October is American Pharmacists Month.
This Profile is truly a reflection of the commonality in our life’s story that first began in a dormitory nearly 20 years ago. I met Donaye circa fall 2001 while living in Pittman Hall at Samford University.
Pittman Hall was our home away from home. A place where we would study, sleep, eat, and bond over ping-pong and television. Some of the men that I would meet during those days would later become our future leaders in law, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, business, and public health.
We lived our best lives in a chasm between the “Bubble” and being outside the “Gates.” While we made jokes of our existence living in the “Bubble” by acting as though we so desperately needed to escape; we all silently understood that we loved and respected the safety of our campus. The safety, the tranquility, and the ease by which we maneuvered in this “Bubble” allowed us to grow up and learn from both our successes and our failures, our ups and our downs, our hopes and our fears.
After a long day, we would swipe our ID badges to have access to the CAF where we would eat, sit, and listen and learn from each other. We learned life lessons over those meals; we needed those lessons and that support from one another to become the men we are today. Furthermore, it was because of our days in the “Bubble” that we were able to have a real opportunity to learn from our mistakes in a safe environment.
We laughed, yelled, cried, and prayed with one another. We spent many late nights studying and fighting sleep. We broke bread together, or rather broke onion rings together at our favorite hang out The Purple Onion. And then one day we walked across a stage and shook hands with the President of the University, took pictures, and became official graduates of an institution of higher education. We came in as boys and left to begin our journey as young men. We hugged each other, said we would keep in touch, and departed from each others presence to attempt to fulfill the mission that God had given each one of us. We all worked hard to make it; working to achieve our full potential to become the men that God created… men that could successfully take care of family and self.
After Donaye graduated from college, he attended Physical Therapy school in Georgia. I thought I wouldn’t see him on campus again, except for a few football games here and there. But sometime in the fall of 2002 during my Sophomore year of college that all changed.
Donaye entered the classroom for my General Chemistry II course with books, and I looked at him and said, “dude what are you doing in here…I thought you were doing Physical Therapy school?”
His response, “I changed my mind, I’m going to Pharmacy School.”
Little did we know — our individual journeys would continue to cross paths as we took a whirlwind adventure towards completing our goals, and reaching our final destinations as “First Generation PharmDs“. In that Chemistry class I watched Donaye meet the love of his life, a year later I watched him enter Pharmacy School, and four years later he would graduate.
How many actively practicing Pharmacists do you know are Hip-Hop artists? Donaye Blake, PharmD has produced 4 albums and is currently in the studio working on album number five. But it’s his album “The Sequel” that most inspired me in my own personal pursuit towards becoming a Pharmacist. In the song entitled “Guess Who“, I felt his pride, determination, and energy on his impending accomplishment of earning a PharmD when he rapped the following words…
“Haters hate the fact, that I’m so laid back, PharmD slash Rap, imma get that“. — Dab Haskal — lyrics from song “Guess Who” album, The Sequel
I would enter Pharmacy School in 2008 one year after he graduated from Pharmacy School in May 2007. Donaye, now a Retail Pharmacist with Walgreens helped me earn my first job in Pharmacy by recommending me to the Pharmacy Manager Joe Randall, PharmD. I’m thankful for that opportunity as I began to learn about my profession in a community pharmacy.
Fast forward and Donaye has been a practicing Pharmacist for 11 years. He’s worked as a Retail Community Pharmacist and he now serves in the role of a 7 on 7 off Staff Hospital Pharmacist. I’m thankful to know him because just seeing him achieve his goals, helped me to believe that I could do the same.
Lastly, but most importantly, Donaye Blake, PharmD is a devoted husband and a wonderful father to two beautiful daughters.
Once again, I’m very thankful for Donaye taking the time to reflect and respond to this set of questions. He has never been shy about expressing his personal truths. Thus, readers, please take into consideration his perspective on the Life of a Pharmacist. He offers a diverse perspective that both Pharmacy peers and laypersons can take into consideration in understanding our diverse perspective on describing the pressures of attending Pharmacy School and the pressures of being an actively practicing Pharmacist.
Sam: When did you graduate Pharmacy School?
Sam: Bachelors Degree?
Donaye: Exercise Science
Donaye: No. I was ready to get paid so I could give it all to Sallie Mae
Sam: Can you tell me about your career — what jobs you’ve had — positions and titles that you’ve held — please don’t be modest
Donaye: Because the pharmacist job market was far less saturated than today’s, I took a two and a half month break after graduation to travel, relax and study. After finally sitting for and passing the boards, I immediately started at Walgreens as a floating pharmacist between two Birmingham stores. After 3 years of floating, I accepted a 7 on 7 off overnight position which was the best decision of my professional life. After seven years of overnights and relocating my family to Tennessee, I was offered a position at a leading hospital in Nashville as a 7 on 7 off day shift staff pharmacist.
Sam: A lot of folks may not know that you’ve had an influence on me considering a career in pharmacy. I remember seeing you around campus in 2001 and watching you go through the phase of considering a career in physical therapy and then transitioning your career towards a pursuit in pharmacy. How did you realize that pharmacy was the right fit for you?
