Panther Profiles are Q&A interviews that highlight Panthers of all stripes -- students, faculty, staff, alum, board members and anyone else in the campus community.
Ellis Simerly is a native South Carolinian in his last year of the pharmacy doctoral program at ACPHS. During his time on campus, he has been involved in many campus activities, including the Campus Activities Programming Board, Student Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, National Community Pharmacists Association, Pinky Swear PACK, Commuter Student Club, Phi Lamba Sigma and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. He says his involvement has made him the leader that he has become, and he encourages other students to be actively engaged on campus.
How did you choose to come to ACPHS?
I came for an open house. I just really felt at home. I liked the campus community.
I wanted a school where I wasn't a number. I wanted my faculty to know who I was. I wanted to know the people in my class. I remember during the tour, the tour guide would run into faculty, and they would greet each other by name. And they would ask, “How’s your mom?” – like, very personal things. And students would interact with each other. It was much like a family.
You’re a proponent of being involved on campus. How did you initially dive in?
I knew early on that pharmacy was much more than counting pills at a retail chain. And I knew the best way to learn more about those other possibilities would be through the professional organizations on campus. So, during my first year, after a class ended, I would stay in the room if a meeting was being held and just listen. I strategically put myself into situations to find out what I liked.
I always told first-year students, when I worked in Admissions and I would do tours, it's not a contract. You could go to a meeting, introduce yourself, grab a free bagel and sit down, and then leave. Nobody's going to mind if you don't come back.
How would you describe the value of campus involvement?
It was preached to us, beginning in our first year, especially by the Center for Student Success, that you have to take a step back from your studies. You have to put yourself in the mindset of, I am getting an accelerated doctorate degree; there are going to be challenges that come along with that but it is okay for me to have fun and take care of myself. A fun fact I learned was statistically, the students who are more involved actually do better. They're better at time managing. They're better at figuring out what motivates them.
That was true for me. The more involved I got, the better I performed all around. I would schedule out breakfast, lunch, dinner, studying, showers, breaks, you name it — I blocked it out. Not to say that's everyone's way but being very involved really helped me to organize myself.
What activities ended up interesting you?
The biggest thing was probably legislation. I'm from South Carolina, I don't know anything about New York State laws. So, I wanted to dip my toe into it. Thanks to my friend Rachel, I got involved in SPSSNY – the Student Pharmacists Society of the State of New York. From there, I learn what goes into policy, legislation, lobbying. I found that fascinating and very rewarding because laws affect, and can help, everyone.
I want to do something with that in my career in pharmacy administration. I'm interested in policy, procedures, budgeting, anything from behind the scenes that can help patients on a large scale.
Which came first, your career interest or the involvement?
I got involved in SPSSNY first. My friend Rachel was involved, and she told me they needed a treasurer. I was like, sure, I'm good with money. And then the more I went to the meetings, the more interesting it got to me. I really enjoy going to the Capitol and working with (alum and state Assemblyman) John McDonald – he is a trained pharmacist in a legislative position. That really sparked an interest in me.
I did not have, initially, the desire of doing pharmacy administration. I came to pharmacy school wanting to be a hospital pharmacist.
You are also executive director of the Campus Activities Programming Board. Tell us about that.
From the time you come through orientation, you start seeing emails from the Campus Activities Programming Board; these are the people putting on these events for the entire campus that make it feel like home. On our campus, it can be difficult to find balance between academics and self-care. However, through campuswide programs, CAPB provides students with a break to have fun and connect with other students. I think that balance, honestly, is the key to life.
What would you say to the first-year student who may be hesitant to join a campus group?
You can take the first step from the comfort of your living space. Log onto Engage and see if anything interests you. Take it slow; you don't have to go to every single meeting during common hour. Maybe you can nudge your roommate and be like, hey, I'm interested in doing this thing, what do you think? After all, they may even have free food.
Trust yourself. You’re going to know what you like. And don't feel obligated to keep doing something you don't like.
Your choices make you who you are.