Role Model Spotlight

Sherill-Brown-making lip balm with a female teen.

Sherrill Brown

UM pharmacy professor is a regular on the We Are Montana in the Classroom circuit. She has visited elementary-school classes in the Bitterroot and high-school classes in Troy and frequently brings lip balm-making activities to spectrUM Discovery Area and its mobile programming in the Bitterroot and on the Flathead Reservation.


Why do you volunteer as a We Are Montana in the Classroom role model?

I think it’s a great recruiting tool for the university, and specifically for the pharmacy program. We didn't’t have this type of program when I was in school, but I had a lot of teachers who did hands-on activities in the classroom, and those were the lessons that I remember.

You often bring pharmacy students with you on your visits. Why do you think this is an important experience for college students?

I love taking my students and having them do these activities. For one thing, they usually enjoy them. I also think it’s very helpful in building the confidence both of the students and the children at the activities.  And it sets a good example for my students, so that they think, ‘when I become a pharmacist, I should. I should help out with recruitment with my pharmacy and help out in my community.’ I try to be a role model not just to the five-year-old making lip balm, but also to the thirty-year-old pharmacy student.

You’ve visited students of all ages, but most of your visits are with elementary students. What draws you to this age group?

They’re really easy to engage. They want to engage with you. When you ask you questions, they want to answer your questions, and they want to ask you questions. When I talked with [students at Hamilton’s Daly Elementary], they must have spent half an hour asking how long different animals live.

What advice do you have for new role models?

Be flexible, especially on time. It’s amazing how quickly an activity can go, and sometimes it’s amazing how long a discussion can go. Especially for your first visit, see what they do and what questions they ask; that helps to refine. For example, we found that one thing that kids love about the lip balm activity is the mortar and pestle, so we try to make sure they can all grind up the lemonade powder. It works just as well without grinding it, but it’s memorable for kids, and they associate the mortar and pestle with pharmacy.

What do you hope students take away from your visits?

What I hope they take away is that pharmacists can be fun and that pharmacists do more than count pills. Most of these kids have never seem a pharmacist except behind the counter at Walgreens or Bitterroot Drug and don’t realize what they do besides count out their pills, like compounding. When I talk to them in the classroom, I ask them if they know what pharmacists do, and I talk about how you’ll see the signs outside the Walgreens that say, “Flu shots here,” and I ask them “Who’s doing those flu shots?” and “What else can your pharmacist do?” and “Why would they compound medicine? What’s so special about that?” That’s what I hope they take away; that pharmacy can be exciting.