28 Days of Black Excellence: Daphne Smith Marsh
Daphne Smith Marsh is a clinical pharmacist, diabetes educator and faculty member with more than 20 years of experience that encompasses compassionate, culturally sensitive, patient-centered care. She currently is a clinical assistant professor in the UIC College of Pharmacy. Her research interests include diabetes management in indigent populations and medication therapy management. She provides didactic and experiential instruction with a focus on diabetes therapeutic management and lifestyle modification.
Tariq El-Amin 00:01
Welcome to Black Excellence at UIC Office of Diversity, Equity and Engagement with Dr. Aisha El-Amin.
Recording of Dr. Martin Luther King 00:09
[Applause] Believe in yourself and believe that you’re somebody.
Clips from 1995 movie “Panther” 00:17
That we study and master a bunch of different things.
Why are you here?
Study and master a bunch of different things.
I’m proud to introduce our new Minister of Information
Aisha El-Amin 00:26
I’m Dr. Aisha El-Amin.
Tariq El-Amin 00:29
Welcome to Black Excellence.
Aisha El-Amin 0:35
Hello, greetings, UIC family and friends. Welcome to UIC’s “28 Days of Black Excellence.” I am Dr. Aisha El-Amin, UIC’s associate vice chancellor for equity and belonging. It’s my great honor to celebrate the history of Black excellence at UIC with powerful, inspiring and informative conversations with UIC’s alumni, past faculty and staff. Each day we’ll have a new guest that will share their story, and today I am honored and excited to welcome Dr. Smith Marsh, class of 1997. A doctor of pharmacy to tell us what she’s been up to since she first finished up in 1997. Welcome, Dr. Marsh.
Daphne Smith Marsh 1:20
Thank you so much, and hello, everyone. It’s my pleasure to share my experience at UIC, and it’s been a long journey. I did receive my Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 1997. And I completed pharmacy practice residency, which is now known as a postgraduate year residency in pharmacy, right after I graduated, and I found myself back at UIC as a faculty member and a clinical pharmacist. I have worked in various areas, including internal medicine, clinic, endocrinology, and now I’m at the Mile Square Health Center, which is a federally qualified health center here on campus. And it’s interesting because when I was a student, I actually had a rotation at Mile Square, the previous location on Washington. But I got introduced to diabetes education during that experience, and it was really eye-opening — I didn’t realize that a pharmacist could provide diabetes education — and my preceptor was actually studying to be a certified diabetes educator. And I thought that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
Daphne Smith Marsh 2:29
I had worked at Walgreens and retail pharmacies as a technician throughout my time as a pharmacy student. But I wanted independence. I really like to make changes that I can actually see in real time. And so ambulatory care pharmacy really excited me. And I wanted to be able to have relationships long term with patients, but to be able to directly affect medication therapy. My preceptor at the time encouraged me to complete a residency. And I found myself back at UIC, and now being in a position to teach students and share diabetes management with them. So, I do a lot of education with diabetes therapies.
Daphne Smith Marsh 3:16
But I also work with patients in the Mile Square clinic to manage their diabetes. I have referrals from their primary care providers. And my role is to not only provide diabetes education through lifestyle modification, but I do medication management. So, I’m initiating, titrating or adjusting therapy, stopping therapy when it’s necessary, but I’m able to see patients multiple times within their primary care provider visit. I’m a team member, I’m actually working very closely with patients to directly manage their diabetes. And because I’m a pharmacist first, diabetes educator second, I’m concerned with the patient as a whole.
Daphne Smith Marsh 4:04
I always talk about wellness, making sure that we’re not just looking at medications, but we’re treating patients so that includes their well-being mentally, spiritually, there are a lot of different aspects. So, it’s not just medicine that I’m concerned about. But I am able to do more with these patients and have students and pharmacy residents work with me as well. I’m teaching the next generation directly and indirectly. It’s a joy for me to do what I do on a day-to-day basis.
Aisha El-Amin 4:40
You are just brilliant. I love your passion; it’s just coming through. You have to tell me, where are you from? Are you from Chicago or…?
Daphne Smith Marsh 4:50
I’m from Chicago.
Aisha El-Amin 4:51
Daphne Smith Marsh 4:53
Yep, South Side, Hyde Park area, that’s where I was born and raised. Went to Kenwood. Went to Beasley. So, I’ve been in Chicago, and I purposely, when I decided on residency programs, I purposely didn’t apply anywhere in Chicago because I’m from here. I wanted to see something different. And going to another institution, I see how much we truly have at UIC. Our pharmacy curriculum — our program is outstanding. There’s a lot that we offer, and we really prepare our students to be able to work with patients as a whole. So, it’s a really good preparation for what’s going on in the world.
Aisha El-Amin 5:38
See, I knew I felt this South Side vibe. I’m a South Sider myself [Laughter]. My sister went to Kenwood, she was class of 1991.
Daphne Smith Marsh 5:47
Aisha El-Amin 5:47
My brother was Beasley. I went to CVS.
Daphne Smith Marsh 5:51
There you go.
Aisha El-Amin 5:55
So, you have to tell me some of your fondest memories as you look back on your experience at UIC. You’ve gone from a student to a faculty member, which is huge, and you’ve done so many things in between. I know you have a lot of memories, but if you could share some of them with us.
Daphne Smith Marsh 6:11
Sure. I think my fondest memory is actually making friends as a member and an officer of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association. That’s one of the student organizations at our UIC College of Pharmacy. But we focus on under-representative communities within health care, so not just pharmacy. But of course, we’re going to have a focus on pharmacy because that’s what we do. But that was a way for me to be connected with other students, because there wasn’t a large number of Black students when I started. We have so many more, but there’s always room to grow.
