School of Pharmacy introduces new interim dean

Courtesty of Duquesne Pharmacy Twitter. Dr. Drennen took over as interim dean of the School of Pharmacy in the spring.

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After 30 years working in the School of Pharmacy, Dr. James Kirk Drennen stepped into the role of interim dean this summer with ease.

Following Dr. J. Douglas Bricker’s final term as dean during the 2020 spring semester, the School of Pharmacy welcomed Dr. Drennen into his new position.

Drennen himself is a product of Duquesne’s pharmacy program. He graduated with his Bachelor of Science in pharmacy from Duquesne in 1985. Though he’s spent the entirety of his career researching and teaching in the field, Drennen originally chose to pursue a pharmacy degree as an entry way into the medical field.

“We have some physicians in the family; a lot of people in the family have had interest in that, and I did as well at that age. So I thought pharmacy would be a great preparation for medicine,” Drennen said.

However, while attaining his degree, Drennen developed a strong interest in and passion for pharmacy, especially for pharmaceutical manufacturing. He went on to get his doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Kentucky and has remained in the field. Despite never pursuing medicine, Drennen has no regrets.

“I’ve enjoyed my career in pharmacy,” Drennen said. “It was a good decision; I’ve been happy with the career I’ve had and I feel like I’ve contributed a good bit. In addition to the teaching and research in academia, I’ve done a lot of work with the pharmaceutical industry.”

The industry work that Drennen speaks of includes his significant research regarding various methods which enhance pharmaceutical manufacturing efficiency and product quality, as well as his work as co-founder and partner of Strategic Process Control Technologies, LLC.

It wasn’t long after his graduation from Duquesne that Drennen found himself back on the Bluff, this time as a faculty member. But again, it was not where he originally expected to end up.

“I was looking at jobs in industry as I was ready to finish up graduate school at the University of Kentucky, and I happened to come back to Pittsburgh for an alumni event, as an alumni of the pharmacy program,” Drennen said. “The dean at the time let me know that there was a faculty position open in my field and he thought I should interview.”

Obviously, he got the job in 1991 and has held a position at Duquesne ever since. Beginning as a professor and researcher, he eventually moved into various administrative roles. Most recently, he served as the associate dean of research and graduate programs. He feels that his experience as a student in the pharmacy school, paired with all the years of research, teaching and administrative work prepared him exceptionally well for this new role.

“Having been through all that for 30 years, I understand what the challenges are for faculty on a day-to-day basis and what all the opportunities are to make sure we provide the very best education that’s possible for our pharmacy students,” Drennen said.

His initial appreciation for Duquesne during his time as a student has not changed throughout his many years as a faculty member. Now entering the role of interim dean, he continues to appreciate the atmosphere and environment at Duquesne.

“I have enjoyed Duquesne since the time I was a student here. I enjoyed the atmosphere at Duquesne at that time and I still enjoy it very much. I like the conservative setting of a Christian university and I feel very comfortable here,” Drennen said. “I have a lot of respect for my coworkers and the leaders of the university and I feel that same respect in return, so I find it a very pleasant and positive work environment.”

Provost David Dausey echoed this sentiment in a recent statement regarding Drennen’s new position.

“Dr. Drennen enjoys the enormous respect of his peers and the esteem of decades of graduates of the School of Pharmacy, and as such is a fine successor to Dean Bricker.”

Drennen also appreciates the opportunity to interact and form professional relationships with pharmacy students through teaching and mentoring.

As he faces the year ahead as interim dean, he hopes to focus on a few critical short-term goals. While universities throughout the country are struggling financially, Drennen recognizes the importance of developing additional streams of revenue for the Pharmacy School. Additionally, he looks forward to forming a mutually beneficial relationship with the future School of Medicine.

Drennen also noted the importance of diversity in the School of Pharmacy. He plans to implement programs that will ensure Duquesne’s students are educated and prepared to work to improve the health disparities currently facing minority populations.

“Considering the challenges in our country and academic settings right now, diversity and inclusion is a top priority,” he said.

Lastly, Drennen aspires to facilitate good faculty relationships and ensure faculty are fully supported so they are able to accomplish their own professional goals, in hopes that others can enjoy a long and pleasant career with Duquesne like he has.

“I’m going to be identifying opportunities to develop our organization,” he said. “We’ll look for programs to enhance the quality of the workplace to make sure our faculty and staff can enjoy their work at Duquesne.”