Dr. Trisha Branan ’06 Exemplifies Leadership in Pharmacy

Dr. Trisha Branan ’06 has had a whirlwind of a year. A Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical and Administrative Pharmacy, she was named the Interim Assistant Department Head for Professional Education, was honored as the College’s 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year, and currently serves as Chair of the Board and immediate Past President of the Georgia Society of Health System Pharmacists.

It’s her stellar teaching skills that define her, however. Dr. Branan coordinates and teaches courses in the Pharm.D. program and is a board-certified Critical Care Pharmacist, a passion she shares with her students and fellow colleagues. A few short years ago, she was the recipient of the prestigious UGA Creative Teaching Award for her transformation of the Critical Care Pharmacy course PHRM 5370. Dr. Branan worked with course co-coordinator Dr. Anthony Hawkins and instructional designer Russ Palmer to create a virtual intensive care unit patient room that allowed students to interact with various healthcare disciplines and patient families. She also is a member of C3, the college’s Critical Care Collaborative, which fosters critical care research and education across the state.

In a recent interview with Lee Snelling, Senior Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Dr. Branan shares what led her to become a pharmacist, why leadership roles are important, and what guidance she has for the next generation of PharmDawgs.

What led you to become a pharmacist?
I knew that I ultimately wanted to be in one of the helping professions, but many of the ones I explored didn’t feel quite right. When I learned about pharmacy and spoke to several pharmacists, I was intrigued by the many different avenues the pharmacy degree could offer. Once I started school, I knew that being a pharmacist was the perfect fit.

Why the UGA College of Pharmacy?
The UGA College of Pharmacy has a long-standing reputation of producing excellent pharmacists. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to receive my education and train under the pharmacy leaders here.

What mentors were important along the way?
I have been fortunate to have many significant mentors throughout my pharmacy training and career. In particular, the mentors and preceptors during my postgraduate residency training years had the most significant impact on my future. They helped me to recognize many strengths and abilities that I could not see in myself and gave me the confidence to pursue opportunities that I did not believe I could achieve. Without their investment in me, I am not sure that my pharmacy path would look the same.

One particular mentor that impacted my career was Dr. Scott Savage, one of my PGY1 mentors. I started that year with no intention of pursuing PGY2 training, but had a strong desire to practice in critical care at an academic medical center. At the time, it offended me when he informed me that I would likely not be qualified enough for that position without specialty training. Part of my reason for not wanting to pursue a PGY2 was because I had been in school / training for what felt like an eternity, my discomfort with the thought of moving out of state, and largely due to not feeling confident in my abilities to match at a PGY2 program. With his mentorship and encouragement, he challenged me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I was, in fact, capable of a lot more than I realized; I needed to take a hard look at what a career in pharmacy would look like over the next 30-40 years and realize I needed to pursue PGY2 training. His guidance helped me to think bigger and dream bigger for a future that I didn’t think possible.

What guidance do you have for students that will soon become practitioners?
The first piece of advice I would give any new practitioner is be flexible and open to different opportunities. You never know how something new may alter the trajectory of your career. I can pinpoint many seemingly benign circumstances or choices when I look back that completely changed the course of my career for the better. Second is to seek meaningful mentorship in all areas of your life, both personal and professional. Iron sharpens iron – true mentorship will help challenge and grow you in ways you don’t even realize. Then as you continue to grow in your career and achieve your goals, make sure that you pay it forward and invest in those behind you. When your elevator goes up, it is your obligation to send it back down to bring the next person up.

Why is the pursuit of leadership roles (GSHP in mind) important to you?
When I first started getting involved with GSHP, I never dreamed that I would one day have the privilege to serve as President of the organization. Shortly after I started my first position after residency training, a colleague I worked with, Patricia Knowles, encouraged me to run for the upcoming District Director elect position. I agreed thinking this would be a great way for me to get involved professionally and network with other pharmacists around the state. I had no idea the value and impact this one decision would have on my career. After becoming involved with GSHP, I was surrounded by a group of pharmacy leaders around the state that welcomed me, sought my input regularly, and invested in my personal and professional growth. I became aware of the many issues that affect our profession at the state and national level and it opened my eyes to the pharmacy world outside of my little bubble. As the years went on, I became increasingly passionate about professional service and with the encouragement and sometimes prodding from my GSHP mentors, I continued to serve in other positions on the Board of Directors. Three years ago, I was apprehensive and unsure if I had the necessary experience and skills to run for President-elect and lead GSHP in such an important role. Dr. Leslie Jaggers believed in me and encouraged me to run. Despite my apprehension, it was important to me to give back through serving in these leadership roles to the organization that has been so impactful for my professional development and career.