Meet the Dean: John M. Conry ’96P, ’98Pharm.D.
A double alumnus of St. John’s University, John M. Conry, Pharm.D., Interim Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (CPHS), earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy in 1996 and his Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 1998. He joined the University as Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Clinical Health Professions four years later. He was named Chairperson of that department in 2016 and has been in his current role since January 1, 2022. A Senior Vincentian Research Fellow for the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, he serves the University as Chair of the Faculty Research Consortium of the Vincentian Institute for Social Action.
What was your initial career choice?
My dream was to play second base for the New York Yankees. Born in the Bronx, NY, there was nothing more exciting than imagining a career playing for the Yankees. Unfortunately, I learned quickly in my youth that I could not hit a baseball. It was a hard lesson for a spirited baseball fan, but I learned it repeatedly and without question. So that ended my major league and NY Yankees aspirations.
What led you to the field of pharmacy?
There was not one experience that led to my interest in pharmacy, but rather multiple life experiences. I was very close to my grandparents growing up, and my grandfather was diagnosed with leukemia when I was in eighth grade. I can vividly recall hearing his oncologist tell my family that he was experiencing some serious adverse effects and complications from his chemotherapy. As a child, I was not able to make sense that the chemotherapy that was being used to help treat his cancer was simultaneously hurting him. I believe that experience profoundly implanted my interest in understanding pharmacology and the appropriate therapeutic use of medications.
My mother and godmother were both registered nurses. Growing up, I would enjoy hearing them share stories from their work at their hospitals. It also helped that my mom introduced basic medical terminology to me and my siblings when we were kids, so we became accustomed to it at a young age. My sister became a nurse, and I became a pharmacist.
I also had some very influential teachers. I went to a Catholic school throughout my whole education from kindergarten to doctorate.
Lastly, but also importantly, my mother introduced me to our local supermarket pharmacist toward the end of high school. He was an excellent pharmacist who was very friendly and professional. I recall him being such a great role model of a patient-focused and dedicated pharmacist who wanted to be on the front lines answering questions and helping his patients, and he was available to all right in our community supermarket.
Furthermore, my experiences as a pharmacy student at St. John’s University with dedicated and caring professors cemented my interest in pharmacy and gave me the confidence and excitement to continue forward with this educational and career pathway.
What five words would describe the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences?
Five words is tough, rather I offer the following five phrases: academic excellence; innovative scholarship; student-centered; compassionate health-care professionals and scientists; and Vincentian service.
What long- and short-term improvements do you anticipate for CPHS?
Short-term improvements would be enhanced CPHS organization, strategic planning, communication, website and social media presence, and academic program offerings. CPHS is excited to start our new Doctor of Physical Therapy program this summer and to move forward with the accreditation of our pending B.S. in nursing program.
Longer-term improvements will be the enhancement of our resources and facilities to optimize the success of our academic programs and research agenda. We especially look forward to the building of our new Health Sciences Center and updates to our existing buildings and facilities (e.g., St. Albert Hall).
What is the biggest challenge of being Interim Dean?
There are many responsibilities as Interim Dean, so I would say the greatest challenge is time management. The volume and depth of questions is significant; there is only a limited amount of time you have to address them.
If you could change something about your job, what would you change and why?
Due to my new responsibilities, I do not have the time to teach my usual courses. I miss teaching my Vincentian Health Care elective course, which focuses on St. Vincent de Paul, the Vincentian charism, and application of our mission to contemporary health care. I also miss teaching my HIV elective course, which teaches our pharmacy students about the treatment of HIV/AIDS. I created both electives and taught them for many years. I miss being in the classroom and interacting with our students.
How do you decompress/relax in your free time?
I enjoy spending time with my wife and three children (ages 11, 14, and 15). Whether it be sports, recitals, or exploring nature, we always have a ton of fun together. I take lessons with my sons on how to play the bagpipes (from a St. John’s alumnus!). I am so blessed to be a husband and father and relish this gift each day. I also am committed to my fitness and really enjoy running and going to the gym.
What’s an important lesson you have learned from a student?
While each student arrives at the University with their own varied life experiences and circumstances, students amaze me by their optimism and dedication to achieving their academic goals and entering their profession. Our University mission is a unifying purpose for our students.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give a student?
Be engaged. While the goal of achieving your degree is very important and will be your ultimate academic goal, enjoy the journey along the way. Remain focused on keeping up with your academic responsibilities, and speak to your professors when you have questions.
Also, enjoy the other opportunities available to you at the College and University. College is such a fun time in life, and I encourage students to participate in student organizations, recreation, and other student life opportunities.
Live our University’s Vincentian mission and provide service to those in need. As a Catholic University, I also encourage students to deepen their faith and relationship to God while in college to maintain a spiritually healthy life.
What is your proudest achievement at St. John’s?
I can’t just say there is one proud moment; rather, it is a culmination of a variety of experiences at the University. Those that come quickly to mind are achieving tenure; being promoted to full Clinical Professor; developing and teaching my professional elective courses; receiving the University’s Faculty Outstanding Achievement Award; and creating and seeing the success of the Pamela Shea-Byrnes Community Outreach Influenza Vaccine Initiative; the Changing Faces of Pharmacy high school student enrichment program; and CROSS, the University’s COVID-19 health resource and outreach service program.
I also would include each White Coat Convocation and Commencement ceremony. It is such a gift to see my students achieve their goals and always ranks among my most proud achievements as a faculty member and mentor.