One winter night in the late ’70s, a single mother came into the Winsted, Conn. pharmacy where Greg Susla was working to pick up a prescription for her baby.
Susla, a young UConn pharmacy student at the time, noticed that neither the woman nor her baby was dressed warmly enough for the cold night. When the pharmacist handed the woman the prescription, she broke down and explained that didn’t have the money to pay for it. The pharmacist, John Parisi ’71 (PHR), handed her the prescription, opened the cash register, gave her $20, and told her to buy food for the baby.
“That’s when I realized that, in 1978, somebody couldn’t afford $5 to buy their prescriptions,” Susla ’80 (PHR) says. “It left a huge impression on me. It made me realize that there are people out there who need help.”
That concern helped drive Susla’s recent decision to give $4 million to the UConn School of Pharmacy. The bulk of Susla’s bequest, the Susla Family Endowment for Pharmacy, will fund research to identify and reverse health disparities in Connecticut.
“I can envision UConn becoming a center of excellence or noted for research in that area,” Susla says.
The family endowment also is intended to honor Susla’s family and the role they played as community pharmacists. Susla is fourth in a line of pharmacists. His father, George, co-owned Susla Pharmacy in Torrington, Conn. while his uncle, Peter Susla ’60 (PHR), and aunt, Gail (Tyback) Susla ’59 (PHR), owned Ryan’s pharmacy in Unionville, Conn.
“My dad, my uncle, and my aunt all realized how important their customers, clients, and patients were to their stores and how important it was to ensure that they got their medicines,” Susla says.
Philip Hritcko, dean of the School of Pharmacy, says Susla’s gift will help improve patient care.
“Discovery and innovation are deeply rooted in our School of Pharmacy and Greg’s gift will help to support this through impactful research and scholarship that expands student and faculty opportunities. This gift will help to further our school’s mission to improve patient care and work toward solving society’s pressing health care challenges,” Hritcko says.
In addition to the family endowment, Susla’s generous gift adds funding to elevate the Dr. Henry Palmer Professorship in Community Pharmacy Practice to an endowed chair position. Palmer was a beloved pharmacy professor and mentor who always put students first and prized innovation.
“For me and some of my colleagues, he took a personal interest in getting to know us,” Susla says. “He had projects that he knew we might be interested in and shepherded them our way. Just to watch him was to know that he had a love for the profession.”
Susla didn’t go into community pharmacy himself after graduating from UConn. Instead, he went on to earn a doctorate in pharmacy at the University of Florida and completed a critical care pharmacy residency at The Ohio State University. For most of his career, he was an intensive care unit pharmacist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. More recently, he served as associate director of medical information at MedImmune before retiring in 2017.
These days, he lives in Frederick, Md., not far from Antietam, where he volunteers as a docent for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. In addition, he is earning his certification as a Master Gardener through the University of Maryland Extension Service. He and his wife, Lisa Romano, are leading the restoration of a Civil War-period medicinal garden at the Antietam National Battlefield.