Building a Culture of Impact

Dean Angela Kashuba

Meet Angela Kashuba, dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

We interviewed renowned researcher and innovator Angela Kashuba, 11th dean of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, during the first month in her role as dean. Here, Kashuba speaks candidly about her vision and goals for the school, the similarities between hockey and work, and why she’s dedicated to saving the lives of others.

Q: Do you consider yourself a Tar Heel?

A: I’ve been on faculty at the University for 22 years, so I do consider myself a Tar Heel! Since I’m also a Canadian girl, I love hockey games — and have been delighted to catch some of the Carolina Tar Heels men’s ice hockey games!

Q: Does the hockey mindset carry over to your work – any similarities?

A: Oh, sure. Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” In my lab, we try and take a lot of shots on goal for success. We chase a lot of questions and problems in the HIV field — we try a lot of new things. Not always do those new things work out, but when they do, they’re pretty fantastic.

Q: Tell us about your lab.

A: We are trying to end the HIV epidemic. Whether that’s focused on HIV treatment or prevention or now cure — collaborating with the UNC Cure Center — we’re really trying to optimize therapy so that every drug a person gets works the right way the first time.

I love the people who work in my lab — they’re my second family. We’re a diverse group of people with different skills. We come together in a way that synergizes and creates some pretty exciting things.

I tap dance to work every day.

Q: What motivated you to take this position?

A: It took two years of convincing, and one of the reasons that I carefully thought about the decision was because of my laboratory. I wanted to make sure this would do no harm to my lab. We work in a very special space in the HIV field, and we collaborate with up to 100 investigators a year, globally. I wanted to make sure that the support we provide to the HIV community would not go away.

But as I thought about the opportunities in the school, as I thought about how much I love the school and how much I love this campus, I got very excited about the opportunity to serve.

Q: Are you a collaborator or a solo act?

A: I learned a long time ago that developing collaboration creates synergies and opportunities and experiences that aren’t possible alone. In fact, I’ve been called the ultimate collaborator, because I try to bring as many different perspectives to our research as I can. I want to always pay that forward and help other investigators on their research.

Collaboration is a crucial component to my work. In fact, the reason I came to Carolina is because of the culture of low stone walls. We talk about the low stone walls that mark the perimeter of our campus, but it’s also a metaphor for the way Carolina has always worked, in my experience. There’s been a culture of collaboration here and a culture of multidisciplinary research that is just unmatched.

Angela Kashuba and a researcher write on a white board in a lab

Q: Do you consider yourself a researcher, teacher or pharmacist?

A: All of the above! I have been a pharmacist for many years, and the work that we currently do here in the HIV field is critical, I think, for trying to improve care. But it’s not just the research. We’re developing practitioners; we’re developing educators; we’re developing researchers to make sure we’re true to our mission of advancing medicine for life.

Our North star for the Eshelman School is that everything we do begins and ends with the patient in mind. Whether that’s on the pharmacy practice side, the research side or in the educational space, we are always focused on the patient and improving people’s lives.

Q: How did you decide pharmacy was the field for you?

A: I went to pharmacy school because my mother told me to – true story! I was always interested in a health care profession. As I progressed as a student, I realized the multiple opportunities that were available for pharmacists. We can work in a community setting or in a hospital setting. We can work in a regulatory environment for the FDA. We can work on drug development in a pharmaceutical company, or we can work in the foundation space. We can also work on global policies. There are so many opportunities for pharmacy — that’s really what got me excited.

And that’s one of our jobs at the Eshelman School, to really bring those opportunities to the community so they can understand or potentially see themselves in one of those roles.

Q: What’s the latest breaking news in the lab? What’s new in the school?

A: In the Kashuba lab, we’ve collaborated with David Muddiman [a chemist and distinguished professor of chemistry] at N.C. State on a new technology in the mass-spec imaging area. We can take a hair from an individual, and we can actually visualize how a person has been taking their medications over time — so their hair is actually a record of drug adherence.  That’s a pretty exciting new tool that we’re going to be trying out in the clinic soon, to see if this helps patients and their providers have conversations around how people are taking their medications at home.

We also have a number of faculty in the Eshelman School who are working on precision medication dosing. Up to now, drug development has mainly focused on “one drug fits all,” but we know that’s not the case. We know everybody is different: people come in different sizes; they have different genetics; they have different disease states; they’re on different medications. All of that can influence the drug dosage they need. We believe we now have the tools and technology to individualize drug-dosing for patients. We’re currently working with the FDA on ways that we can improve that drug development pathway to make sure that each person gets the right dose the first time.

Q: What is the future of pharmacy to you?

A: The future of pharmacy will involve value-based care for patients, providers and payors, leveraging technology to provide easy health access for all, and more individualized care and precision dosing for patients. In the future we will leverage global partnerships to address worldwide health concerns that will involve all aspects of pharmacy — from drug development and clinical trials, to practicing in community settings, to health policy.

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