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CU Pharmacy 2014 Alumnus Concentrates Pharmacy Knowledge in Academia to Prepare Future Pharmacists

Alumnus instructs in the the fundamentals of Pharmacy, imparting his own knowledge gained through his alma mater

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Written by Jaron Bryant on July 30, 2023

2014 alumnus Norman Fenn recently joined the Alumni Association Board. As one of its newest leaders, Dr. Fenn explores his career since graduation and the lessons learned in that time.

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What are you currently doing as a pharmacy professional and how did you progress to where you are today?

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Norman Fenn, PharmD '14

Currently, I’m a Clinical Assistant Professor at Manchester University School of Pharmacy & Health Sciences in Fort Wayne, IN. I have a clinical appointment as a Pediatric Clinical Pharmacist at Parkview Women’s and Children’s Hospital, where I serve as the pharmacist for the PICU and General Pediatrics units. I had a bit of an adventurous route to my current position, one that certainly didn’t follow the anticipated traditional pathway. I completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. I applied for, but didn’t match, to PGY-2 programs that specialized in pediatrics, which was truly disappointing at the time, but things worked out. I ended up staying at CNMC for a year working as a Clinical Pharmacist in the NICU mostly, though I rotated through the PICU, neuro/surgery, and general pediatrics units as needed, despite not having that PGY-2 experience. What I really wanted to do was become faculty at a college of pharmacy, and while I valued the clinical training associated with residency programs, I felt that research and scholarship were my weakest areas, which are valuable for faculty members who pursue promotion and/or tenure. As a result, I researched clinical fellowships, which are limited, even more so since I wanted a pediatric-specific fellowship. I ended up matching to an Academia and Ambulatory Care Fellowship at Purdue University where I essentially operated as a clinical faculty member. I spent about 40% of my time at a rural health clinic practicing family medicine in Delphi, IN, with 40% dedicated to teaching and about 20% on scholarship. This ultimately prepared me for a successful career in academia. I then went to Texas for a couple of years, where I was a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Tyler, specializing in pediatrics. I left in 2021 and took a Pediatric Clinical Pharmacist position at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, PA before returning to academia in Fort Wayne. I’m thrilled to finally have the ideal position (for me) where I spend about 50% of my time in clinical practice and 50% of my time teaching, precepting, conducting research, and serving on institutional and national committees, with considerable opportunity to advance professionally and grow personally.

What is different about the person you are today compared to the person you were while in school?

I like to hope that I’ve become humbler as I’ve progressed in my career. I’ve always been grateful, and I gained considerable confidence thanks to the stellar education and training I received at CU, where we are taught by the best of the best. I have been fortunate to have met and interacted with Milap Nahata on a few occasions, as well as collaborating with many of his trainees and colleagues. Dr. Nahata’s career has spanned more than 40 years. He has published over 400 papers, and his legacy at Ohio State and in the pharmacy world is unquestioned, yet he remains one of the humblest individuals you could possibly meet. At our most recent encounter, he was giving a talk about leadership and his experience, and he made it clear his priority was always focused on students and their learning, or improving science so that we could provide better care for our patients. He could easily boast, but instead, he is a kind and humble man who never forgets the privilege we have as pharmacists. It’s a lesson I continue to work on daily.

What has been a defining moment for you as a seasoned professional?

A defining moment was being the first pharmacist to present at Virtual Grand Rounds at Children’s Minnesota. A pharmacy colleague at the institution was on the interprofessional panel when they were reviewing professional development topics and my name had come up after previously speaking about Imposter Syndrome at another conference. Usually this is an area where physicians present interesting cases or topics, but it’s unusual for other disciplines to be speakers. I was able to deliver an interactive presentation to 100+ physicians, medical & pharmacy residents, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. It was shared on multiple social media sites and reached people across the country. It was an incredible opportunity to reach out to other disciplines and show that we are all in this together and that pharmacists can bring so much to the table as practitioners and educators.

What inspired you to attend the CU Pharmacy program and what was your experience while in the program?

It’s a bit of a funny story. I was applying through early decision and had a choice between CU and Maryland. Both are great schools, but the appeal of living in Denver was much stronger than living in Baltimore. Funnily enough, I was able to have a rotation at the University of Maryland when I was a resident, so it came full circle for me. I said it earlier, and I’ll say it again – we’re taught by the best of the best. It’s a rigorous program that is structured to prepare any graduate to be an outstanding pharmacist in whatever field they want to work in. I am thankful that I was able to have so much fun during my time as a student and form lifelong friendships with so many people. I think what I enjoyed most though was getting involved in professional organizations. When I interviewed at CU, they had just moved to the Anschutz campus, and no one talked about how students could give back to the program. So I took it upon myself to share such opportunities with upcoming classes because I felt it was a valuable part of being a student. We only have a few years as students before we’re out on our own, and professional organizations are a great way to build your network and learn outside of the classroom. Plus, the opportunity to give back to the profession and the community, as well as gain real hands-on experience is so incredibly valuable.

What is your proudest moment and your favorite thing about working in the pharmacy profession?

Probably my proudest moment (outside of getting accepted to CU) was being elected to the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Pharmacy Association. I was elected to serve PPA as a Director-At-Large and influence the direction of pediatric pharmacy for a 3-year term. Considering I’m a relative newcomer to the organization (<10 years), it was humbling to have been elected. I consider it both a great privilege and responsibility to serve in this profession, much like when I was a student senator or working with other student organizations. Probably my favorite thing about working as a pharmacist is I get to do something I thoroughly enjoy every day and no two days are the same. The best part is I get to take care of kids, which is especially fun and rewarding.

How are you making a difference in your career?

I’ve been fortunate enough to contribute to the profession through multiple facets. I’ve taught hundreds of students in the classroom on topics ranging from professionalism to pediatric pharmacy to pharmacy law. I’ve precepted dozens of students in clinical and academic settings, some of whom have been able to publish scholarly works. I’ve published about two dozen papers and a book chapter within the scientific community, which impact both student learning and pediatric care. I’ve been heavily involved in professional organizations where I’ve created deliverables and processes that continue to impact students, new practitioners, and seasoned practitioners to this day. I’m grateful to have had as far-reaching a career as I’ve had to date and hope to continue to repay the profession and the pharmacy program that has given me so much. 

What sage advice would you pass on to current and future students that was helpful for you in preparing for the job market?

Sometimes you’ll need to take a step back or sideways, but if you put the time and effort in, you will be successful. It’s up to you to work towards your ideal career and ideally have some fun on the journey. Hopefully, by sharing my story, you’ll see that there isn’t just one way to achieve your career goals.

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