When Don Brophy first visited Richmond more than 25 years ago, he was struck by the balmy weather. Compared to the Minnesota winters he was used to, Richmond’s mild climate seemed like the tropics. “I was instantly sold,” Brophy recalls, though he adds, “It didn’t hurt that [VCU] was an excellent institution.”
Now, after a quarter-century at the School of Pharmacy and 13 as chair of the Department of Pharmacotherapy & Outcomes Science, Brophy, the Nancy L. and Ronald H. McFarlane Professor of Pharmacy, is moving on. He’s taken a position with Massachusetts-based Sanofi Genzyme, where he will be a medical director for two new agents to treat hemophilia. He will remain in Richmond and receive emeritus status at VCU.
SoP News: What a great opportunity for you! That said, why now?
Don Brophy: I’ve spent a long span of time here, 25 years, and felt that I had achieved all that I had set out to do. I originally gave myself 18 months to see if I liked being a faculty member, and that somehow turned into 25 years. The decision to leave VCU wasn’t an easy one. I spent a lot of nights tossing and turning thinking about the pluses and minuses. In the end, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Thinking back over your time at the School of Pharmacy, are there moments that strike you as particularly memorable?
Brophy: The moments that stick to me are really those of loss. I had the opportunity to work with a number of outstanding individuals who have passed. Amy Whitaker Rudenko, Amy Pakyz, Bill Barr, others. I knew these individuals extremely well. Each one of those losses robs the wind out of your sails. They all affected me profoundly. On the other side of things, making new hires and being able to remake the department in my own image were some of the most enjoyable aspects.
What are you proud of accomplishing? When I took over the department in 2008 it was at a pretty low point. It was just after all the economic troubles of the time. Morale was low. We were like a revolving door — people would be hired and stay only a little while. We had what I would call an identity crisis. In time, we built a department where we were able to recruit great people and do all the thingswe’re able to do now. That is a good legacy to leave. It’s like being an athlete — you want to leave on top. I’m leaving a department in a lot better shape than when I inherited it.
How did you manage that? It’s all about hiring awesome individuals and letting them work on the things they want to do. That is a credit to strong leadership at the school in first Dean [Victor] Yanchick and then Dean [Joseph T.] DiPiro.
What will you miss most? The camaraderie. Everyone really enjoys interacting with each other at the school. I’m also going to miss my lab, and Erika Martin, who ran the lab. I’m going to miss our students. I’m not going to miss the HVAC unit in Smith.
Leaving is hard. It’s really hard. It’s like leaving home when you’re 18 years old and you’re off to unknown areas in your life. There’s a script that’s yet to be written on what the next move is. I’m awfully excited about it but my heart aches a little bit.