to a slight change in her career.
At the time, Sheffield worked as a pharmacist at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, but toward the end of the doctorate program, some of the people managing the program let her know about a job opportunity as a faculty member with the UGA College of Pharmacy that would still allow her to stay in southwest Georgia.
“The College of Pharmacy started making a push to expand their program and have more of a presence in southwest Georgia,” Sheffield said. “The College of Pharmacy had for many years sent students (to southwest Georgia) for some of the clinical experiences down in this part of the state, but about 2002, they wanted to try to do more with that. One of the things they needed was to have an experiential faculty member in this area.”
Sheffield learned about the position through the doctorate program she was in, took a look at the job description and decided she wanted to apply.
“It was not something I had thought about doing, but as I looked at it and thought about it, I wanted to know more about it,” Sheffield said. “I think the best way to find out more about it was to just apply for the job, so I did, and I decided to take it. It was not an easy decision though because I was happy as a practicing pharmacist. But I have enjoyed the change and the role in academia, so it’s been good.”
Fast forward to May of this year, and Sheffield is still in the field of academia, but this time with a new title: interim assistant dean for professional affairs.
Since 2012, the UGA College of Pharmacy has had an extended campus in southwest Georgia, giving third- and fourth-year students a chance to experience working in the region.
“(With this program), we can attract pharmacists to the area, new graduates, and certainly some are already from here who want to come back home,” Sheffield said. “They say that students tend to take jobs where they’re trained. We can be assured that we have a supply of professionals to come into this area.
“I think originally, when you go back to 2002, the emphasis to put more training in this area was written up in what they call an ICAPP (Intellectual Capital Partnership Program) grant. There was a partnership with Phoebe, the area health education center and Albany State University, so we had these various entities that came together to help work to address what, at that time, was a pretty significant shortage of pharmacists in this area.
“I think we have had some people who have moved down here to this campus who are not from here and, lo and behold, some of them do stay. That’s good.”
In her new role, Sheffield will continue to serve as the extended campus director for pharmacy practice experiences in the area, but she will also take on new challenges, like working with regional partners such as Phoebe and dealing with academic and operations issues.
“I hadn’t really thought about that there would be an opportunity for me to have anything like a title that had the word ‘dean’ in it, so it’s new for me,” Sheffield said. “It’s a learning experience, but I think it will be good for me.”