Daphne Smith Marsh 6:53
And one of the things that I really liked was our community service. I was a member of different organizations in the College of Pharmacy, but that is my fondest memory because it helped me to grow. It taught me leadership skills, it had me connected with other pharmacy students throughout the country. And I have lifelong friendships because of that organization. And I was able to be a co-adviser for our College of Pharmacy chapter for 11 years. So, I went from a student [Laughter], and then when I became a faculty member, I didn’t want to lose my connection.
Daphne Smith Marsh 7:32
And I still love SNPHA. I still am involved, and I was one of six faculty and former advisers who established an endowed SNPHA scholarship for our students. So, it’s like I continue to give back. That’s something that’s very important to me. And that’s something that always encouraged students to do is: look outside of your community, how can you touch others? Of course, I’m very committed to my community and how I can reach African American or any students of Black origin or background.
Daphne Smith Marsh 7:32
I’m really interested in making sure that I don’t forget about the community. I do a lot of work within the American Diabetes Association. So, I started years ago doing presentations at churches. There was this program called Project Power years ago, and so we would go to different churches and kind of do diabetes awareness. That program changed, but now I’m involved in the committees to help with fundraising and wellness. I’m part of the wellness committee within our local chapter for the American Diabetes Association. I’m working, representing pharmacy, always representing my community, no matter where I’m going.
Aisha El-Amin 9:01
Oh, my gosh, I love it. I love it! So, as you think about your fondest, I know, every journey has challenges, right? And so you have other students here that are in their doctoral programs, you have new faculty members, what are some of the challenges that you faced and how did you how did you meet those challenges to give other folks some some inspirational words.
Daphne Smith Marsh 9:29
Sure. There’s actually a challenge, I feel like, it’s an ongoing challenge. There very few Black faculty members in our College of Pharmacy. So, I am actually working on Advancing Racial Equity. I was asked to co-chair a committee starting this year so that we could kind of address some of the needs that we have some very excited about that.
Daphne Smith Marsh 9:53
But I try to have students be encouraged by knowing that I am here representing what they can do. And even though I did have mentors when I was a student, there were still not many Black faculty. So, just seeing that certain goals can be achieved that certain pathways are available, pharmacy has such a wide range of opportunities. So, it’s not just the local retail store where a pharmacist is working. A lot of us are working in hospital ambulatory care, we have a huge ambulatory care pharmacy practice here. So, they’re pharmacists in pretty much most clinics on the UIC campus, which is really great, because that’s not the case for a lot of institutions.
Daphne Smith Marsh 10:46
UIC has offered so much as far as not only pharmacy, but I have seen the growth in our urban health students, the number of students and what they’re doing, not only locally, but nationally, particularly through that SNPHA organization that I mentioned. Several of our students have represented themselves through our chapter on a national level. The challenge is always there’s more that can be done. And I think it’s really encouraging even though I’m one of few and a number, I think there’s still an impact, especially when I see my patients and they’re so excited to see someone of their same ethnicity or background, like we were talking about the South Side of Chicago, but just knowing that there’s someone who’s continuing to grow, continuing to further their education.
Daphne Smith Marsh 11:42
And so even though it’s a challenge being one of few, I think that there’s still always a positive that comes out in a challenge. It’s like, well, what can I learn? I always tell students, ‘Think out of the box.’ The pathway that I have with diabetes education wasn’t something that was automatically there for me. I actually volunteered hours with an endocrinologist when I first started because I was interested in getting hours to become a certified diabetes educator. Now, it’s called Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. So, they changed our name. But it’s been 20 years since I’ve had that credential. But it wasn’t given to me. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we have this opening for diabetes educator.” No, it’s like I got my hours. And because I volunteered to start getting those hours, I then had a place on the team. So, they saw what I could do. And then I was asked to be part of a team. And then this led to a position that opened years later, what I’m doing now. Sometimes you have to create a pathway. It’s not always just there for you; you have to reach out and kind of pursue your goals.
Aisha El-Amin 12:53
Absolutely. Dr. Smith Marsh, you are a trailblazer, creating spaces and opportunities for others. And I appreciate you. As we as each round off, if you can offer some words of advice to other faculty members, other students that are at UIC, what would those words of advice be?
Daphne Smith Marsh 13:16
I always say: “Be proactive. Be positive.” I always try to look at the positive aspects, even in a challenge. What can I learn from this experience? Be flexible. Sometimes people think about what they just have to do on a day-to-day basis. But I think you have to be open to opportunities. Sometimes you do have to make a pathway, let people know what you’re interested in. But you want to be prepared. So a lot of Ps: prepared, proactive, positive. I’m just always looking at the positive aspects. And stay connected, whether it’s your, classmates, mentors, leaders in the community. Stay connected. I think that will be really important.
Aisha El-Amin 14:09
Well, thank you so much, Dr. Smith Marsh.
Daphne Smith Marsh 14:11
Aisha El-Amin 14:12
You are a trailblazer. We appreciate you. Thank you for being part of this series and being part of the UIC proud history of Black excellence.
Daphne Smith Marsh 14:22
Thank you so much.
Tariq El-Amin 14:26
[Music] Thanks for joining us find more inspiring and informative conversations with UIC alumni, faculty and staff at blackresources.uic.edu. That’s blackresources.uic.edu.