Present-day Trailblazers

Portraits of Okoro, Gaither, and Johnson

Dr. Olihe Okoro is an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, Duluth. Her research focuses on health disparities affecting minority and underserved populations with particular emphasis on sociocultural, provider-associated, and system-related factors influencing patient behaviors and impacting health outcomes. Her community-engaged work involves partnerships with communities of African heritage to address structural inequities and improve health care. She is dedicated to enhancing cultural competence in pharmacy education and continues to develop innovative curricula content within that area. Dr. Okoro leads by example and serves as the co-facilitator of the African-American and Black Affinity Group.

Dr. Caroline Gaither is a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems. She teaches social and behavioral aspects of health care to professional students and to graduate students in the college. She is also spearheading the college’s co-curricular program which aims to provide students with the flexibility to explore different areas while enhancing self-directed learning skills. She is well recognized for her commitment to examining pharmacy workforce issues and trends, and has been a longstanding member of the Midwest Pharmacy Workforce Research Consortium. She is also studying pharmacists and pharmacy student wellbeing and resilience, a key area to address in order to minimize burnout among health professionals. Dr. Gaither leads the way. For example, she recently helped support the development of the new student student organization, Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA), dedicated to improvement of the health, education and social environments of minority communities. She is currently serving as the organization's first faculty advisor.

Dr. L’Aurelle Johnson serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and as the director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the college. Her leadership and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is unwavering and she has worked with others to develop the college’s eight affinity groups and the associated ally groups that support them. She has also created a number of educational resources for faculty, staff and students related to diversity, equity and inclusion. She has spearheaded the development of a DEI strategic plan in partnership with the Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion which is now being embedded into the overall college strategic plan. She has helped to create forums for enriching dialogues, listening sessions and professional development opportunities for all. She is also recognized for her experience in cardiovascular pharmacology and teaches PD1 and PD2 students in our professional program. Finally, she models the way based on her values, her leadership and her actions and serves as a co-facilitator for the African-American and Black Affinity Group.