Donaye: While in Physical Therapy School at North Georgia College, we had a guest speaker from Mercer’s pharmacy program. He was giving a lecture about loading dose and I was so absolutely intrigued that I actually immediately withdrew from the physical therapy program to return to Samford University in order to satisfy prerequisites for McWhorter School of Pharmacy.
Sam: We both graduated from the Exercise Science Sports Medicine Department when we were in undergrad. Has that undergraduate background had an effect on your practice as a Pharmacist? If so, in what ways do you incorporate that foundation of knowledge?
Donaye: In my opinion, Samford University’s Exercise Science program is one of the most thorough programs in the country. That foundation of knowledge has been paramount in assisting in patient counseling and recommendations as patient questions aren’t always exclusively about drugs. Understanding physiology and anatomy is sometimes extremely helpful for productive patient consultations.
Sam: I know that you have a passion for music – especially hip hop music. You’ve released multiple albums under the moniker “Dab Haskal” – how have you been able to balance music with your professional life as a Pharmacist?
Donaye: I’ve always had the belief that if people really want to do something, they’ll find time to do it. Music is my opportunity to vent about social and political frustrations, but in a creative and inspiring space. It’s as much a part of my identity as my last name. I’m currently working on a project called ‘Therapy.’ This will be album number five.
Sam: Have you ever performed live with a band? Do you think some of your patients would suspect that you’ve released multiple Hip-Hop albums?
Donaye: Early on, I did several live shows including a charity event at Samford University (Kickin’ It for Kidz). No. My being a hip/hop artist appears to be a foreign concept to patients and co-workers alike…until they hear a sample. I prefer the element of surprise
Sam: Life as a Pharmacist can be very stressful. We live a life where there’s no room for error. How do you balance this professional life with being a family man?
Donaye: As a young Pharmacist, I didn’t require much sleep so finding time for professional and family life was no problem. However, now that kids have entered the picture, priorities have changed. Fortunately, my 7 on 7 off schedule allows me to spend more time with the family than the average full-time pharmacist.
Sam: What advice would you give to pharmacy students and actively practicing Pharmacists on how to maintain an appropriate work/home balance?
Donaye: I would advise young Pharmacists to work as hard and as much as they can early to pay off all debt so later they can benefit from having such a wonderful salary. No debt provides options and less desperation during times of transition and/or professional hardships.
Sam: Based on current USA data published from https://datausa.io/profile/soc/291051/ black people make up 7% of actively practicing Pharmacists. Thus, me and you are part of the 7 percent. What words of encouragement would you give young black kids looking at you thinking it would be cool to become a Pharmacist, yet uncertain if they could overcome potential life obstacles to make it?
Donaye: I would encourage young black kids to drown out negativity and believe in themselves. There’s nothing special or exceptional about that 7% of black pharmacists other than them taking interest in the pharmaceutical field and pursuing it to completion. I’m of the belief that anybody of sound mind & body can accomplish just about any endeavor with enough hard work and desire to achieve. Today, the only obstacle is mental!
Sam: Describe a day in your life as a practicing Pharmacist. What are some of the things the public doesn’t always understand you’re dealing with in making appropriate pharmaceutical care decisions?
Donaye: In the retail setting, life as a Pharmacist (and technician) was just short of chaos. In my 11 year experience with retail, much of it was spent understaffed with impossible goals set for my team by upper management. We’d have to juggle phones ringing nonstop, high script counts and the drive thru buzzing constantly all while being short-handed and exhausted. So yes, making appropriate pharmaceutical care decisions was a daily challenge, but one that most retail pharmacists and technicians did/do flawlessly.
Sam: How must Pharmacists improve their communication with the public so that the art and science of pharmacy can be more understood?
Donaye: In the retail setting, I think pharmacists have done an excellent job at communicating with the public. I think the biggest obstacle is actually finding time to speak with patients with all the other responsibilities and handicaps hindering that most important task (interpersonal communication)
Sam: Why has a Pharmacy Sitcom never been created? If it were created should it be in a retail pharmacy or in a hospital pharmacy? I vote retail but that may cause a bit of division in our community 😉
Donaye: It’s interesting that you asked. A good friend approached me about a possible reality show based on my overnight pharmacy retail life. Apparently, he read one of my numerous “Midnight Madness Chronicles” on Facebook and was highly amused. The idea quickly fizzled out because I didn’t think Walgreens would allow cameras and video equipment in the pharmacy due to HIPAA regulations. I think retail pharmacy would be an ideal setting for a pharmacy sitcom.
Sam: You’ve had a passion for finance for years. I remember you talking about Dave Ramsey books and how to save and pay off debt. What would be your advice for pharmacy students and Pharmacists struggling with student loan debt?
Donaye: I graduated with 204k in student loan debt. My advice would be to work hard early and often to chip away as soon as possible. Do not let it linger. Do not buy a house and/or car after graduation. Do not take advice from other broke pharmacy students with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. PERIOD!!!
Sam: How has becoming a father changed your practice of pharmacy?
Donaye: It hasn’t changed. I still practice the same, but my desire to “move up” in the pharmacy ranks has decreased. For me, it’s more important to be present in my kids lives early. Often times, holding an important title beyond staff PharmD equates to less time at home.
Sam: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Donaye: PAY OFF YOUR STUDENT DEBT EARLY!