Associate Professor of Pharmacy Dennis Gardner either had luck on his side throughout his career or he is a purebred innovator. Both he and Associate Dean for Clinical Education and External Affiliations Julie Koehler believe it’s a mix of both.
“Dennis is a starter,” Koehler said. “He loves the opportunity to be involved in the establishment of new things.”
Gardner elaborated and said, “I’m able to identify, visualize, and then make something happen. I like that challenge of development.”
The notion of being in the right place at the right time and starting new things is demonstrated throughout Gardner’s career. Before working at Butler he was one of the initial clinical faculty at Auburn University. In the 1970s, after leaving Auburn, Gardner joined Butler with a joint appointment with St. Vincent Hospital. During this time, he also helped establish Butler’s first experiential program in the fall of 1978 to meet the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s requirements.
After establishing the program, Gardner joined St. Vincent Stress Center, where he managed the computerization of the pharmacy, which was the first St. Vincent facility to get one. After St. Vincent, Gardner worked at IU Hospital Pharmacy Department at Riley Hospital for Children and in the pharmacy industry at Novartis Oncology for a few years.
Gardner explained that through all these experiences he stayed connected to Butler by providing student experiences throughout the hospital. He lost touch with students a bit while working with Novartis. Although this position was challenging, Gardner discovered his heart was truly that of a clinician and a teacher.
Koehler explains the stars must have aligned because at the same time of Gardner’s realization, Butler was in search for a pharmacy faculty position that would have a joint appointment at Butler in the classroom and at Community Health Network at as a clinician. Gardner was hired into his current role in 2004 and neither he nor Koehler have looked back.
“Dennis has been a valuable preceptor for us for many years,” Koehler said. “He’s really looked to as a leader in the field of pharmacy practice and to that, he’s a great role model for our students, for the residents who train with him, and for the junior faculty who are just getting started in practice who don’t have as many years under their belt.”
Kacey Carroll, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Butler and Ambulatory Care Pharmacist, is just one example of a student who has felt the impact Gardner has made. She worked with Gardner during her first year of residency and explained that Gardner taught her, by example, how to be a compassionate care giver, educator, and person.
“There are very few pharmacists that I have worked with that care as much as Dennis does and can handle the stressors of the job with grace and without complaint,” Carroll said. “He made coming to work an enjoyable experience and I worked harder knowing he was invested in me as a person and as a learner.”
Gardner’s work in recent years at Community Health Network has helped Community expand their pediatric practice within the pediatric and neo-natal intensive care units and form a partnership with Riley Hospital for Children.
Koehler best describes the impact Dennis has had on Butler and the local health care providers with a quote from author Nelson Henderson: “The purpose of life is plant trees under whose shade we do not expect to sit.”
“If you look at Dennis’ career, he’s done that for us, he’s planted an awful lot of trees,” Koehler said. “There will be a lot of shade from which we can benefit in future years.”
In retirement, Gardner plans to spend more time with his sons Geoffrey, John, and grandchildren, spend time with his wife, Leslie, who is also retiring, travel, and become more active in his church and choirs.
If Butler has opportunities in the future for him, Gardner said he’ll be happy to come back. So Gardner may be retiring as a professor from Butler and as a clinician, but he’s far from retiring his sense of tackling new things. You can rest assured that whatever Gardner tackles in retirement, he’ll probably be a trailblazer.