A Mission to Elevate Veterinary Pharmacy

Cassie Donnell, PharmD ’23, is turning her lifelong love of animals into a rewarding career

Story by Carrie Creasy | Published September 12, 2023

Headshot of Cassie Donnell, PharmD

There are a myriad of professional paths PharmD graduates pursue, but Cassie Donnell, PharmD ’23, had a singular goal throughout her education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy: to become a veterinary pharmacist. She had her heart set on securing one of only six slots in the country, and is thrilled to currently be a veterinary resident at North Carolina State University.

Her lifelong love of equine led her to the University of Tennessee where she earned her degree in Animal Science. She discovered the field of veterinary pharmacy while researching infectious disease prevention in dairy cows and observing the pharmacists’ role in drug residue avoidance. The implications food animal science has on human health and medicine, as well as the global sustainability of food safety, make veterinary pharmacy an important niche.

The Eshelman School of Pharmacy was her top choice because of the veterinary pharmacy rotation and the connection with the College of Veterinary Medicine at NC State. “Veterinary pharmacy was an isolating goal for me,” Cassie acknowledges. She had to branch out and network within the small veterinary community. “The School exposed me to different sides of pharmacy, while allowing me to really focus on my unique interests.”

The pharmacist’s role in veterinary medicine has developed slower than that of human medicine. Because much of veterinary medicine is not evidence based, a pharmacist’s judgment and decision making is vital to a veterinary team. She demonstrates that a pharmacist’s clinical involvement improves patient care and outcomes.

In the community, veterinary pharmacists are a unique resource to Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVMs). Recently, a DVM needed insight regarding a urine culture for a dog. Cassie remembers, “It was an organism we see in humans all the time, but we don’t usually see in dogs.” A veterinary pharmacist’s experience on both sides helps: “I knew more about that organism from human pharmacy school and could provide pharmaceutical knowledge and a clinical response.”

Cassie is very satisfied by her work as a veterinary resident. “This feels meant to be; I’m in a great spot,” she affirms. Her program includes research, teaching and clinical components. Currently her research is outside of food animals, looking at protocols for the management of hyperkalemia in feline patients. This spring semester, “Everything will come full circle,” she says, as she will join her resident director, Dr. Emily Sorah, teaching the UNC elective for veterinary medicine as TA.

Glad to be part of the Carolina community, Cassie loves to encourage people to think outside the box. She says, “My path of untraditional pharmacy is important.” Her next goal is to continue working at a veterinary hospital with more opportunities to teach and do research, while making her own clinical impact in the field most important to her.