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Changing lives through mental health care keeps motivation high for CHS alum

Swanson's focus is to grow
outreach to mental health

In this ongoing series, we reach out to CHS alumni to learn what they are doing now that they have the advantage of experience, education and self-reflection. This month’s pick is Robert Swanson, Class of 2013. Known to his classmates as Bobby, Robert was a leader in the Trojan Band and also earned the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout. He has since followed the Boy Scout slogan “Do a Good Turn Daily” as he follows a calling of helping others in a field in crisis – mental health.

EDUCATIONAL PURSUITS: After high school, Robert completed three years of a B.S. degree in chemistry at the University of West Georgia prior to being accepted into a Pharm.D. program at Samford University. “I graduated with a

B.S. in Pharmacy Studies in 2018 and a Pharm.D. from McWhorter School of Pharmacy in 2020 and was placed in a pharmacy residency with a mental health focus which also included an interprofessional postgraduate fellowship in rural mental health.”

EMPLOYMENT: Robert works for DCH Health System as the clinical pharmacist for mental health and the pharmacy clinical team leader at DCH’s Northport Medical Center located in Northport, Ala. “I work on an adult inpatient acute psychiatric unit that has a total of 54 beds split between geriatric and adult floors.”

PERSONAL: There are two pharmacists in the Swanson household – Robert and his wife Hali, who he met at UWG when they were both studying chemistry. She is also a 2020 graduate of the McWhorter School of Pharmacy. They have been married seven years and live in Tuscaloosa with their two dogs, Jack and Josie, as well as their two cats, Murphy and Salem.

HOBBIES: “I continue to pursue music as a hobby as well as picking up ice hockey while I was in pharmacy school. I also enjoy working on updating our home and cooking.”

Robert and his wife, Hali, on vacation.

PROFESSIONAL ASPIRATIONS: “Currently my goal is to earn a board certification in psychiatric pharmacy (BCPP). I am continuing to grow our outpatient long-acting injectable antipsychotic clinic which we provide at no cost to our patients to help prevent unnecessary hospital admissions due to medication non-compliance and lack of access to care. My long-term goal is to continue to grow our outreach to the underserved and misunderstood mental health population by improving access to care.” 

PERSONAL ASPIRATIONS: “I hope to inspire healthcare students to continue to help those who are often underserved. Patients are too often thought of as only laboratory values and charts instead of other people in need. Mental health patients are often stigmatized and misunderstood when at the end of the day they are just people who need our help.”

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO FOCUS ON MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT? “After my first few chemistry courses at UWG I realized I was interested in the chemistry side of medicine which helped lead me toward pharmacy. From there I was almost certain I wanted to work in a retail setting until a rotation at the Veterans Administration where I saw other areas of pharmacy practice. As someone who has dealt with anxiety issues since a young age, I have always been interested in mental health care. Regardless of what circumstance causes patients to be admitted to our unit, I want to have a positive impact on their care and use my expertise to ensure they get the best possible care that they deserve.”

IS THERE A PARTICULAR SUCCESS IN THIS ROLE THAT CONTINUES TO INSPIRE YOU TO DO MORE? “The success of our long-acting clinic is something that has inspired me. Seeing the same patients who were hospitalized previously now able to have a job and purpose they are proud of is what makes all the hard work worth it.”