MU | Features
C aptain Carmen “ Skip ” Clelland ’ 21 , USPHS , Pharm . D ., M . S . in PGX began his career as a pharmacist , but his journey has taken him to the Office of Tribal Affairs in the U . S . Department of Health and Human Services , Health Resources and Services Administration , or HRSA , as a senior advisor on Tribal affairs .
As a commissioned corps officer in the U . S . Public Health Service , Clelland serves in a branch of the nation ’ s uniformed services dedicated to advancing public health in agencies across the government . And , as a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes , his career choices have positioned him to serve Tribal health across Indian Country , which spans the United States .
When asked his guiding philosophy , Clelland says life is a journey traversed over a trail of choices that provide opportunities to advance the people and communities that surround you . To that point , he quotes Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee Nation : “ Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people .”
If this vision set his trajectory , then his commitment to lifelong learning blazed the trail of Clelland ’ s illustrious 30 + year career dedicated to service – from pharmacist and commissioned officer to health policy expert . It also led him to Manchester Pharmacy programs where he could add to his expertise without leaving the important work he ’ s doing .
“ Starting out , I would never have dreamed that I would be where I am now – having the ability to impact Tribal health across the U . S . – through my work at the Indian Health Service , at the CDC , and now at HRSA ,” Clelland said .
Balancing his professional responsibilities with his studies , he enrolled in Manchester ’ s Master of Pharmacogenomics online program in 2019 while home in Georgia . By early 2020 , COVID-19 began to gain a foothold in this country , and he would have to pause his studies .
“ I was working 12-hour days from March until late September ,” said Clelland . “ My whole focus was on our COVID-19 responses and how to improve on everything we were doing within Indian Country .”
He successfully completed his master ’ s degree summer of 2021 , a semester after his cohort class . Reflecting on his experience , Clelland identified three qualities in the program that he considered to be key ; it was challenging , engaging and importantly – flexible .
“ When you ’ re working full time , flexibility is an important consideration , and the program offered that , which let me focus on my duties in Tribal health during a critical time ,” said Clelland . “ You also want a program that challenges your thought process to really understand the scope of pharmacy , genomics , and the combination of the two .”
He added that the online exchange of comments and referenced contributions from instructors , professors and other students was crucial to absorbing new and complex information .
His decades of experience in public health and health equity service includes 16 years of regional and national leadership for Indian health systems and tribal policy . Much of his efforts included implementing high-quality national health initiatives and executive oversight of local health systems .
Clelland also recognizes the importance of mentorship . He credits much of his success to the lasting support and guidance from a trusted colleague and mentor for 30 years , who taught him to always be aware of doors opening around him .
“ I give that same advice to people I mentor now , because this is a journey ,” said Clelland , “ and you don ’ t know which door might lead you in a direction that can change your life .”
Building on his early Bachelor of Pharmacy and work in ambulatory patient care , he later earned his Pharm . D . Those doors propelled his career from Arizona to Washington , D . C ., where he served as a public health service officer advancing health professions support .
While in Arizona , the events of 9 / 11 focused Clelland ’ s attention on homeland security for emergency preparedness and response to man-made and natural disasters , which led him to Walden University for a Master of Public Administration in 2008 . Several years later his work shifted to the oversight and development of Tribal public health capacity and quality improvement . To advance his knowledge and expertise , he earned a Master of Public Health at George Washington University in 2017 .
“ As a senior public health advisor in Tribal Affairs in the Office of Tribal Affairs , I provide guidance on the development and improvement of health care resources and services for American Indian and Alaska Natives ,” Clelland said .
Clelland views the next decade as an opportunity to transition his career once more and come full circle back to his pharmacy roots . He views his most recent master ’ s training at Manchester as preparation for today ’ s advancements in health and medicine through an understanding of the impacts of pharmacogenomics on improving precision medicine in patient care .
By Linda Homewood
Manchester University | ManchesteRx 19