Mr. and Mrs. Doctor Rodgers
A love story that began in pharmacy school and continues here today
Story by Ryan McDaniel | Photos Courtesy of Phil and Jo Ellen Rodgers | Published February 14, 2023
It was late August, 1993 and classes were just beginning for the year at the UNC School of Pharmacy. Jo Ellen Baldwin was in the last year of her BS in Pharmacy program and trying to get a jump start on her PharmD degree by taking a couple PharmD courses, including stats. Also in the stats class was Phil Rodgers, who had just returned to the School for his PharmD after having attained his BS degree here a year prior. This is how the couple, affectionately known today as “Mr. and Mrs. Doctor Rodgers” first met.
“At the time, the PharmD class was only about 15 people [compared to around 150 today],” recalls Phil. “So we gathered everyone’s phone numbers to share. I used that as an excuse to approach Jo Ellen and say, ‘oh, we’re getting the phone numbers together for everybody. Can I go ahead and get yours?’”
Phil wasn’t the only one fishing for excuses to connect. Around Labor Day weekend, Jo Ellen found a reason to meet up. “Beard Hall was locked on weekends and only PharmD students had keys for after-hours access. As a BS student, I didn’t have one,” Jo Ellen explains. “Since we needed to get into the computer lab for a stats assignment, I asked Phil if he could help me out. After probably 10 minutes in the lab we were miraculously done with our homework. So that was a total ploy to connect with him.” And, as it just so happened to be around lunch time, the two decided to go out to lunch – their first date.
Their instant connection quickly grew to be much more. Both Phil and Jo Ellen cite that it was only a couple months later when they each realized they had a future together. “I vividly remember calling my mother and being like, ‘I want to bring this guy home to meet you. He’s a really nice guy,’” says Jo Ellen. Phil’s moment was around the same time: “We went rock climbing in the mountains and that’s always been a landmark to me of where I really thought, ‘Wow! This girl is really cool.’”
The two were married on April 20th, 1996, just as Jo Ellen was finishing her PharmD and Phil was wrapping up his residency.
Four years later, in 1998, Jo Ellen returned to the UNC School of Pharmacy as an academic fellow in the Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics (DPET). In 1999, Phil was hired for a joint clinical position between the School and Duke Hospital, and then in 2012 moved over to the School as a Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of Practice Advancement and Clinical Education (PACE). Jo Ellen joined faculty in DPET in 2000 and the two have been here ever since. “One thing that keeps me tied to the School and this University is this commitment to assuring the next generation of pharmacists can positively impact patient health,” Jo Ellen shares.
Now Jo Ellen is a Full Professor in DPET as well as the Vice Chair of Professional Education & Practice. She does research, conducts clinical work, and mentors fellows in the division. Phil is the Director of Interprofessional Education & Practice and the Vice Chair of Education for PACE. He is also an advisor to the Student Health Action Coalition and Kappa Psi. With some overlap in clinical and other interests and specialties, they will lecture in each others’ courses a few times each year.
In 2021, Phil and Jo Ellen celebrated 25 years of marriage. They hosted a small gathering with special COVID precautions in place. “I surprised Phil,” Jo Ellen says. “I invited our parents, some of our groomsmen or bridesmaids who are local. Our minister from our church came and we renewed our vows.”