A Dedicated Patient Advocate

Ned Clark, BSPhar ’78, stands up for his patients with compassion and perserverance

Story by Carrie Creasy | Published May 30, 2023

Ned Clark graduated from the UNC School of Pharmacy in 1978 and lives with his wife, Dessie, in a house he built on three acres of land. Together they raised four boys and now entertain six dogs. While Dessie has retired from hospital pharmacy, Ned continues his community pharmacy work. As he’s been doing for 44 years, Ned offers sincere care to both his patients and students because, he says, “I like what I do. I really like working with people.”

Jennifer Zhao, PharmD candidate ‘24, was assigned to work with Ned in rural Northampton County where there are only two pharmacies and just three physicians serving a high percentage of uninsured patients. Days into her two-month community immersion as a first-year pharmacy student, Jennifer learned of Ned’s months-long battle on behalf of a pediatric asthma patient. The child’s prescription coverage was repeatedly being denied by his insurance company.

Jennifer watched Ned wield his professional relationships at the health department, in social services, and ultimately in the insurance commissioner’s office. He spent hours on the phone, always bringing with him the attitude that “we are going to fix this together now.” In the end, the insurance company identified their error. The patient did not miss out on necessary medication, and Ned’s persistence resulted in the appropriate changes finally being made. This is the experience that epitomized Jennifer’s understanding of passionate and effective community pharmacy.

She notices, “It is easy to become jaded in the community pharmacy setting due to its daily demands.” Instead, Ned acts as a dedicated and stalwart advocate for the best interest of his patients.

Ned is now shifting his work toward a larger scale. His goal is to establish a free screening clinic for the county. He has secured non-profit incorporation 501(c)(3) status and is waiting on grant applications. The vision includes blood pressure checks, blood glucose testing, and to restart pre-covid Pharmacogenomics projects with Dr. Tim Wiltshire of UNC. “I like to see better ways to help people out,” he explains. “I’ve always looked for ways to do things a little differently.”

Ned points out, “A whole lot of learning happens on the job,” and therefore he values insight from those he has previously mentored. Many students-turned-colleagues have shared examples of their related work in various places throughout North Carolina. Partnering with a local community college, Ned plans to open Northampton Open Clinic as a student-operated clinic under the supervision of licensed professionals, the first of its kind in the area.

“I wouldn’t keep practicing pharmacy if I didn’t like it,” Ned says. His favorite advice to give students is, “Find somewhere you like and stick to it. You’ve got the rest of your life to work – but find somewhere you like to do it.” Jennifer concludes, “I am lucky to have been able to learn from an exemplary community pharmacist like him.”