Pharmacist, physician, brigadier general, author and educator — the resume of Gerald “Jerry” Dieter Griffin ’71, MD, PharmD is as unique and surprising as the man himself. Dr. Griffin’s professional career has spanned from an assistant pharmacist to the Chippewa Nation in Minnesota to an emergency department physician for both the U.S. Army and several hospitals in Monterey County.
The individual responsible for setting him on this path was Dean Ivan W. Rowland, PhD. As a student at Pacific, Dr. Griffin was also mentored by Donald Y. Barker, PhD, James C. King, PhD, John K. Brown, PhD and Howell “Howie” Runion ’56, PhD. Dr. Griffin returned to his alma mater decades later as an adjunct professor.
You received Pacific’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Service. What does receiving this award mean to you personally?
Dr. Griffin: “It was obviously a great honor and a total surprise. It is very meaningful to me because I think it was Pacific that gave me a start in my professional life.”
You earned your doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) in 1971 and became an adjunct professor in 2015. Did you stay connected to Pacific in those intervening years?
Dr. Griffin: “I stayed connected through donations and by writing to some of the faculty, for example Dr. Runion, Dr. Barker and Dr. King.”
“Dean Phillip Oppenheimer and Associate Dean Nancy DeGuire [’85, PharmD] came down to Monterey and invited me to dinner. I started thinking about coming full circle and coming back here. Being an emergency physician for 30 plus years puts me in a unique position to share with pharmacy doctoral candidates what physicians require from clinical pharmacists. I’m not bashful in asking pharmacists to get out from behind the counter and get involved with the patient clinically with me. I’m passionate about getting pharmacists directly involved as very active partners in direct patient care and on the health care team.”
How did your mentors encourage and challenge you? How has their influence shaped your career?
Dr. Griffin: “Dr. Runion and I were great friends for many years. We corresponded for some time. We shared a lot of thoughts on research. My hero of course was Dean Rowland. It was he who was responsible for getting me to come to Pacific and to get a PharmD instead of a PhD in microbiology. I think it was the right career choice. It certainly led to interesting pathways.”
“I was in grad school in San Francisco and I’d applied here. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, a PharmD or a PhD. He asked me to come to Stockton and meet with him. We kind of sliced and diced and pontificated on my future. I ended up choosing the PharmD in pharmacology with a heavy interest in antibiotics. The fact that I had a wife, two children, many cats and a dog weighed me towards getting to work earlier. Dean Rowland was a wonderful man, very understanding. He had a keen insight into reality and what could be accomplished with a PharmD versus a PhD.”
What advice do you have for your fellow Pacific faculty or alumni who would like to be more intentional about mentoring?
Dr. Griffin: “You have to figure out a way to let the students read you. Let the student understand, either through spoken works or body language, that you are open to offering help and advice. It is important to be totally open to students and to share your story, your experiences with them. You also have to share some of your pain, some of the problems you’ve had and how you solved them. It may not be applicable to a specific situation, but the method is what’s important.”
You are the chair of the U.S. Delegation of the Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers, which advises NATO on the development of military medicine, pharmacy and security policy. Tell me about your experience working with the delegation.
Dr. Griffin: “We are guided by several things, one is the overall mission to organize and streamline medical care, and the delivery of that care, on NATO battlefields. Secondly, we are guided by a committee in NATO that represents 28 different surgeons. For me personally it is a way for me to continue serving our nation in a scientific way. We have wonderful presenters and talks on subjects that evolve from the different committees. It’s very gratifying to see our NATO partners grow in their different medical roles.”
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold