Amanda Gillispie: Standing on the Shoulders of (Family) Giants

May 13, 2017

The great-great-great granddaughter of Emil Boerner—a founder of what is now the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy—graduated from this same college on May 11.

Boerner was one of the founders of the Department of Pharmacy, which later became the College of Pharmacy, and its first dean. Amanda Gillispie is related to Emil Boerner and his wife, Helen, by two unique family trees. She is a fifth generation alum (or more) of the UI College of Pharmacy. She is also the fifth consecutive woman in her direct maternal line to graduate from the UI in any subject. (Read more about her lineage here.)

“I have strong ties to pharmacy, so it’s always been on my radar,” Amanda Gillispie said.

Until her junior year in high school, there were many other blips—all of them health care professions—on Amanda’s radar screen. But she job shadowed two family pharmacists and was able to narrow her focus to pharmacy, and then to treating children in hospital clinical pharmacy.

Amanda’s first job shadow was with her grandfather, Karl Hunter, ’70 BSPh, at Jewel-Osco Drug in Clinton, Iowa. Later, she flew to Greensboro, North Carolina to shadow her aunt, Chelsea (Hunter) Aidala, ’07 PharmD, who was a PGY2 pharmacy resident in neonatology at Cone Health Women's Hospital in Greensboro, NC.

“I saw what life was like for a resident,” Amanda said. “It was a little over my head at the time, but in retrospect, I was able to see and learn and retain so much.” She knows now that she is motivated by working on a health care team treating sick children. She likes to solve problems, and to come up with creative solutions when a usual approach or drug isn’t an option.

“I drew on all of my family heritage when choosing a career, but the week I spent with my aunt sealed the deal,” Gillispie added. “When pharmacy rose to the top for me, knowing my roots made me think: “Maybe I’m onto something. Maybe it’s in my blood. It was telling me: This is the right path.”

Supportive of Gillispie is her great aunt Carolyn Boerner, ’59 BSPh, who is also a descendant of Emil and Helen Boerner. Carolyn Boerner said she was “thrilled” to “coat” Gillispie at her White Coat ceremony nearly four years ago. She felt the same about attending her graduation ceremony.

“She’s a trailblazer,” Amanda Gillispie said of Carolyn Boerner. “She’s humble about it, but she was really brave to go into a completely male-dominated field.”

Gillispie said Carolyn Boerner has told her about Emil’s journey through pharmacy. “Now that I’m officially a pharmacist, it will mean even more to hear all of the stories from those who have come before me,” Gillispie added.

Amanda’s next stop will be Salt Lake City, where she will gain specialized training as a PGY1 Pediatrics Pharmacy Resident at Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital.