Advocates for Rural Health Education
Bryan and Rachel Haas are committed to giving back to rural communities across the state
Story by Ryan McDaniel | Published September 26, 2023
For the 1996-97 academic year, Bryan Haas, BSPhar ’95, PharmD ’97, MS ’97, was too busy. He was working to complete his PharmD degree, his Master’s in Hospital Pharmacy Administration, and a residency all at the same time. When jokingly told, “you must not have slept much that whole time,” Bryan chuckles. “No, I didn’t,” he replies. “But the School gave me credit for my residency for rotations that I would have had to do for the PharmD, so that helped.” In 1997, he walked during Commencement in May for his MS degree and again in December for his PharmD degree.
A decade earlier, Bryan would not have been able to predict how much pharmacy education he’d ultimately strive for. He grew up in Hickory, North Carolina, where his parents worked in furniture manufacturing and textiles. “We really didn’t know a lot about the medical field,” he admits. “But, interestingly enough, there are a lot of people in my family now in health care. My sister is an occupational therapist, I married a nurse, lots of nurses in the family, a neurosurgeon . . . we went from no medical experience to many family members in the field.”
When asked what prompted him to pursue pharmacy, Bryan points to two sources. The first is Bill McDonald, III whom Bryan knew because he was part-owner of the furniture company where Bryan’s mother worked. Bill was also a licensed pharmacist (UNC School of Pharmacy Class of 1956), and mayor of Hickory from 1981-2001 – an excellent role model.
The second source of inspiration was Viewmont Pharmacy in Hickory. “I just kind of had an interest, while I was growing up, in what they did and how knowledgeable and friendly they were,” Bryan recalls. “It seemed like the best of both worlds – you get to talk to people while you’re also doing something important.”
After graduating for the third time from the School, Bryan moved to Clinton, NC, to work for South Eastern Regional AHEC. There, he met his wife Rachel, who was working as a nurse in the hospital where he practiced. Rachel and Bryan soon moved to Wilmington where Bryan’s career shifted when he was hired by PPD, where he worked for 16 years. For the last eight years, he’s been with PRA Health Services (now ICON).
With their work in eastern North Carolina, and from Bryan growing up in Hickory, Rachel and Bryan observed the gaps in health care in rural areas of both western and eastern North Carolina. “Historically, pharmacies have helped fill that gap where there are no physicians nearby,” Bryan observes.
In these communities where a pharmacy is the only accessible health care service, Bryan and Rachel view training and educating those already in the community as the best way to strengthen services and close the gap. “If people in western or eastern North Carolina are educated there and they can maintain connections to home, they’re more likely to stay in that region and then service the local population,” Bryan explains.
Passionate about supporting the School’s commitment to serving North Carolina, Bryan and Rachel established an endowed scholarship specifically focused on supporting students from rural North Carolina counties. Additionally, Bryan and Rachel have committed to match gifts to the School’s Western NC Pharmacy Impact Fund up to $5,000. The fund will help to recruit youth from western North Carolina, support the Rural Pharmacy Health Certificate Program, and help build partnerships with MAHEC, local pharmacies, health systems, and nonprofits in western North Carolina.
These contributions will help the School better reach the most underserved regions of the state, in turn bringing better health care to all North Carolinians. Bryan puts it best when he says, “Intelligence is equally distributed – opportunity is not.”
Click here to take advantage of the dollar-for-dollar matching gift opportunity. Your gift will support our students as they pursue service and learning activities in western North Carolina.