From California to Minnesota and Many Places In Between
This story was updated January 2023 to reflect Dr. Stratton's current roles within the college.
Born and raised in California, the last thing Tim Stratton envisioned himself doing was presenting to students in Duluth, Minnesota. Sure enough, though, that’s where Stratton ended up. Stratton has been a faculty member for the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy, Duluth since 2004. He is currently a professor of pharmacy practice.
Pharmacy wasn’t Stratton’s number one career interest and it wasn’t his second either. But ironically, his own health condition was what led him to a career in helping others. Stratton wanted to be a Coast Guard helicopter pilot, but a heart condition prevented him from being able to do that. It also prevented him from becoming a smokejumper, which was his second choice. In a conversation with his cardiologist, Stratton mentioned that his parents liked his local pharmacists and his cardiologist responded with a few good words about the pharmacy profession. That was enough to influence Stratton to study pharmacy.
Stratton attended Idaho State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy. He followed that up by attending the University of Arizona in Tucson for a combined residency and master’s degree in the Hospital Pharmacy Program. He spent most of his elective rotations in pediatrics and in the Arizona Poison Control Center.
“Things I learned during that residency in 1981 still provide me with stories that I use in the classroom today,” Stratton said.
After completing his master’s degree, Stratton continued his education by pursuing his PhD in pharmacy administration at the University of Arizona (UA). He majored in health services policy and administrative research, and minored in management and policy through the UA Business School.
Once he completed his schooling, family reasons took him north to Sitka, Alaska. In Sitka, Stratton went to work for Sid Fry, a pharmacist who owned both the pharmacies in Sitka and had the contract to provide pharmacy services to the 24-bed community hospital in the town. Stratton had the responsibility of running the hospital’s pharmacy and working at the community pharmacy. He worked in Alaska from 1985-1989 and in the summers between 1994 and 2008.
His experience in Alaska, taught him the true meaning of rural pharmacy.
“My Alaska experiences defined ‘rural pharmacist’ for me: a pharmacist who was equally comfortable practicing in community, hospital and long-term care settings,” Stratton said. “To this day, I bring my Alaska experiences to the classroom because there are so many unique situations that arise in geographically-isolated rural communities where pharmacists have a greater chance to provide ‘first-contact care’ because of their accessibility to the public.”
Stratton had enjoyed working with the student interns and missed them when they would return to school. This motivated him to return to academia. After working in Alaska, Stratton took a job at the University of British Columbia, where he taught courses in pharmaceutical marketing and pharmacy in Canada. He then moved on to a position at The University of Montana in Missoula. He spent 10 ½ years there, teaching pharmacy management, communications, ethics, statistics, health policy and pharmacoeconmics, and supervised students at health fairs.
Stratton then moved to Duluth, where he resides today.
“One summer during a road trip to Milwaukee to visit my wife’s family, we stopped in Duluth and visited the Lake Superior Railroad Museum,” Stratton said “During that visit I mentioned to my wife, ‘If they ever open a pharmacy school in Duluth, I could live here.’ Several years later, I got a call in Missoula from Dr. Stephen Hoag who mentioned that the University of Minnesota was expanding the pharmacy program to Duluth and would have a rural focus. Would I be interested? The answer was, ‘Yes.’”
Stratton teaches many courses including the online statistics refresher module, ethics in several different courses across all three years of the integrated curriculum, as well as electives in rural pharmacy and pandemic ethics. In the past he has also served the college as senior associate to the dean for program evaluation and accreditation, and as interim senior associate dean for the Duluth campus.
Since 2008, Stratton has also spent time supervising Duluth medicine and pharmacy students at the Health of People Everywhere (HOPE) Clinic. The HOPE clinic is an interprofessional student-run free clinic that operates out of a homeless shelter in downtown Duluth.
Stratton has enjoyed his time at the College of Pharmacy.
“I intended to remain with the college for five years or so. As it turned out, this was the longest five-year plan I have ever had.” Stratton said. “I am proud to tell people that I work for the University of Minnesota, and as I enter the final years of my career I am concluding that this has indeed been the best job I have ever had.”
Stratton has done a lot in his career. His advice to pharmacy students today is to “be flexible in your career expectations, because one never knows what can happen.”
“I am in my ninth job since completing my pharmacy degree in 1980, and the last thing I ever thought I would be doing in my career would be standing in front of a group of students in a classroom!”
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