As the UC Irvine School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences prepares to welcome its inaugural class of the Doctor of Pharmacy program, Melanie Joe, PharmD, has a vision for the school to become known as the “School of Best Practices.”
In her unique role, Joe serves as the Founding Associate Dean for Pharmacy Professional Affairs at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SPPS) and Chief Pharmacy Officer for UCI Health. She aims to use her dual positions across UCI’s SPPS and the UCI Medical Center to serve as a bridge between the academic and clinical sides of UCI Health Affairs and deliver “best practices” to students.
“We will be teaching future pharmacists, and I want them to feel confident in their careers as a result of their education at UCI,” said Joe. “If they are ever in doubt or run into a question about optimal approaches to perform pharmacy practice, I want them to reflect on their time at SPPS and say: ‘well, we did it this way at UCI – so it must be right.’”
Instilling this type of trust in students is no small feat, but Joe is prepared with her own best practices to guide the way for the next generation of clinicians and researchers.
“Not all know this but early on, Dr. Joe was a driving force at the forefront of strategic planning to establish a PharmD program and new school of pharmacy here at UCI,” said UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences Founding Dean Jan Hirsch. “Now that we are a school with our first PharmD students starting this fall, I am very pleased she agreed to take on the role of Associate Dean for Pharmacy Professional Affairs.
“Her experience, insight, and passion are so valuable to us as a guide for aligning of our pharmacy education, patient care, and research missions with the changing needs of the pharmacy profession and the UCI Medical Center.”
When Joe shares her career journey with UCI students, she helps them understand unconventional career paths and the skills required to succeed when you take them.
While she was initially unsure about the exact career she wanted to pursue, Joe felt crystal clear on what she didn’t want to do.
“During my undergraduate years, I was one of those students who was still trying to find their way,” Joe said. “I wasn’t set on pharmacy from the beginning. But as a chemistry major, I quickly realized that the solitary nature of lab work didn’t meet my needs. I longed for human interactions.”
A close look at numerous health professions landed her in the world of pharmacy and on a career path as a pharmacist, which she describes as the “perfect combination of hard science in a social setting.”
With her sights set on a future in retail pharmacy, Joe pursued numerous internships in the field to gain some experiences under her belt.
“I was very naïve,” Joe said. “And during my first internship – at a community hospital in Downtown Los Angeles – I was floored. Just amazed. I had never known about the work of an acute care pharmacist and that as a pharmacist, you could have such close, collaborative interactions with the medical team and make significant contributions to the care of a patient.”
Another internship at SmithKline Beecham (now GSK) had Joe cold calling pharmacists to gauge their sentiment on administering vaccinations.
“That experience was another fantastic opportunity to broaden my perspective of the pharmaceutical industry and realize what was possible as a pharmacist,” Joe said.
Her professional career also spans years as a neonatal pharmacist, the head of a pharmacy enterprise, and a Residency Program Director at both academic health-system and community hospital settings. Joe points to her variety of experiences across the pharamcetuical sector as opportunities to learn lessons that helped her strive in her career.
“I was fortunate to realize early on in my career that regardless of the position or place I was in, if I consistently carried out best practices in my role, I would be successful,” Joe said. “From my first job out of residency, APPE rotations, the very first community hospital I worked at as a lead clinical pharmacist, and to this moment in time, that life lesson has served me well.”
This explains Joe’s vision for SPPS to be known as the “School of Best Practices.” She considers it imperative to create an educational and teaching environment at SPPS that will fully equip students with the skills and tools they need to excel in whatever field or career path they may end up in the future.