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MUSC University Archives Black History Month Highlight: Dr. Johnnie L. Early

by Tabitha Samuel on 2023-02-28T12:00:00-05:00 | 0 Comments


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Dr. Johnnie L. Early

In honor of Black History Month 2023, the MUSC University Archives is highlighting the only African American dean to have ever led one of its six colleges in its almost 200-year history.

Johnnie L. Early, RPh, PhD, FNPhA, earned his undergraduate degree in pharmacy from Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy in 1973 and his master's and doctoral degrees from Purdue University in 1976 and 1978, respectively. Upon graduation, he joined the faculty of Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University (FAMU), a historically black university founded in 1887 in Tallahassee, Florida, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in pathology, pharmacology, and toxicology. In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Early served as director of the Minority Biomedical Research Support Program and principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or program director on various contracts and grants funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NASA, and from 1981 to 1987, he served as assistant dean for research. In 1987, Dr. Early was appointed dean of FAMU's College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, a position he held until his recruitment to MUSC in 1994.

Under Dr. Early's leadership, the MUSC College of Pharmacy significantly changed administrative positions and departmental structures. In 1995, the departments of Hospital Pharmacy Practice and Community Pharmacy Practice merged into the Department of Pharmacy Practice. Also in 1997, the College began transitioning away from its bachelor's in pharmacy program (its last BS class graduated in 1999) to an entry-level practice degree as the four-year Doctor of Pharmacy program. Dr. Early left MUSC to serve as dean of the University of Toledo in Ohio in 2000 but returned to Florida A&M University in 2018 when he was named dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Current MUSC University Archives records documenting Dr. Early's tenure at MUSC.

Total MUSC University Archives records documenting Dr. Early's tenure at MUSC.

Throughout Dr. Early's career, his commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in pharmacy education and the workforce is evident in his involvement in many initiatives and programs. A charter member of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPHA), Dr. early led the efforts to establish FAMU's Rho Chi Pharmacy Honor Society chapter. In recognition of his contributions, Dr. Early has received numerous awards, including the National Pharmaceutical Association's Chauncey I. Cooper Award, the ASHP-ABHP (American Society of Health System Pharmacists and the Association of Black Health System Pharmacists) Joint Leadership Award in 2018, the ABHP Wendell T. Hill Award, Practitioner of the Year Award from Palmetto Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association, and more recently the Honorary Membership Award of the ASHP in 2021.

Details about the first and only Black dean at MUSC remain obscure due to the lack of records in the University Archives documenting his work in the 1990s. The campus newspaper, The Catalyst, noted significant changes under his leadership, but without a regular and formal records retention policy and accession processes—only recently established at MUSC—we know little about the College of Pharmacy internal operations under his leadership. Still, from what we do know through the limited documentation, Dr. Early’s impact on the college proved significant.

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