Omathanu Perumal

Member Spotlight

Our latest member spotlight is Omathanu Perumal, Ph.D. Dr. Omathanu is an Associate Dean for Research, Director of the Haarberg Center for Drug, Disease and Delivery (3D), and Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at South Dakota State University College of Pharmacy & Allied Health Professions. Dr. Omathanu spoke to Matt Cipriani, AACP Director of Member Engagement, about his career and experience with AACP.

Which of the strategic priorities do you support and/or identify greatly with and why? 

The AACP strategic plan is practical and forward-looking in addressing the contemporary challenges facing pharmacy education and the profession. I believe that all of the identified strategic priorities are important for preparing pharmacists and the Academy to thrive in a changing healthcare environment. However, two goals stand out as particularly crucial: leading the transformation of pharmacy practice (Goal 1) and optimizing pharmacy education and training across the lifespan of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists (Goal 2). These goals are intertwined as they reflect the evolving landscape of healthcare and technology, which requires continuous evolution of pharmacy education to ensure that pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists have the skills and expertise to meet the changing needs of the profession.

I was pleased to see well-being included as a strategic priority in the AACP plan. There is this old Indian saying that you cannot paint without a canvas. A healthy mind-body-spirit is essential for our professional and personal lives, as it enables us to cope with the demands and challenges of our work and life, and to maintain a positive and productive attitude. This is especially important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed significant stress on healthcare professionals and educators. By prioritizing our own and others' well-being, we can ensure that we are better equipped to handle these challenges and thrive in our roles.

Over the past few years, I have been actively involved in promoting well-being among students, faculty, and staff in our institution. For example, in my classes I have implemented wellness activities such as Monday Meditation, Feel Good Friday, and weekly wellness tips, which have been well received by students and have helped to create a positive and supportive learning environment. As chair of the AACP Pharmaceutics Section, I have also worked to incorporate well-being initiatives into our programming and events. For example, wellness tips are included in the monthly newsletter and we organize virtual town halls for member networking. By making well-being a priority in these contexts, we can inspire others to prioritize their well-being and create a culture of support and positivity within the Academy.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in pharmacy academia?

I was fortunate to have had exceptional teachers and mentors throughout my pharmacy education, from my undergraduate studies (B. Pharm) to my graduate degrees (M. Pharm and Ph.D. in pharmaceutics). Their guidance and support have been instrumental in shaping my decision to pursue a career in academia. Growing up in India, my father, a pharmacist, and small drug manufacturing business owner, first exposed me to the field of pharmacy. My teachers and mentors further nurtured my passion for the profession and showed me the importance of education and life-long learning. In particular, the following quote from John Ruskin, a famous English philosopher from the 1800s, has always resonated with me and continues to inspire my teaching philosophy.

“Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know. It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave. It is not to teach the youth the shapes of letters and the tricks of numbers and leave them to turn their arithmetic to roguery and their literature to lust. It means, on the contrary, training them into the perfect exercise and kingly continuance of their bodies and souls. It is a painful, continued and difficult work to be done by kindness, by watching, by warming, by precept and by praise, but above all by example.” 

Ruskin believed that education is not just about imparting knowledge but also about shaping behavior and character. His emphasis on the importance of a well-rounded education and continuous personal development has influenced my approach to teaching and mentoring students. In academia, you have the privilege of wearing many hats—instructor, mentor, researcher, administrator, and contributor to institutional committees and professional organizations. However, the most rewarding aspect is the opportunity to mentor students and help them reach their full potential.

What has been the greatest challenge in your career?

As the saying goes, "your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness," and this certainly applies to my Type A personality traits. While these traits can be advantageous, they can also make it challenging to achieve a healthy work-life balance. To address this, I have focused on enhancing my time management skills and aligning my activities with my mental energy levels. Additionally, I have come to appreciate the value of breathwork and meditation for promoting my own well-being and that of those around me.

Whenever I require academic pharmacy-related information or data, AACP is my go-to resource. 

How many years have you been a member of AACP?

I have been an active member of AACP for more than 10 years, and my appreciation for this dynamic organization has only grown with time. During this period, I have had the privilege of serving in various committees, sections, and SIGs. Currently, I serve as the Chair of the Pharmaceutics Section and have been a part of the executive committee of the Graduate Education SIG, Council of Sections, and Council of Dean's taskforce. It has been a wonderful experience to witness the growth of AACP and its ability to constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of the academy and its members.

What has been the most impactful way that AACP has helped you in your career? 

AACP has been my academic home for more than a decade, providing me with a strong sense of community and collegiality that is unparalleled by any other professional or scientific organization I have been a part of. It has had an immense impact on my professional career, enabling me to learn and grow through networking, mentorship, and timely programming tailored to the needs of the members. 

Furthermore, I have had the privilege to participate in the ALFP, which has helped develop my leadership skills, and the well-being institute, which has been essential in establishing wellness initiatives at my institution. I have no doubt that AACP will continue to provide exemplary programming to meet the evolving needs of the academy, and I look forward to the ways in which it will continue to advance pharmacy education in the future.

What advice do you have for new AACP members?

AACP provides a comprehensive platform for individuals in academic pharmacy, offering a wide range of opportunities to learn, connect, and collaborate. AACP has a multitude of sections and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) to choose from. I have gained tremendous benefits from my involvement in AACP Sections and SIGs, and I strongly encourage you to explore the many options available at AACP. Moreover, AACP offers a wealth of learning resources and databases accessible to all members. Whenever I require academic pharmacy-related information or data, AACP is my go-to resource. Please take advantage of the various programming opportunities available to foster your professional growth and development. Also, please consider giving back to the organization by serving in committees, task forces, and running for leadership positions. No matter whether you are from a big school or a small school, at AACP everyone matters and all opinions are valued.