Academic Fellowship Spotlight: Emmanuel Knight, PharmD

A TCOP Academic Fellow on His Journey Thus Far and the Future That Awaits

May 19, 2016
Emmanuel Knight, TCOP class of 2015 graduate and TCOP Academic Fellow 2015-16

When Emmanuel Knight used to think about the job he might one day hold, his mind always went to computer science: since he was a child, he was always playing with the newest tech gadgets on the market, and he was the go-to guy in his family when a computer issue needed to be solved. But the 28-year old current academic fellow at the Touro College of Pharmacy (TCOP), originally from Buffalo, NY, says it was a chance encounter at the grocery store in which he worked during college that changed the course of his future career.

“I was a cashier at the grocery store and one night, the pharmacy was short-staffed, so they asked me to pitch in and help out,” explained Knight. “I was immediately drawn to the interactions the pharmacists had with the patients. Previously, I had thought being a pharmacist just meant putting pills into bottles. I never realized the chemistry that goes into the medications and the counseling of patients to ensure they understand the proper dosage and directions.”

Knight decided to change his major at the University of Buffalo to Biology, where he continued to learn the complex scientific nature of pharmacy. When it came time to apply to pharmacy school, Knight knew TCOP was the perfect choice. “I wanted to be in New York, and I loved the 2+2 nature of Touro’s program,” he said. “Client interaction is a big draw of pharmacy for me, so I liked that at Touro, I’d get to experience interacting with patients more of the time rather than spending that time in a classroom. I also thought it would give me a better idea of what I wanted to do after graduation, since I would be able to see pharmacists working in a wide variety of different situations.”

After his two years of classroom experience at TCOP, Knight worked in rotations including Walgreens Pharmacy, the CVS corporate business office, and ambulatory care at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, where he worked in the CHF (congestive heart failure) clinic. It was there, at Bronx-Lebanon, where Knight interfaced with a particular patient that helped confirm he was in the right professional field.

“I was interviewing and counseling patients on medications they were currently taking, but there was one patient who seemed eager for other lifestyle tips, which I was glad to give him,” recalled Knight. “Seeing how grateful he was to learn from me, and how surprised he was to get insight into other aspects of his health besides just his medication, was very personally gratifying. I love helping people take charge of improving their health.”

Knight also discovered that he wanted to pursue both clinical and academic sub-fields within the larger pharmacy one. “I really look up to the preceptors, which are the faculty advisers all students had on their clinical rotations,” explained Knight. “These preceptors are faculty members who also hold a clinical role, thus dividing their job between the classroom and clinical care. They have plenty of personal interaction with both students and patients, and it seems like a multifaceted, challenging and exciting role to hold.”

Knight is currently an academic fellow at TCOP, a good stepping stone, he said, for someone who wants to eventually enter academia. “I am earning a teaching certificate from Touro and I help manage activities with  fulltime faculty members, such as co-coordinating courses, mentoring students, and helping prepare graduating students for their board exams,” said Knight. “I also teach lectures to the students in their first two years of school, and I serve on a lot of academic committees, helping with the decision-making of the college in many areas that impact students.”

As a student, Knight didn’t realize nearly the number of things that went into being a faculty member, but now, nearing the completion of his one-year academic fellowship, he feels much more knowledgeable. “I feel very prepared now to enter academia having seen how things work from the other side,” he explained. “I’ve been exposed to many different aspects of academia that I didn’t even know about, and this fellowship was a great way to dip my toe into the waters of being a fulltime professor, a role I hope to achieve one day.”

One more interesting thing about Knight standing on the other side of the fence? “I didn’t realize that faculty members are still always learning, too,” he said. “Faculty members are expected to conduct continuous research and publish their work in scholarly journals. Faculty members are constantly reviewing new research articles and material in their areas of expertise, staying up-to-date with current advances in science and academia. TCOP faculty members also attend monthly faculty development meetings which aim to teach and reinforce important fundamentals of academia.  In my eyes, now, a career in academia is a lifelong learning process.”

As part of his academic fellowship, Knight partnered with faculty members to conduct research on pharmacy students’ performance and attitudes in a redesigned practice-readiness course. He recently discovered that their research abstract was accepted by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), and they will present this research at the AACP annual conference in Anaheim, California this summer.

One of the things Knight loved about Touro as a student was the open-door policy he felt the professors had and now, he tries to do the same for the students. “The teachers at Touro really care about helping their student succeed,” said Knight.

After the one-year fellowship ends this June, Knight will be a PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident at Nyack Hospital in Rockland County.

When he isn’t working, Knight, a self-described “foodie,” enjoys sampling foods from other cultures (his current favorites being Caribbean and Indian). He lives in White Plains, NY, and still keeps in touch with Paul Schwartzmeyer, the head pharmacist at that Buffalo grocery store who first asked Knight to pitch in that evening not too long ago, setting in motion Knight’s current professional journey.  “Aside from inadvertently causing me to enter the pharmaceutical field, he also mentored me throughout my undergraduate years,” said Knight. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

In ten years’ time, Knight hopes to be a clinical faculty member, teaching at the college level and working at a clinical site. He hopes to specialize in pain management and palliative care, underserved areas that many pharmacists might not think of first because of the difficult nature of this kind of care. “The difficult nature of pain management and palliative care is precisely what draws me to it, though,” said Knight. “I want to go where I’m most needed.”