Pharmacy graduate reflects on career goals at ETSU College of Pharmacy commencement

Brandon Paykamian • May 4, 2018 at 11:24 PM

Years ago, Leona Holland-Skipper was unhappy with the work she was doing in the insurance industry, which led her to return to school to study pharmacology.

On Friday, Holland-Skipper was one of 76 students who received their diplomas from the East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy. She was set to receive both her doctorate in pharmacology and master’s degree in public health and be the first ETSU graduate to receive the United States Public Health Services Excellence in Pharmacy Award.

“I actually worked for the medical insurance industry for about a decade before going back to school, and I had a call one day where I had to tell a man that his 2-year-old son was not covered for cancer treatment because he had a preexisting condition,” she said. “I just said, ‘That’s it, I’ve got to start doing something else.’

“I want to help individuals rather than work for insurance companies.”

Holland-Skipper was part of the college’s ninth graduating class, which was recently nationally recognized for its interprofessional work in helping fight the region’s opioid epidemic.

During her address to the graduating students, Dean Debbie Byrd said students like Holland-Skipper have a lot to be proud of — from providing and administering flu vaccines to the public to their work related to the prescription drug abuse crisis.

“The Class of 2018 made this college their own and they are leaving it a better college of pharmacy than the one they found,” Byrd said.

Several other pharmacy graduates received awards during the commencement ceremony, including Irene Abia-Angeh, Mollie Ketron and Casey Leamon, all of whom received the Valedictorian Award for having perfect grade point averages. 



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