Three Generations of Life-Saving Impact
Caroline Eason plans to follow in the footsteps of her father and grandfather to serve her rural NC community
Story by Kelly Collins | Photo by Danny Alexander | Published April 25, 2023
Most days Caroline Eason, PharmD candidate ’25, wears an Old Well charm around her neck. A Tar Heel pharmacist born and bred, her love for both UNC and the state of North Carolina is palpable.
Caroline is the third generation to attend pharmacy school at UNC. Her grandfather, Tom Eason, graduated in 1971 and went on to open Center Pharmacy (later renamed to TAS Drug) in Maiden, NC, in 1990 with fellow alum Bob Stamey. Her father, Tony Eason, joined the family business after graduating from pharmacy school in 1992. TAS Drug now has three stores across Catawba, Gaston, and Lincoln counties.
Caroline’s goal is to return home following graduation from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy to continue her family’s legacy of serving the people of her community. “I am looking forward to taking my #1 pharmacy education back to my hometown,” said Caroline in speaking to a room full of alumni, supporters, and students at the Annual Scholarship Luncheon last weekend.
Caroline grew up in Lawndale, a town in Cleveland County with a population of 577 where most residents must travel 30 minutes to get to the nearest grocery store, doctor, or fast-food restaurant. Caroline’s high school experience was different from most of her pharmacy school peers. Most of her town did not have Wi-Fi access until the summer of 2022, so all assignments were completed on paper.
“A small percentage of students from my high school make it to college,” reflected Caroline. “My public high school didn’t even have calculus textbooks. So, the adjustment to technology and access to educational materials here at Chapel Hill was quite the culture shock for me.”
Working in her family’s pharmacy since the age of 12, Caroline saw the lifesaving impact a pharmacist makes beyond dispensing drugs. The demand for pharmacists is often higher in rural communities where access to medical services may be limited by geography, distance, and economic challenges. The average patient visits a pharmacy ten times as often as a primary care provider.
“When people get sick, they come to my dad first because of the accessibility and trust he has built within our community,” said Caroline. “I have heard so many patient testimonies over the years of how my dad has saved their lives.”
Caroline watched as time and again her father went above and beyond for his patients. In one example, the entire Eason family helped install a new air conditioner for a homebound patient. These experiences have fueled Caroline’s passion for serving others.
“While the pharmacy career path norm is shifting away from community, my heart remains with the people I grew up helping. If I can have just one person tell a story about how I saved their life, it will all be worth it. I also want to serve as an example for my community—to show other little girls that it is possible to go to college and be a competent, successful, educated woman.”
As the recipient of the Thomas R. & Kathryn B. Thutt Scholarship, Caroline spoke to the impact of this support in helping relieve the financial burden of pharmacy school. Beyond the dollars, the scholarship serves as an affirmation of her hard work and her mission to serve others, both now and in the future.
“Beyond the present personal impact, a scholarship given to me is an investment in my community. This is true of all the scholarships. They’re an investment in future generations of Tar Heel pharmacists and an investment in the future patient populations they will serve.”
Caroline’s story is remarkable. Nice meeting her at the luncheon. Steve and LaRue Dedrick
Great perspective on the importance of pharmacy- especially in rural areas, as the gateway to the healthcare system.
Love this story about Caroline and her family! Her Dad, Tony, was one of my classmates. What a wonderful legacy!