Soaring High

Decola Johnson on being one of Eastern Shore's first pharmacy doctoral students

I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where natives often describe the region as the “Land of Pleasant Living.”

As a proud graduate of Snow Hill (Maryland) High School, I still exhibit school pride as an “Eagle.”

When it came time for me to head off to college, I didn’t have to look far – or make much of an adjustment in embracing a raptor-inspired mascot.

I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 2008 from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, 20 miles from my hometown.

The university’s mascot is a hawk.

I truly had a great post-secondary experience at UMES, one of the nation’s 10 most racially diverse historically black institutions, according to a recent U.S. News & World Report analysis.

While an UMES undergraduate, I had an opportunity to work in the pharmaceutical field as a pharmacy technician.

When the state of Maryland gave the OK to UMES to start a doctor of pharmacy program, I was excited to have such an opportunity in “my back yard,” and honored to be chosen for the charter class in 2010.

UMES’ pharmacy doctoral program offers a year-round curriculum that enables students to finish in three years instead of four that all but a handful of institutions around the country offer. As a non-traditional student, the UMES program really fit my needs and desire to enter the workforce a year earlier.

Although the program’s accelerated pace proved very challenging, I am proud of being a member of the inaugural class and completing the program at UMES, which did a terrific job of establishing a support network that included the School of Pharmacy administration and staff, and my fellow classmates and colleagues.

The goal of UMES’ pharmacy doctoral program is to produce graduates who can deliver an important health care service, especially in the kind of rural communities that dot the Eastern Shore.

Many of us have had the opportunity to take the education, knowledge and skills we obtained from our unique program across the country.

Currently, I work as a pharmacist with Walmart in the Atlanta metropolitan area and on an “as-needed basis” with PharMerica.

I am happy to be part of the foundation of UMES’ School of Pharmacy and carry the legacy of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, one of the nation’s best historically black institutions.

And I say to my fellow Hawks, wherever you may be, “Soar High!”