It was Matshona Dhliwayo, the Zimbabwean-born philosopher and entrepreneur who once said, “If records refuse to be broken, shatter them.” This perhaps is the best way to describe the unprecedented achievement recently recorded by Prof. Toyin Tofade at The Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACPHS) in the United States of America.
For good 141 years since the prestigious pharmacy college was established, no black woman had ever emerged its president. It was not that the school’s Board of Trustees or any of the search committees over the years had chosen to be biased – at least not apparently so; but there always seemed to be a factor or two that made the potential female candidates fall short of the requirements to pilot the affairs of the top-ranking institution.
Thus, like an unbreakable megalith, the narrative of the school’s leadership history had consistently followed the same predictable pattern, until it met its match in the formidable brilliance and unbeatable track record of Prof. Tofade. Following the announcement last year by the outgoing president of the college, Dr Greg Dewey, that he was retiring, a rigorous and comprehensive nationwide search was launched for a competent replacement.
The task was handled by a Presidential Search Committee, which consisted of members of the school management, staff, students, and alumni. In addition, the services of Greenwood/Asher and Associates, an executive search and recruitment firm, were enlisted, to ensure that the college attracted significant interest from a diverse group of qualified candidates.
Working with the search firm, the search committee, which was chaired by Christopher Di Lascia, held several listening sessions and conducted surveys with key campus stakeholder groups to identify the major strengths and qualities expected of the college’s next president. Feedback received showed that the stakeholders were keen on sustaining the reputation of excellence that the school had built for over a century. Consequently, very high standards were set regarding the ideal characteristics and requirements of the potential incoming president.
At the end of the painstaking search and interviews, the search committee found that none could match the sterling records of Tofade as a pharmacy leader of the national, state and local levels. She stood out as a colossus in academic excellence, superior leadership expertise, as well as sustained international contributions to the advancement of pharmacy practice. Whether or not the search committee considered the historical disruption that would arise from her appointment, one thing was clear: Tofade’s credentials were simply too remarkable and her records of achievements were far too profound to be denied or resisted. She was simply unstoppable.
Accordingly, on 16 March 2022, Tofade was announced as the 10th president of ACPHS, with her tenure beginning from 1 July. And so, in one fell swoop – the impact of which reverberated across the nooks and crannies of the college and indeed throughout the United States and back home in Nigeria – Tofade shattered a record that had refused to be broken for over a century.
Announcing the phenomenal feat, Di Lascia said, “Prof. Tofade possesses all the qualities desired, including her deep commitment to academic quality, scholarship, and service, as well as a proven track record of successful management and resource development. Her unique management style engages the full community around a shared entrepreneurial vision. As an experienced and successful leader, Prof. Tofade has great potential for creating opportunities that will enrich the entire ACPHS community.”
Extraordinary track record
A glimpse into Tofade’s record of accomplishments will reveal why the search committee found her credentials and personality perfectly suited for the headship of ACPHS. For instance, since 2016, she has been dean of Howard University College of Pharmacy. Information provided by the school revealed that her tenure has brought tremendous growth and development to the school on all fronts. During her tenure at Howard University, the college nearly doubled enrolment; doubled the number of student internships; as well as expanding clinical, industrial and international partnerships.
Also, under her leadership, the college diversified its faculty composition and expertise; revised the curriculum, which has led to improved educational outcomes; and developed partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry, yielding postdoctoral fellowship opportunities for Howard graduates. Moreover, under her watch, alumni giving increased by over 70 percent and the student residency match rate increased from 36 percent to more than 50 percent.
Reflecting on these achievements and more, Dr Anthony Wutoh, provost and chief academic officer of Howard University could not but describe her imminent departure with mixed feelings. According to him, “Dean Tofade has been an integral part of the Howard University community for the past six years, and has represented the College of Pharmacy well as a respected leader. While her departure is certainly a loss to Howard University, we are nonetheless thrilled for her that she will expand her leadership responsibilities as the president of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. We wish her well in this exciting new role.”
Tofade has, aside from her role at Howard, held several other pivotal positions in global professional pharmacy organisations. In 2020, she was appointed as chair-elect of the council of deans for the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. That same year, she was made president-elect of the International Pharmacy Federation (FIP) academic pharmacy section. Earlier in 2018, she became the first black woman to be named an FIP Fellow, which recognises those who have exhibited strong leadership internationally, distinguished themselves in pharmaceutical sciences and/or practice of pharmacy, contributed to advancement of pharmaceutical sciences and/or practice of pharmacy, and have served FIP.
Tofade has also served in multiple roles at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP) in Baltimore, including associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, associate director, and assistant dean of the Experiential Learning Programme. She was also employed at University of North Carolina (UNC) hospitals for several years as a pharmacist, as a clinical specialist on the general medicine service, and as director of Pharmacotherapy Services at the Wake Area Health Education Centre (AHEC).
Background and education
The apple, indeed, does not fall too far from the tree. Prof. Tofade is the daughter of the late distinguished pharmacist, scholar and researcher, Prof. Abayomi Sofowora, former Chairman of WHO Regional Expert Committee on Traditional Medicine. The erudite pharmacist had lectured Pharmacognosy for over 45 years, spending 40 of those years in the Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (October 1967–December 2007).
It was within this period of her father’s active years, especially while working on the Fagara (Xanthoxylum Xanthoxylloides) that Tofade developed a passion for Pharmacy. She proceeded to receive a B.Pharm. from OAU, before travelling to the US, where she obtained a master’s degree in Pharmacy Practice and a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. She completed a residency with emphasis on clinical pharmacokinetics from UNC Chapel Hill, and an American Society of Health-System Pharmacy-accredited residency at UNC hospitals. She is also a certified coactive coach and completed the Academic Leadership Academy from the Academic Leadership Institute at Penn State University, the Management Development Programme from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Crises Leadership in Higher Education from the Harvard Kennedy School.
Awards and recognitions
Tofade has received numerous awards, including the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP) Donald E. Francke Medal, which honours pharmacists who have made significant international contributions to advance pharmacy practice. In 2021, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Eshelman School of Pharmacy, honoured her with the Pharmacy Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award. In 2020, she received the A. Richard Bliss Jr. Grand Council Citation of Appreciation Award given by Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity, Inc.
In 2019, Tofade received the Fred M. Eckel Pharmacy Leadership Award by the University of North Carolina (UNC) Eshelman School of Pharmacy and UNC Hospitals. She was the first black person to win the award. In 2018, she received a Distinguished Service Award in appreciation for leadership in Pharmacy Education and presentation at the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americans, Inc. (NAPPSA) Scientific Conference.