Pharmacy, Pediatrics, and Perseverance

From her early days in rural western NC, fourth year student, Hailey Kemp, had a desire to help children and their families

Story by Ryan McDaniel | Published August 22, 2023

Headshot of Hailey Kemp

Hailey Kemp’s first year at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy was more challenging than usual. The rigor of the School’s curriculum often takes some getting used to, but for Hailey it was more than that. She began her time at the School in the fall of 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic so all of her classes that first year were fully remote. Furthermore, Hailey entered the PharmD program after her third year of undergraduate classes, separating her even more from her existing peer group.

“It was difficult on multiple levels,” she reflects. “It would have been my senior year of undergrad, so all my friends were preparing to graduate and celebrating that, and I was in my first year of pharmacy school, just starting out and taking a ton of very different classes than they were.”

In retrospect, Hailey is confident that ending her undergraduate studies early and jumping into the PharmD program was the right choice. Growing up in rural Stony Point, NC, Hailey loved the outdoors. From building forts in the woods as a kid to riding dirt bikes and ATVs as a teen, the small western NC town supplied ample opportunity for her to get out in nature. The population in the area was sparse and spread out, but the community was tight knit. Despite all these things she loved about growing up in the area, Hailey saw the barriers to health care faced by those in Alexander County, where Stony Point is located.

“My county does not have a hospital,” Hailey explains. “We have a couple of primary care centers, but if you need to go to the hospital, you’re either driving to Statesville or Hickory.”

Hailey’s mother is an ER nurse at the hospital in Statesville, which inspired Hailey to pursue health care. “Seeing what my mom did, I thought I wanted to do pediatric nursing. I enjoy interacting and sharing my passion with children and their parents as I help them to grow and develop. I did my entire senior [high school] project on the NICU. So I applied to UNC as a nursing major,” she shares. “But as I was taking the prerequisite classes I realized that I really like chemistry and I wanted to apply that more.”

Hailey started to think about ways she could lean into this love of chemistry without cutting out patient interaction. When her aunt mentioned the idea of pharmacy, Hailey thought it just might be perfect. “A lot of people don’t really, truly know why they’re taking the medications they’re taking,” she says. “Being able to talk to patients and really educate them about these things is something I knew I’d enjoy.”

Though no longer pursuing nursing, Hailey has continued to integrate pediatric care into her professional training. Since April 2021, she has been a Pediatric Pharmacy Intern at UNC Hospital. Through this, she prepares and dispenses oral and IV therapeutics for the full hospital, and she has been engaged in clinical and operational research projects. Her latest project was creating a Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) Downtime calculator which pharmacists can rely on if the hospital’s software goes down.

“Pediatrics is a general term for patients aged 0-17 years old, but most people do not realize the complexity of medicine in different age groups from neonates, infants, children, to adolescents,” Hailey explains. “My internship has showed me the value of pharmacists in providing safe and effective recommendations to providers and a level of comfort to children’s families that experience a very emotionally challenging moment in their lives.”

Now in the final year of her PharmD training, Hailey continues to position herself for a career in clinical pediatric pharmacy, either in bone marrow transplant, solid organ transplant, or critical care. She hopes to complete a residency program after graduating, also likely in pediatrics.

“Being in a career where there’s constant advocacy for everything we can do and what we have to offer excites me,” she says. “Witnessing how other providers interact with my preceptor, for example. They look to her for expertise on medications and trust her knowledge and experience. They will look to me one day, too.”