ACPHS has established a new scholarship fund in honor of Dr. Kimberly A. Skylstad ‘91. Dr. Skylstad, who died just over a year ago at age 54, is remembered as a caring mentor and dependable colleague with a deep commitment to students and to medically underserved communities.
She received her doctorate in pharmacy from ACPHS in 1991, after earning a master’s degree from the University at Albany School of Public Health. She returned to ACPHS to join the faculty more than a decade ago. Her roots in public health could always be seen in her work as a professor of pharmacy practice, where she established rotations at Whitney M. Young Health and Koinonia Primary Care, health clinics that provide medical treatment to those challenged to afford care.
Students and faculty alike recall her as a teacher and colleague who kept her commitments and went beyond what was expected in every realm of her professional life.
Dr. Kara Olstad ‘19, now a pharmacy resident at ACPHS, met Dr. Skylstad as a P1 student, when she began her pharmacy studies. Having Dr. Skylstad observe her work in the pharmacy skills lab could evoke a “mix of emotions,” Olstad said.
“She held high standards for student work and expected our best,” Olstad said.
Olstad also knew Skylstad as an advisor to the campus chapter of the American Pharmacy Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP). Skylstad advised the group on several projects, including an over-the-counter medication safety event, and judging the campus-level qualifying contest of the APhA National Patient Counseling Competition.
“I appreciated her support as a student, but now being on the other side as a pharmacist mentoring that same student group, I have a new understanding and appreciation for the time she invested in us,” Olstad said. “She was dedicated to helping students, and personally I felt she helped me develop my leadership skills.”
She was also an advisor to the Rho Pi Phi pharmaceutical fraternity and countless student-led efforts, her colleagues said.
“She was always there as a proponent for students, and it was hard for her to say no,” said Pharmacy Practice Instructor Jane Boyd ‘82.
Her student-centered approach could be seen in efforts to improve the academic appeals process as chair of the Academic Standing and Progression Committee, said Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs Anuja Ghorpade.
“Kim shepherded the student-centered changes in our appeals process – bringing several issues to my attention and holding me accountable for closing the loop after each cycle,” Ghorpade wrote in an issue of the Academic Pulse newsletter shortly after Skylstad’s death. “Kim was the epitome of student-centeredness – compassionate and committed to our students and the ACPHS quality of education.”
Skylstad’s commitment to pharmacy education and to public health combined when she established a pharmacy practice site at Whitney M. Young Health, a federally qualified health center that provides comprehensive health services on a sliding fee scale.
“She developed a site essentially out of nothing,” said Dr. Darren Grabe ‘93, who now heads the ACPHS’ Pharmacy Practice Department. “She quickly became relied upon in that setting, it was a great rotation for students.”
The location, in fact, became the site of one of ACPHS’ student-operated pharmacies.
She later established a new practice at Koinonia Primary Care. The clinic did not have a pharmacist on staff before Skylstad arrived, said Corrie Paeglow, its executive director. Skylstad helped Koinonia establish policies and practices for dispensing sample medications, which Paeglow described as a “big deal” for patients who often had few other avenues for accessing medication. Skylstad was interviewed by Population Health Learning Network about her efforts to integrate pharmacy practice into the primary care setting.
Skylstad was at Koinonia as COVID-19 vaccines were introduced, and she was charged with reaching out to clients who were skeptical about vaccines. Skylstad was at the clinic on weekends and all hours to get the job done.
“She worked tirelessly,” Paeglow said.
Molly Bachman, a doctor of pharmacy candidate in the ACPHS Class of 2023, volunteered at Koinonia under Skylstad's supervision.
“She emphasized the importance of helping patients in underserved communities and the impact that we as pharmacy students can have there,” Bachman said.
At the end of her life, Skylstad was quiet about how her cancer and its treatments were affecting her, colleagues said. They found that in keeping with the kind of person she was – always professional and concerned about others to the end.