University of Findlay College of Pharmacy Advisory Board Chair Karen Beard’s inspiration to become a pharmacist was, according to her, a matter of who, and not so much what.
Growing up in a large Italian-Greek family, Beard, also a 1996 graduate of UF’s Masters of Business Administration Program as well as a member of UF’s Board of Counselors, had many family members to look to for insight. It was one particular uncle, she said, who was the brightest star of vision, however. “My oldest uncle, Gus, was the patriarch of the tribe after my Italian grandfather,” Beard said. “He served in the Army then went to pharmacy school and opened up a corner pharmacy in our neighborhood. I did odd jobs there until I was old enough to earn a paycheck, and that is where my inspiration started.”
At one point or other in their lives, Beard explained, she, her cousins, and her aunts and uncles all worked in Uncle Gus’s pharmacy. “I say my Uncle Gus was the neighborhood’s first point of contact into the healthcare system,” she said. “He took blood pressures, advised a mother with a teething baby, and told about the best ointment for scraped knees. He would triage patients to the neighborhood general practitioner, Dr. Sylvester Agnone, and together, they cared for and knew the health of the patients in that community.”
As a result of that experience, and the knowledge gained by listening to and watching her uncle, Beard not only got accepted to and graduated from pharmacy school at Ohio Northern University, she was able to land a job right after. Beard started her pharmacy career at Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay at a time when, she said, a lot of new and exciting things were happening in pharmacy and the medical staff at BVH were very forward thinking. Coincidentally, the Masters of Business Administration Program at University of Findlay was just getting started, and the timing seemed mutually beneficial. “Bill Ruse, the CEO of Blanchard Valley, partnered with UF and he encouraged the management team to enroll in the program by supporting the tuition as a benefit through the hospital,” Beard explained. “There were a dozen of us who started together and received our MBAs in 1996 with a healthcare emphasis from UF.”
After receiving her MBA, Beard was recruited by VHA, now known as Vizient, in Dallas, Texas. Beard worked for Vizient, the nation’s leading health care performance improvement company, for 20 years, leading performance improvement, supply chain, clinical and analytical teams with hospitals all over the United States. But she never lost her connection to UF, and, in fact, her relationship with Findlay has grown even stronger as the years have passed.
As part of the inaugural College of Pharmacy Advisory Board, Beard gives input, she said, to help shape the strategic direction of the college. She mentors a pharmacy student each year, and brings her years of experience into supporting the broader education that students need to be successful upon graduation. Being a member of the Board of Counselors, she added, allows her to work with a diverse team, giving feedback on new opportunities being evaluated by the leadership of UF.
Her service, combined with her experience as a former student at UF, creates for Beard a unique relationship with the University. After retiring in 2017, she said, she is fortunate to have more available time to give back to UF and a community which is moving purposefully into the future. Self- titled as “one of UF’s biggest fans,” Beard sees herself as blessed to be a part of the growth and dynamic direction that UF and the COP is experiencing. “[College of Pharmacy] Dean [Debra] Parker is an energetic, intelligent and charismatic leader whose team reflects the professionalism and contemporary clinical skills needed in the world of pharmacy today,” Beard said. “I am proud of the quality of our faculty and students and their readiness for real world work.”
Beard encourages current students to think about who inspires them and how that might influence their decision to become pharmacists or whatever other productive career they choose. “Your classes will be hard,” she said. “Your goal may seem unattainable some days. Keeping your inspiration in front of you helps during the tough times, makes you proud during the good times and always provides the moral compass.”
We at UF have a feeling that Uncle Gus would be proud of Karen. We know we are.