Living her Dream: Emily Meggs Serves Eastern North Carolina

With a passion for clinical pharmacy and a devotion to eastern NC, Emily Meggs, PharmD ’22, is enhancing patients’ lives while doing what she loves

Story by Zach Read | Published September 5, 2023

Emily Meggs, PharmD '22 headshot outdoors

One day, as a high school student in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, in the eastern part of the state, Emily Meggs, PharmD ’22, arrived for her shift at a local restaurant where she held a part-time job and discovered it was no longer open for business.

“I hadn’t been notified that they’d closed,” says Emily, who laughs about it now. “I didn’t get the memo.”

In need of another job, Emily immediately hunted for a replacement.

“I thought, ‘Let me see if I can find something in health care,’” she recalls. “‘Maybe I can work at a pharmacy.’”

Emily went to Anderson’s Drug Store, a community pharmacy in Elizabethtown, which at the time was owned by Carolina pharmacy school graduate, Gene Anderson.

“I remember showing up a couple times that day, turning in an application, and saying, ‘I’d love to tell you why I’d be great for this,’” remembers Emily. “I wore him down to the point where he gave me a job. I started working there toward the end of high school and loved it. I even went back during summers from college. I loved getting to talk to people, to be part of an establishment that’s a pillar in my community.”

Gene recognized Emily’s interest, encouraged her to look into pharmacy school at Carolina, and served as a mentor for her, helping her learn more about different areas of the profession.

“Everything I’ve done since is because he gave me a chance to get my foot in the door,” Emily acknowledges.

And Emily has done a lot since she first began working at Anderson’s. As an undergraduate at Carolina, Emily majored in psychology, taking as many courses that incorporated information and education about drugs and medication as possible. Her transition to pharmacy school felt seamless.

“I did better in pharmacy school than in college because all the course material was directly related to things I was passionate about,” she says.

It helped that the culture of the school reminded her of home. Professors stopped to talk to her in the hallways. They got to know her personally, understood her interest in working in rural communities and with populations that experience poor health outcomes, and worked closely with her to help her succeed.

In 2020, Emily was named to the first cohort of interns in the Whole Community Health Internship Program. The program brings together various health professions to help improve health outcomes in underserved areas of North Carolina. Emily’s experience focused on Robeson and Edgecombe counties. The team spent a lot of time exploring how to make medications more affordable for low-income patients.

“I learned a lot about the various health professions and how they identify and approach different problems,” Emily explains. “But most important, the program opened my eyes to the challenges these North Carolinians have had to overcome for so long, some of which still have roots today.”

Emily’s desire to make a difference in people’s lives led her to pursue clinical pharmacy. Last year, she completed a year of her Carolina residency as a hospital pharmacist at Carteret Health Care in Morehead City. At Carteret Health, Emily provided clinical pharmacy services in a variety of care settings, including surgery service, medical service, and progressive care, a type of intensive care service.

“The role forced me to gain experience in different areas quickly,” she says. “All our cases had a little bit of everything, which the pharmacy school education at Carolina helped me with a lot. I got to be a jack of all trades in residency.”

Today, Emily is applying her residency experiences to a new position as an evening-shift pharmacist at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“I love doing clinical work,” she says. “It’s so much fun. For me, it relates to why I became a pharmacist, and it reminds of me small-town life. In a small town, you have to learn how to do things on our own, and you have to become an expert at a lot of different things. The same is true in clinical settings. You don’t always have an expert available to you in one specific field, and so you need to gain that knowledge on your own. It allows me to learn new things and use the knowledge I have to help people, which is the whole reason I became a pharmacist.”

Emily has always dreamed of practicing pharmacy in eastern North Carolina, in the region where she was born and raised and where she calls home. She considers practicing down east a full-circle moment for her.

“I feel like I’m finally getting to come home and live the dreams I’ve been dreaming since I started pharmacy,” says Emily, who hopes to one day become an Emergency Department pharmacist. “This is a region where there’s always been more people than we have healthcare access. It’s exciting to see new clinics being built in this area and growth that’s desperately needed to help improve the lives of people living here. I’m just excited about the role I can play in the grand scheme of that.”