"If you work as an advocate for your patients, then you are a true health care provider..."
Gamecock alumna Lillian Prioleau-Hill (1987 B.S. nursing, 1993 B.S. pharmacy) discovered her knack for medication consultation while earning a nursing degree from the University of South Carolina. A few years and advanced courses later, she earned a second degree in pharmacy. Lillian has leaned on both skill sets throughout her career to provide patient-centered care in the retail pharmacy setting.
Tell us about what you do:
I have been a registered nurse for 35 years and a registered pharmacist 29 years - I love health care at the patient level! I have been with Publix Supermarkets since June 1995, serving as manager for 17.5 years before stepping down to assistant manager due to health issues. I volunteer at my church, Elevation, and I do about 14-16 immunization clinics each year for Richland 2 Schools with all vaccines (Shingrix, COVID, TDAP, HPV, etc.) I enjoy taking my technicians and interns with me to the clinics.
How did you originally get interested in your field?
I researched the nursing program at USC with my high school guidance counselor and it sounded like a great choice. I worked three jobs while in nursing school to afford tuition. I prepared myself during undergraduate studies by taking the higher-level sciences in case I decided to go to medical school. During my last year of nursing school, I was working as a student nurse at Providence Hospital when I realized the joy of counseling patients on the medications they were taking. I became the “Discharge Associate” because nurses said I was great at discussing all the medications with patients upon discharge.
One day, I was walking past Coker Life Sciences Building and decided to see how long it would take for me to get a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy. The advisor told me that I only had to take one class - Calculus - and would be able to apply to pharmacy school and it would only take me two years. I completed my nursing degree and I worked Post Anesthesia Care Unit / Open Heart Recovery on weekends while I completed pharmacy school.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I was not sure, but I knew that I wanted to be in health care. I remembered when I would go to Kmart with my mother to get her medications, and I would look up at the pharmacist on the second level and think that maybe that could be me.
What activities were you involved with in school?
I pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. where we did a lot of activities. I worked a lot during my years at USC - I had three jobs while in nursing school and worked a full-time Registered Nurse position on the weekends while in pharmacy school.
What is your favorite memory from pharmacy school?
I studied at the end of the hallways on the floor down from the professors' offices so that I could knock on their doors when I had questions. The professors loved it! They would always say, “That is Lillian’s spot.” I truly loved studying, probably from being an R.N., I was always applying the information from class to realistic patients.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My family! My daughter, Alexandria, works for the NFL and recently received an award from ESPN. She is a 2019 graduate from USC in Sport and Entertainment Management. My son, Charlton, is a Junior at Spring Valley High School in the 'Discovery' magnet program. My husband, Carl Hill, played football for USC from 1984-86 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Retail Management and Minor in Accounting.
Carl and I married prior to my acceptance into pharmacy school. We lived in Augusta, so I would come to Columbia early Monday morning after working 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. in the PACU and stay with my parents until Thursday evening. He would always tell me, “You got this.” There were plenty of times that I wanted to not proceed with the degree because of all the sacrifices we had to make, but I did it. Completing my B.S. in pharmacy was my greatest professional achievement because I love what I do at the retail pharmacy level.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To do you. You can achieve anything!
How do you spend your time outside of work?
I am committed to health and fitness. I am certified in several fitness programs with Les Mills, Inc. My favorite class to teach is a high-intensity interval cycling class called RPM. I also teach a Total Body Training Class and work out every day when not at work. My cardiologist is so impressed that my resting heart rate is 38-45 bpm.
What is your advice for current students / future pharmacy professionals?
If you are in it for the money, you will not be happy. If you can see yourself getting up in the middle of the night to go help out at the pharmacy, if you can individualize each person that comes to your window and personalize the care needed for them, and if you work as an advocate for your patients, then you are a true health care provider!
What would your superpower be?
I would love to have the power to make people feel empathy towards others. I have been in health care for over three decades and being able to make people more empathetic to others would be a wonderful achievement.
What song always puts you in a good mood?
“Who I Am” by Ben Fuller.