Associate Professor Mark Garrison retires this week from the Washington State University College of Pharmacy, though his affiliation with WSU as emeritus faculty continues. Garrison has been in the Department of Pharmacotherapy at WSU for over 26 years, and was part of the first group of pharmacy faculty to be located in Spokane.
The college officially moved its headquarters to Spokane at the end of 2013, but has been heavily involved in the Spokane health care community since the 1970s through student internships, experiential rotations and residency programs. Spokane is a medical hub for the Inland Northwest and provides student pharmacists with outstanding and varied opportunities to interact with patients.
The college made a gradual transition to Spokane over the last decade. Garrison has had a unique perspective watching what has grown in Spokane to become WSU Health Sciences within the University District.
“It’s been a great ride—over a quarter century—and it has been great to watch the campus footprint evolve. I’m thrilled to watch the medical school and what that means for health sciences in Spokane,” said Garrison.
Garrison is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received his Doctor of Pharmacy and Bachelor of Science in pharmacy from the University of Minnesota. He also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in infectious diseases and pharmacokinetics with the University of Minnesota and St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center.
“My medicinal chemistry professor was Dr. Monem,” said Garrison.
Mahmoud Abel-Monem left the University of Minnesota in 1987 to serve as dean for the WSU College of Pharmacy through the following decade. Garrison followed Monem to WSU as an assistant professor in 1989.
At WSU, Garrison taught a range of courses including infectious disease therapeutics and clinical pharmacokinetics. For the last several years he served as the instructor of record for several pharmacotherapy courses. He has also served as a pharmacy preceptor, mentor and faculty advisor.
Along with the college’s transition to Spokane, Garrison has watched the college itself evolve. One of the biggest changes along the way came when the standards for pharmacy education moved to requiring a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree as opposed to just a bachelor’s degree. WSU’s first class of all-Pharm.D. students started in 1999.
“That was a big transition for the whole profession of pharmacy,” said Garrison.
Garrison was part of the WSU “external” pharmacy program, which was a non-traditional curriculum offered in collaboration with the University of Washington for practicing pharmacists to earn their Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Garrison taught the infectious disease and kinetics portion of the program to both WSU and UW alumni.
During his time at WSU, Garrison served as a vice-chair to the nutrition and exercise physiology program, assistant dean of student services for pharmacy students, and most recently as the ombudsman for pharmacy students and the faculty advisor for the Professional Pharmacy Student Organization (PPSO).
PPSO is an umbrella student organization that gives a united voice for student-led initiatives. PPSO combines the monthly meetings for five separate WSU chapters of national pharmacy organizations, which helps to reduce conflicts for events and makes it easier for students to participate in more than one student group.
“The students have always been the main focus,” says Garrison. “It is a wonderful opportunity to contribute to shaping these professionals and it doesn’t take long for it to come full circle and they become thought leaders and innovators. It’s very gratifying to know that I was a small part of that.”
Garrison’s commitment to students is reflected in the seven times he has received a Teacher of the Year award at WSU. Every year, each class in the Doctor of Pharmacy program votes to select a pharmacy professor that went above and beyond, both inside and outside the classroom, to instruct, support and develop student pharmacists to become outstanding health care professionals.
“Probably the group of accomplishments I am most proud of are these honors that were bestowed by the students,” says Garrison. “My interactions and engagement with students will be the one thing I will miss most about retiring from WSU.”
In addition, Garrison is a recipient of the MEDEX Golden Apple Excellence in Teaching Award.
Garrison’s research focused on infectious diseases, bacterial resistance and investigational antimicrobials. He was one of the first researchers in the area to study bacterial kill curves, which models how antibiotics interact and behave once they are in the body.
“I was the only infectious disease researcher at WSU in Spokane.” said Garrison. “I got to know the microbiologists in Spokane and Dr. George Novan at Deaconess. At the time Dr. Novan was in charge of medical resident training in Spokane and he viewed the research activity of the college as a real positive and expressed interest in getting the medical residents at the hospital involved in research wherever possible. WSU also wanted a faculty research presence in the local health system, so it was a win-win. The medical community was very welcoming.”
Garrison established a benchtop microbiology research lab at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane in 1991 and has also collaborated with Sacred Heart Hospital. At Deaconess he supervised post-graduate pharmacy residents and student pharmacists on fourth-year rotations.
While Garrison may be hanging up his instructor’s hat, he plans to stay active as an infectious disease expert and has accepted a position as a medical affairs director for Merck & Co., which is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
Garrison will be working with scientific leaders in the Pacific Northwest region as an informational resource in the area of infectious diseases and will help clinicians and microbiologists stay up to date on what is up-and-coming in the pharmaceutical industry, he says.
“My interest has always been infectious disease, so I’m excited about turning the page and serving as a resource on these topics. I look forward to running into some of my former students who have gone on to be leaders in pharmacy,” said Garrison.
And as far as his ties to the College of Pharmacy, Garrison says WSU will always be “my place.”
“I’m excited for what lies ahead for the College of Pharmacy, and I’m looking forward to keeping that emeritus connection with WSU,” said Garrison. “Go Cougs!”
Garrison will continue to live in Spokane with his wife, Sue.
[March 4, 2016] By: Lori J. Maricle