Alumnae Pharmacy Leaders Highlight Importance of American Pharmacists Month

Published on 31 October 2019

Each October, St. Louis College of Pharmacy celebrates American Pharmacists Month, a time dedicated to recognizing pharmacists’ contributions to health care and the role they play in their communities. From pharmacy educators and students to practicing pharmacists, researchers and beyond, we are fortunate to have many great leaders and representatives within the College community. And this month, we’re paying tribute to two alumnae who have established themselves as regional leaders in the pharmacy profession.

Jessica Kerr, B.S. ’00, Pharm.D. ’01, CDE, interim associate dean of professional and student affairs and professor of pharmacy practice at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy and chair of the Illinois Pharmacists Association board of directors, and Lisa Umfleet, B.S. ’96, R.Ph., BCGP, CDE, owner of Parkland Health Mart Pharmacy and president of the Missouri Pharmacy Association board of directors, discussed how they celebrate American Pharmacists Month, their roles as leaders in the industry and how their time at the College has impacted their careers.

What do you love about being a pharmacist?

Kerr: I love knowing that, as a pharmacist, I have the ability to make a difference in patients’ lives through education and professional and patient advocacy.

Umfleet: I enjoy helping my patients live healthier lives. Helping them to understand the benefit of their medications and a healthy lifestyle is so rewarding, especially when they drop by smiling just to hand you their most recent A1C reports.

How did your experiences at the College prepare you for your work as a pharmacist?

Kerr: I believe the rigor of pharmacy school prepares you for what to expect of the profession. You have to be willing to give of yourself before you can ask others or your patients to do the same.

Umfleet: I think the College has done an excellent job of exposing students to the continually expanding practice settings for pharmacists. I have worked as a community pharmacist, hospital pharmacist and even a long-term care consultant, and my experiences at the College prepared me to work in any practice setting.

What is a favorite memory you have from your time at the College?

Kerr: My favorite memories are those with a group of classmates that transferred to the College with me. The support I felt with that group was unwavering. We remain close to this day and can pick up months down the road like no time has passed.

I remember studying in the former library, pulling late nights at Denny’s and all-day study sessions at Ponderosa for the all-you-could-eat deals, which because of the long study sessions, meant that we could get two meals in one session. I remember the sense of community and feeling that we were all in it together.

Umfleet: I anticipated the trip to Eli-Lilly for years and it did not disappoint. I was a non-traditional student who had transferred in, I was married and I commuted to campus. I spent most of my time on campus studying or in class, but by the time our class went on the Lilly trip, I had bonded with them. It was great to get away from campus with my classmates to relax, have as much fun as we could get away with and gain insight into the pharmaceutical industry.

How do you give back to the profession and why do you feel that giving back is important?

Kerr: I started to give back to the profession soon after graduation because of my mentor, Dr. Rita Lakamp [B.S. ’95, Pharm.D. ’96]. I remember her taking me out for lunch for a mentoring session after my rotation with her at the St. Louis VA Medical Center. We both went to pay for the check, but she beat me to it and said, “I’ve got it for now. When you are able, make sure to give back to your mentee or the profession.” It was a simple statement that has stayed with me to this day.

I strive to serve as a role model for the students that I teach and others that I work with. I have dedicated my service to both state and national advocacy movements to help engage lawmakers and constituents to start discussing topics in pharmacy, like patient care and safety, that specifically impact the work of pharmacists. I have just completed 10 years with the Illinois Pharmacists Association board of directors and would encourage all pharmacists to become active on a state and local level.

Umfleet: It is important to continually advocate for the profession of pharmacy. There is merit to the saying, "You're either at the table or on the menu." Whether we're discussing provider status or pharmacy benefit management transparency, it is imperative that pharmacists talk to their legislators about the role pharmacists play as part of the health care team.

Why do you think is important to recognize American Pharmacists Month?

Kerr: American Pharmacists Month helps inform the public of pharmacists’ value to the health care team and their expanding roles serving patients within that team.

Umfleet: Pharmacists are on the front lines of healthcare in diverse practice settings. It is important to recognize them as the medication experts they are, and also highlight their contributions to excellent patient care.

Learn more about American Pharmacists Month and ways to get involved at


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