Serving Eastern North Carolina

Jennifer Buxton, PharmD ’03, considers her career at a charitable clinic to be her dream job

Story by Zach Read | photo credit Erica Levy | Published July 11, 2023

Jennifer Buxton headshot

As an undergraduate at UNC, Jennifer Buxton, PharmD ‘03, knew she wanted to be a healthcare professional. At the time, she was considering becoming a physician like her father; she also thought about nursing as a career. Through shadowing opportunities and other explorations, she decided to pursue pharmacy.

“I settled on pharmacy because there was such a breadth of career opportunity available,” Jennifer recalls. “I had such a variety of interests—I wasn’t ready to settle down and choose one. Pharmacy offered a space for me to explore my interests in business, management, and clinical patient care.”

After completing her undergraduate degree at UNC, Jennifer entered the UNC School of Pharmacy. The transition felt seamless. She continued her leadership and volunteer service interests, becoming an active member and student leader of several organizations. She also valued and enjoyed the coursework.

Although she understood the importance of the classes and the material, it wasn’t until she began seeing patients in clinical settings as part of her rotations that her classroom education made sense to her. That’s when Jennifer “totally fell in love with patient care.” By developing relationships with patients and seeing them as somebody’s sister, brother, mother, and friend, she learned about the place they held and the contribution they made in their society. Through her work, she felt she was contributing to their wellness.

“I remember having so many lightbulb moments during my fourth year in school,” she explains. “I realized all that chemistry and science was directly applicable to the health and wellness of those patients. Once I started building relationships with patients, I started doing extra research, looking up extra therapeutic options—not because my preceptor told me to do it, but because I wanted to bring something special to the table.”

Jennifer’s clinical work led her to Wilmington, NC, where she was a pharmacy resident at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Her interest in volunteer work led to nights working with Cape Fear Clinic, a charitable clinic serving low-income individuals and families in the Cape Fear region, regardless of ability to pay. Over time, her work with Cape Fear Clinic expanded, including time on the Board of Directors. She now holds a paid position with the clinic as Chief Pharmacy Officer. Jennifer considers her work with Cape Fear Clinic to be her dream job, allowing her to support individuals, families, and communities with limited resources and access to health care.

Over the years, Jennifer has maintained a close relationship with the School of Pharmacy, leading the Alumni Association, supporting current and former students, and providing guidance to young pharmacists entering the field. Last year she was called upon to join the School of Pharmacy’s recently formed Eastern Advisory Board, which comprises a select group of pharmacy alumni and partners whose mission is to advance recruitment, training, practice, research, and service in eastern North Carolina. The Eastern Advisory Board is comprised of thirteen health care professionals from Eastern North Carolina, representing pharmacy, medicine, nursing and dentistry.

The work of the board is designed to enhance the pharmacy industry in eastern North Carolina and increase opportunities to work as pharmacists in the region and improve service delivery in often hard-to-reach, under-resourced communities.

In her capacity on the board, Jennifer has had opportunities to work with Betsy Sleath, Regional Associate Dean for Eastern North Carolina and George H Cocolas Distinguished Professor in the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy (DPOP) in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. The two are collaborating on a statewide, pharmacists’-managed hypertension study led by ECU and UNC. Cape Fear Clinic will be one of the practice sites for the study.

“There’s a lot of great work being done to reengage and revitalize UNC’s commitment to the east coast,” Jennifer says. “Betsy is supporting our interest in bringing residents to Cape Fear Clinic as a practice site.”

Jennifer sees the advisory board as a key step for providing better care in eastern North Carolina. “When UNC renewed interest and engagement in the east coast, not only did they engage those of us working and living here and wanting to participate in a variety of ways, whether as clinician or educator or preceptor or program director, but through the Eastern Advisory Board, they reached out to those that were known champions in our region,” she says. “The board includes some who are no longer physically in this geography, but have such a history to bring to the table. They’ve been very intentional about how they’ve composed the board in breadth and depth, and I think they’ve done that in such a strategic way.”