Catalyst Campaign Co-Chairs

Q&A with Brian J. Gibbons and Ellen H. Yankellow

A major fundraising campaign requires strong leadership. University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President Jay A. Perman, MD, has dedicated his time and effort to ensuring that the Catalyst Campaign will be successful in acquiring substantial funding for student scholarships, faculty excellence, emerging and continuing research, school-centered special projects, and sustaining funds. In addition, two of UMB’s distinguished alumni have accepted the challenge of serving as campaign co-chairs. Ellen H. Yankellow, PharmD ’96, and Brian J. Gibbons, JD ’87, are members of the University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation, Inc. Board of Trustees and have been long-term advocates of the University.

Yankellow serves as president and CEO of Correct Rx Pharmacy Services, Inc. She graduated with a BSP from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy with honors in 1973 and earned her doctorate in pharmacy there in 1996. Gibbons serves as chairman of the board and CEO at Greenberg Gibbons, a Baltimore-based real estate development enterprise. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and earned his JD degree from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law in 1987.

In the following interview, the co-chairs describe their UMB connections and motivations for spearheading the all-important campaign. They speak about their hopes for the campaign and what it will make possible for the University, its faculty, staff, and students in the years to come.

Brian Gibbons:

Tell me about your experience as a student at UMB? What has remained with you and helped shape your professional career?

I had a great experience at UMB, loved every minute of it. I went to the law school and always thought I would go into politics or become a litigator. After my first year of law school coursework and legal internships, I realized neither of those were for me. I became interested in real estate law and real estate transactions through classes with Professor Garrett Power and Professor Richard Talkin, and I did really well. That seemed to be my aptitude, and those professors helped shape my decision to go down the real estate law path.

Actually, Professor Talkin is still practicing law and his firm has represented Greenberg Gibbons on some projects we have built in Howard County.  

How has your UMB education prepared you for your professional career?

I practiced law for 13 years. Now, I’ve been doing commercial real estate development building major multi-use town centers around the mid-Atlantic region for 17 years and I still use my law degree every day. It helps me face the multiple complexities I see every day in real estate transactions.

One of our largest projects was the Annapolis Towne Centre, a 2 million-square-foot mixed-use property, and I always joke that doing that project was like a law school exam; it had everything, not only real estate law but environmental regulations, the property was in bankruptcy, there were local and state government regulations … and my legal background really helped me navigate that whole project. 

What do you see as the most exciting undertaking currently at UMB?

UMB’s continued expansion as an anchor institution in West Baltimore. UMB plays such an important role in our city. It helps to stabilize the whole West Baltimore region. I’m very excited that Dr. Perman has made a concerted effort to embrace the community through the CURE Scholars Program and the Community Engagement Center. The assets UMB has are significant, and we can leverage all those assets to do good in this community.

What is your goal for the Catalyst Campaign?

First, that we are able to raise the funds to make the difference in the West Baltimore community. Second, that we continue to build our massive reputation as a premier group of professional schools. We’re becoming more renowned as our reputation of excellence continues to grow. Our goal for the campaign is to raise the money that will allow us to continue to produce professionals who will give back to the community. 

Do you have any advice for today’s students entering the professional world?

Whatever project you are working on, whatever single issue you are working on that day, do it to your best ability. You might not see the big picture initially, but it will come together over a couple of years. Be focused and execute at the highest ability you can at whatever task is at hand. 

Use the assets that UMB offers as you continue on your career. Always remain part of the UMB community. 

Ellen Yankellow:

Why did you choose the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy for your degree?

When I was in high school, if you were a woman, you either got married, became a secretary, or if you went to college, your choices were to be a teacher or a nurse. I wasn’t particularly interested in either of those professions. So when I received a postcard from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, I thought it looked pretty good and I ended up going to pharmacy school. After my second year, I transferred to the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. It was in my home state, the tuition was better, I was very impressed with their curriculum, and it was in a good location. I never regretted that transfer.

What skills or lessons did you learn at the School of Pharmacy that continue to impact you today?

I am extremely grateful for the foundation the school gave me — a foundation for success, for a passion for pharmacy, a passion for caring for other people, and for advocating to move the profession forward. The rigorous classwork required hard work and perseverance. These are skills that have served me well throughout my career and personal life. 

What has been the most pivotal moment in your career evolution?

In 2003, I decided to establish Correct Rx Pharmacy Services. The founding vision was focused on establishing clinical pharmacy programs that truly make a difference in the lives of the patients we serve. In the beginning, we had 11 employees, including a director of clinical programs. By building on a foundation of providing better outcomes employing patient-directed clinical pharmacy, we grew substantially. Today, we provide institutional pharmacy services to over 180,000 patients in 42 states. We are one of if not the only pharmacy that incorporates the aspects of clinical pharmacy across all of our services.

How has the practice of pharmacy changed since you graduated?

Rather than strictly filling prescriptions and selling pills, many of today’s pharmacy practices work in collaboration with medical teams to manage patient health. This interdisciplinary approach is used to optimize the use of medication and produce better results with overall lower health care costs. A clinical pharmacist, for example, would recognize when a less-expensive medication would work as well or better, or when an alternative therapy would be equally or more effective.

How have your professional accomplishments enabled you to give back to the School of Pharmacy?

As a result of the success of Correct Rx Pharmacy Services and my commitment to the School of Pharmacy, in November of 2013 I was able to provide a gift that was the largest single gift of its kind from a female graduate. It supported the first-of-its-kind fellowship designed to capture health outcomes and the economic data about the value of clinical pharmacy services. Most recently, I committed another gift, and this donation was matched by an anonymous donor and established a matching program created by the UMB Foundation. It established the first endowed scholarship to provide a full year of financial support for a fellow in the Ellen H. Yankellow Health Outcomes Fellowship alternating with a full year tuition for a graduate student enrolled in the Master of Science in Regulatory Science or Master of Science in Pharmacometrics.

What do you see as the most exciting initiative at UMB currently?

The pharmapreneurism initiative at the School of Pharmacy is the idea that pharmacists are able and being encouraged to act as entrepreneurs. When I went to pharmacy school, pharmacy was a profession of entrepreneurs. Over the years, the profession migrated to one of employees, and now we are seeing less need for pharmacists to do the traditional dispensing and a greater need for direct patient care. This is the right time for this initiative — pharmacists will be starting their own practices again, forming interdisciplinary teams, and managing a patient’s optimal medication therapy. It will motivate students to create their own future, a future where the profession is more about impacting a patient’s health and embracing their entrepreneurial spirit.

You give to so many important organizations. What makes UMB special?

Why UMB? In addition to providing me with my great education, it fostered attributes that allowed me to start my company. The University continues to do really important work. This campaign will be a mechanism to provide scholarships to the bright students who take on a great debt in order to attend UMB. The campaign will allow us to attract top professors and researchers, whose work can result in lifesaving techniques and breakthrough medications. It allows these brilliant professors to teach our students. UMB has a truly compelling story when it comes to our community outreach. Our position in West Baltimore is critical to UMB and the city, and our programs such as the Community Engagement Center and CURE Scholars are great examples of UMB’s mission. Not only are we educating professionals of the future, we are providing a mechanism for current research development for our exceptional professors and making a true impact on our community.

What is your goal for the Catalyst Campaign?

My goal for the Catalyst Campaign is that everyone who has been touched by this University will be generous to their fullest capacity and we will be able to move the University to the next chapter of excellence. It is my hope that it will have an impact on the greater community, help students with scholarships, and provide the very best and brightest professional educators.