Great Things Ahead

Published on 16 November 2021

On July 1, David D. Allen, RPh, Ph.D., took the helm as the fifth president of University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis. A passionate leader and changemaker, Allen brings to campus an enthusiasm and energy that is not only infectious but a perfect match for this pivotal moment in the University's history.

With a deep commitment to growing student opportunity through new programs and partnerships with regional health care institutions, enhancing the student and alumni experience and serving the underserved, Allen hopes to build off of the University's legacy and propel it to new heights.

A Dynamic Career in Pharmacy

Allen comes to UHSP from the University of Mississippi where he served as dean of the School of Pharmacy, professor of biomolecular sciences and executive director and research professor of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Before joining the University of Mississippi as dean of pharmacy in January 2012, Allen served as founding dean of pharmacy and professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) College of Pharmacy, formerly Northeastern Ohio University College of Pharmacy, in Rootstown, Ohio. He also spent time as associate dean of curricular affairs at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy in Amarillo, Texas, and served as professor of physiology and pharmacology in NEOMED's College of Medicine while he was dean of pharmacy.

Allen earned his bachelor's degree in pharmacy at the University of Kentucky, then practiced community pharmacy for several years before returning to the University of Kentucky to earn his Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences.

The author of 74 peer-reviewed articles and 46 professional publications, and a contributor to seven books, Allen's research interests span a variety of topics including the blood-brain barrier and the connection between leadership development and advocacy in pharmacy education.

"While at Texas Tech, I focused on brain drug development and brain drug delivery," Allen said. "Over time, I became involved in more administrative aspects of the institution, serving on committees responsible for admissions, which lead to my research into predictors of success in programs. Since then, I have focused much of my research on leadership development and the role of advocacy within leadership development."

When Allen describes his personal approach to leadership, he says there is no better model than the inverted pyramid and good old-fashioned teamwork.

"At the top of the pyramid are our students," Allen explained. "Everyone in the organization is within the pyramid, and I am at the very bottom. The responsibility of everyone within the pyramid, is to support our students and that may take many forms. My responsibility is to support everyone in the pyramid so we may be successful in our mission. One person's success will not elevate our University as a whole, but the success of everyone will allow us to achieve great things as a community."

Entwined in his approach to leadership and advocacy is Allen's passion for equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. As a past president of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), Allen forged a partnership between AACP and the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy to develop the organization’s first Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Institute in 2021. The institute provided attendees with opportunities and resources to expand their understanding of the impacts that equity, diversity and inclusion issues have on the profession of pharmacy and the communities they serve. Attendees were also challenged with developing an action plan for the organizations they represented.

"It is our duty as a profession and as people to engage in diversity and inclusion work, so we can be more effective in the care and support we provide to our communities," Allen said. "It is something I am deeply passionate about, and I have already met with community leaders in the St. Louis area on ways University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis can champion initiatives that increase health care access for underserved communities and positively change the lives of our patients, our community and the professions within health sciences."

The Future of Pharmacy and New Programs

Over the last decade, schools and colleges of pharmacy across the country have been navigating the rapidly changing landscape of pharmacy education and the profession. For many schools, this has meant anticipating the expanding role of pharmacy in health care and working to diversify programs to better meet the needs of today's pharmacy students.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10% growth from 2019 to 2029 in specialty areas of pharmacy that emphasize patient-centered care. For Allen, this anticipated growth is another exciting opportunity for pharmacy to make a positive impact in the community and in health care.

"I am a pharmacist first, and what I love about pharmacy is the ability to have an impact on people," Allen said. "Through our accessibility, training, ability to provide expanded services and efforts to advocate for the profession, we have the opportunity to dramatically impact the lives of patients on an individual level. The faculty and preceptors who educate and train our student pharmacists play a key role in empowering them to be agents of positive change in health care and in communities."

Through high-stakes relationship building with health care institutions in the region, Allen hopes to expand opportunities for students and faculty and engage the local health care community through mutually beneficial and sustainable partnerships.

"When we were building the college of pharmacy at Northeast Ohio Medical University, I did not know any of the pharmacy directors or hospital administrators in northeast Ohio," Allen said. "I had to hit the pavement. I reached out, talked about the mission and vision of what we wanted to accomplish and our focus on interprofessional education. Through those conversations, we were able to create partnerships that were win-win. If partnerships are not win-win, then they are not sustainable, and that sustainability is critical."

Equally critical is an institution's ability to remain nimble. As the University continues to develop new health sciences programs, Allen sees great potential for the University to not only further distinguish itself among regional health care institutions but also provide students with a competitive edge in the job market.

"We need to be thoughtful about what we pick and choose in regard to new programs," Allen explained. "We don't necessarily want to compete with our neighbors, but we want to create programs that are complimentary to what we currently offer and are mission consistent. For example, a pharmacist with a data science degree or even a certificate in data science is in high demand, and it is embracing opportunities such as new and complimentary programs like data science that will give our students and institution a competitive edge."

Investing in a Positive Student and Alumni Experience

The University has always prided itself on the family-like community that is felt on campus. Allen hopes to strengthen that sense of connection even more through initiatives that focus on the student and alumni experience.

"I am deeply committed to the student experience," Allen said. "I strongly believe students deserve and are owed a quality education and experience. If students do not have a quality experience, they are not going to become deeply committed alumni. As president, I want to focus on being a student-centric administration and community."

Closely tied with the student experience is student recruitment. Allen’s approach to recruitment is similar to his approach to creating a positive student experience.

"Student recruitment is not an office's responsibility. It is everyone's responsibility — faculty, staff, current students and alumni," Allen explained. "If we want to attract stellar students, we all have to be involved and invested in that effort. This means having pharmacy champions from across the state going into middle schools and elementary schools and talking about our programs. It is a team effort."

Allen notes that alumni play the biggest role in the University's recruitment efforts, and he is eager to connect and develop relationships with alumni to learn more about their experiences as students.

"I want to develop relationships with all of our alumni, so I can understand the challenges they faced and what we can do to address them," Allen said. "The history, pride and legacy of St. Louis College of Pharmacy has not gone away. We must build on that for the University to move forward. It is important to me that our alumni feel comfortable enough with me to talk about the past and their connection to our legacy, and I want to ensure that they are a part of the solution in our recruitment and student experience efforts."

The Old and the New

Along with the milestone of installing a new president, the University has undergone incredible growth in the areas of research, new program development and an expanded brand.

"My tenure as president of UHSP could not have come at a more opportune time," Allen said. "I am excited about the old and the new. The University has a rich history of excellence and the growth opportunities that we continue to pursue are steeped in that history of excellence. I'm honored to have this chance to work alongside our talented faculty and staff because of their deep commitment to the success of our institution."

Though Allen admits that the saying "good to great" may sound trite, it perfectly embodies his vision for the University with the support of a strong, creative, dedicated and proud community alongside him. The future is bright for University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, and as Allen likes to say, "great things ahead."

This story was first published in the fall 2021 issue of Script Magazine. To view past issues of Script, visit the Script Magazine archive.

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