Life is a journey that takes time to understand so buckle in and enjoy learning down each new path!
In his own words, "I laugh when I think back on my view of the world as a young man. I would describe my “purposeful academic journey” like this: Take a stick. Throw it into a stream. Watch where it ends up. I was a kid who thought that those who became valedictorians were just lucky. I barely got into pharmacy school and struggled once I got there, only figuring out what was going on as I was finishing my degree. I just knew I wanted to help people, and so I have."
His prescription for life involves self-care; applying what we preach to our patients to our own lives! Eat well, get outside (with some sunscreen!), and take the extra time in the day to get on your feet and exercise! Sitting is the new smoking in major causes of disease and death in this country so get moving!
Questions? Comments? Recommend someone for an interview? Contact us firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on twitter @twopillspodcast!
L: Hi everyone and welcome to Two Pills Podcast! Today I am so excited to have our guest Dr. Michael Neville with us. To describe Dr. Neville, he says that he laughs when he thinks back on his view of the world as a young man. He would describe his “purposeful academic journey” like this: Take a stick. Throw it into a stream. Watch where it ends up. When he was a kid, he thought that those who became valedictorians were just lucky. He barely got into pharmacy school and struggled once he got there, only figuring out what was going on as he was finishing my degree. He knew he wanted to help people, and he has. Welcome Dr. Neville!
Just to get started, can you tell us a little about yourself and your teaching style?
M: I grew up in Georgia and my parents were both educators. I attended the University of Georgia and really struggled to figure out what I wanted to major in. I knew I liked interacting with people and I love biological sciences. I was flipping through the university catalog and landed on Pharmacy. When I told my parents, they were so disappointed because they wanted me to become a teacher. I ended up majoring in Pharmacy, struggling in pharmacy school quite a bit, but ultimately got on track. When I told my advisor that I wanted to get my doctorate in Pharmacy, she laughed. She knew I was not a great student.
By the time I got into my Doctorate of Pharmacy curriculum, I had matured a lot. I grew up in metro Atlanta, so I had the privilege to do some of my rotations at Emory University Hospital. It is an academic medical center and it was an incredible experience for me. I was able to see pharmacist working closely with other disciplines-nurses, social workers, physical therapy, and physicians. All of these different people and they were making incredible interventions on behalf of patients. It was the first time I've ever really seen other people turn to the pharmacist to say what do you think we should do? I had the privilege of doing what was then called a general clinical residency at Emory Hospital. After I finished that, I got a job as a clinical pharmacist at another hospital which was called Crawford Long Hospital in downtown Atlanta and now called Emory Hospital Midtown. I worked there as a clinical pharmacist doing a lot of things that my residency didn't well prepare me for.
There was then a part-time position teaching pharmacology in the nursing program and serving as an internal medicine clinical pharmacist. That is how I got into Academia back in 1996. There are a lot of things I wish I would have known when I started. It really has been less purposeful and less planned than I thought. I am currently serving as Assistant Dean for Students at a smaller private university called Wingate University just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina.
L: It sounds like in your current role, you work a lot with students and are interested in things like student resilience and coping skills. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you use your own experience in that role?
M: I had the pleasure this year of serving on the Student Services committee, which is one of the standing committees at AACP. I serve with some other faculty members from around the country and we talked about resilience. Our charge was really to look at resilience and coping skills of our students and to see if there are things that we can do to support our students better. We’re noticing more and more students come in and when they have failures like failing an exam or course, they don't bounce back like they used to. I do not think we quite understand why that is. I have become good friends with the counselors on our campus. One of the counselor said that she thinks that our students today have had their parents always bulldoze through so many problems that by the time they get to college and have their first failure, a lot of them even think about committing suicide. They just do not really know how to deal with failure. This committee worked hard to come up with some recommendations for AACP and for schools of pharmacy to think about.
L: If you were giving advice to a brand-new faculty member, what insight do you wish you had on your first day?
M: If you look at job postings today, postgraduate residency training is almost always listed. Residency training prepares pharmacists to take care of patients at a higher level. Some of these programs have also developed a teaching certificate. I would argue that a residency program does very little to prepare you to be a faculty member in a School of Pharmacy. I really believe in the power of mentoring. A new faculty member needs to pair up with somebody who has had experience. I have learned how to become a teacher and a pharmacy faculty member by making every mistake you can possibly make. I did not know how to write a test question, I did not know how to cope with manipulative student, and I did not know how to read course evaluations. As human beings, 99% of our course evaluations can be positive and we focus on the one that says that you stink. There are just so many elements to being a faculty member that becoming a great clinician does not prepare you for.
L: Do you have advice on how to be a good mentor or good mentee?
M: If you look in the literature, mentoring can look kind of loose. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can find very specific mentoring contracts. I tend to look for mentors that can be more flexible. I do not sign contracts. I think that mentoring is really important and so many times we all have blind spots. They can help you see things from a different perspective that you're not aware of. I also love seeking out mentors who are not in my own institution because I can share an upset or a story or scenario. I can share it in a cryptic way that they do not know who I am talking about. They can give me their perspective. It is just so helpful. Identifying those people early on is important and identifying many if you can.
L: In addition to people, are there any books, resources, or podcasts that you recommend when going through this career?
M: I had the pleasure of participating in the academic leaders program through AACP. We all go through the strength finders program to figure out what our strengths are. We are encouraged to lead and operate from our own strengths. If we all bring our strengths together, we can become more powerful as an organization and move things forward. There are a number of books on mentoring, in particular outside of Pharmacy. I really encourage people to look into a business leadership to see how others are mentoring.
L: Is there a student question or experience that has left a lasting memory with you?
M: I have served as a faculty member longer than I have as an administrative capacity. It is a great thrill to be able to stand in front of a class, to work with students, and to see people really get it. Later on, if they email or contact you and say thank you. That kind of thing is very rewarding. In my current role, I see students struggling, and if I can keep them on track towards graduation, that is also very rewarding.
L: Who inspires you, where do you get your best ideas?
M: What I did and I think what many do is reflect on your own learning journey. Think about who the teachers were that most inspired you. Why were they inspiring? Who were the teachers that I did not like and why did I not like them? You then try to copy some of the behaviors of those who made the biggest impact. Our Dean of Students, Dr. Wolfgang, memorized every single student’s name. When I became a faculty member, I knew I wanted to copy that. It was so meaningful to me that someone in the school recognized me. As a student, I was so inspired by someone who taught me. I vowed that if I ever became a faculty member, I would copy that and I did. Students are shocked if you can call them by name.
L: What is your overall prescription for success and happiness in this job and in general?
M: We are working so hard to train our students to take care of others. They talk to patient about proper diet and exercise, sunscreen, sleep, etc. We do not see our students doing that for themselves. Healthcare providers are often the worst at taking care of themselves. I think it is important to take time for ourselves and go on walks. They say sitting is the next killer like smoking. Instead of eating a big lunch, I am challenging myself to go for a walk or go to the gym. At our gym, there is a sign that says that they are tracking student attendance and students who regularly exercise have higher GPAs than those who do not. For our faculty and our students, I would give a prescription to take care of themselves as much as we want students to take care of our patients.