"Start each and every day new and try to make a difference..."
Alumnus Christopher M. Bland (2000 Pharm.D.) measures his success by the meaningful relationships formed with colleagues and students throughout his career. After 15 years working in clinical pharmacy, he transitioned to his current role as a clinical professor at the University of Georgia. Chris is married to fellow Gamecock Pharmacist Annette Winkle Bland (2000 Pharm.D.)
Tell us about what you do:
I’ve had a wonderful career that can be divided into two primary periods. I worked as a clinical pharmacist for nearly 15 years at Fort Gordon, GA (essentially Augusta, GA) as an Army civilian at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center. In 2015, I was given the opportunity to switch to academia and became a professor at the newest extended campus for the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy in Savannah, GA. It has been fun to watch the campus grow over the past 7 years and see our students succeed.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Professional athlete (baseball)
How did you originally get interested in your field?
My father is a retired pharmacist, but I would say my love for chemistry and biology drove me toward the field. My organic chemistry teacher at UofSC-Aiken was critical in opening up my eyes to many of the incredible career opportunities a pharmacy degree could offer, specifically the clinical opportunities rounding with physicians and providing evidenced-based recommendations to provide patient care.
Why did you choose the University of South Carolina?
As a native South Carolinian from Aiken and growing up an avid Gamecock fan, it was an easy choice. I did my pre-pharmacy work at UofSC-Aiken and then transferred to main campus for pharmacy school.
What class or professor do you remember the most and why?
I would say two for different reasons. First, Tim Mullenix who solidified my love for infectious diseases, which now is my primary area of interest that I teach and research. Second, Dr. Walt Sowell because of his kind spirit and his willingness to befriend students, even inviting them to his house on occasion. I’ve done the same for my students at UGA College of Pharmacy.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I love to build projects and teams. My greatest achievement would not seem so on the surface, but to me it is building deep, meaningful relationships with many colleagues, students, and residents over my career.
What do you do to relax?
Living in the Savannah area near multiple beaches, a day at the beach reading sounds wonderful to me.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
As a Christian, I would say I try to work as hard as possible each day to serve others, knowing that I will make mistakes. Forgiveness in my life from God allows proper perspective as I work to start each and every day new and try to make a difference in these students' and residents' lives at such a critical juncture in their professional and personal development.
Who has been a mentor to you?
My two primary mentors are both UofSC graduates and current faculty. Brandon Bookstaver and Scott Sutton are dear friends and two of the most well-respected faculty in the country. Their wisdom and friendship I hold dear and have been a major contributor to my success over my career. I have worked with them for many years on many different projects.
What is top of your bucket list?
Authoring a book (currently in progress.)
What is your favorite memory from pharmacy school?
I would say two. First and foremost, I proposed to my wife Annette (just celebrated our 21st year of marriage) on the Horseshoe two weeks after I graduated. Annette also is a UofSC COP graduate whom I met through one of my high school friends. My other favorite memory is in 1997 when we beat Kentucky in basketball at home and the campus went crazy with folks running around in jubilation. We had a really good team that year and that win validated how good we were.
What is your advice for current students / future pharmacy professionals?
First, find yourself a pharmacist mentor early. Have someone you can talk to and discuss life and the profession. Second, do not feel pressure to specialize early! A wonderful book that goes through the proper process of ultimately specializing is "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World" by David Epstein. Third, network constantly. Your most important interview may be one that was never scheduled.
What would your superpower be?
Knowing exactly what people need when they need it.