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Personalizing Pharmacy: Dr. Jason Vinson’s Journey Navigating His Daughter’s Epilepsy and Connecting with Patients on a Deeper Level

Inspired by a father who paved the way as a director of pharmacy, Dr. Jason Vinson knew from an early age what he wanted to do. Yet, it wasn’t until he walked the halls of hospitals during his undergraduate years at the University of Michigan that the allure of pharmacy truly took root. From the humble beginnings of a pharmacy messenger, delivering medications to patients, to the intricate process of making medications as a compounding technician, each step solidified his decision to pursue pharmacy.

Diverse Paths in Pharmacy: From Clinical Roles to Consulting and Mentoring

The University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy is where Jason began his path to earning a Pharm.D.. What followed was a diverse career, highlighting just how unique and varied careers in pharmacy truly are. Upon graduation, Jason worked in a clinical role at a small hospital, which led to a director role. After working in this leadership role for 10 years, Jason decided to branch out on his own by starting his own consulting company. His foray into consulting led to an unconventional stint in a dental office where he saw a whopping 800 patients per month:

“So, I saw all walks of life. He [the dentist] had a very aging population, so I did health screenings for things like blood pressure and comprehensive medication lists. It was also during the height of COVID. So, I came up with protocols that kept their office open when other ones had to close. I did all kinds of antibiotic stewardship and opioid stewardship consults there. It was a really neat experience. I got to see pretty much every type of disease that you can think of because he had so many patients.”

More recently, Jason has been working for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee as the Pharmacy Operations Manager. While Jason enjoys working on the clinical side, he says, “I had much more to offer from the management side because of my past experiences, because I’d been a director of hospitals for 13 years and I just saw that I could help out in other ways”. Jason’s pharmacy journey has been far from ordinary, “So that’s a lot of variety that came from pharmacy, which is interesting given that a lot of folks think that pharmacy is just the behind the counter counting pills and giving out prescriptions.”

While challenges do arise, from the nuances of management dynamics to overcoming silos within healthcare ecosystems, each obstacle serves as a catalyst for growth, “…It took me a little while to kind of understand how to navigate the politics of doing things, the medicine part of doing things and then the people part of doing things.” Nevertheless, the good usually outweighs any challenges. Working with students, in particular, has become one of Jason’s favorite parts of the job. He values being able to pass on the knowledge and expertise he has gained over the years and seeing students succeed in the field. He has become a mentor to more than a few students and he feels the impact he had on them each time one reaches out, “I love that they still consider me as a trusted contact. I love seeing my students go on and own their own pharmacy, start their own positions, go on to teach. I find that rewarding.”

A More Personal Link: Navigating His Daughter’s Illness

Kayden has therapeutic horse-riding lesson at Southern Reins Center for Equine Therapy, which helps her balance and coordination.

Beyond his professional journey in pharmacy, Jason has a more personal connection to the profession. His daughter, Kayden (13), has epilepsy and has uncontrollable seizures daily. What’s more, the cause of her epilepsy is unknown. When first learning of her diagnosis, Jason did what most people would do and started researching her condition. Unfortunately, this proved to be a less than comforting exercise, “Knowing how to look medical information up if you don’t have all the answers can really scare you… I’m looking stuff up and I’m seeing life expectancies of 10 years, 12 years, 14 years for these different, very rare disease states and…that hurt me because I was looking at diagnoses that may or may not be correct.” Even though much about her illness is still unknown, Jason takes comfort in being able to use his pharmaceutical knowledge to make his daughter’s condition less painful for her, “My pharmaceutical knowledge allows me to better help her. With one of the drugs, she started having some hair loss… I knew what drug was causing it. I knew what supplements we could start using.”

L to R, Jason’s wife Jessica, daughter Kayden and Jason.


While navigating her health journey has been difficult for him and his wife Jessica, having a personal connection to an unforgiving illness allows him to better

connect with some of his patients and their families: “I can talk to them about how it is to actually have a child that has uncontrolled epilepsy. I can tell them about the challenges, like using rescue medications when the kid’s on a playground…I have had those experiences. But you know, again, seeing people succeed and be able to share my personal experiences that can make their experience better is how I like to work on a daily basis.” His wife has been able to do the same. Much like Jason, Jessica also has a deep desire to help people and being able to speak with families who have children with similar conditions has been fulfilling for her.


Incredible stories like these are a testament to the profound impact pharmacists can have on their patients’ lives. The dedication and empathy displayed by pharmacists like Jason go beyond mere prescription dispensing; they create lasting connections and provide invaluable support during some of life’s most challenging moments. To drive home this point, there is one last story about Jason we wanted to share.

A Touchdown in Compassion: From the Football Field to Patient Connection

For this story, Jason takes us all the way back to 1997, when he played as a starter on the national championship team for the Michigan Wolverines. During his time as a football player, he would go visit kids at the cancer center and attend book readings among other community events. Fast forward to November of 2017, a former employee reached out to Jason about a patient reeling from a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Unsure why they thought to reach out to him about this patient, Jason followed up for clarification. As it turns out, the patient was a huge Michigan fan, and the employee thought a visit from a former player would cheer them up.

Armed with cherished mementos from his playing days, Jason made his way to Methodist Germantown Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where the patient Tim and his loving wife, Denise, awaited. Denise describes the exchange that followed, “A few hours later,  Jason enters the room with memorabilia from his personal collection, and he and Tim became fast friends, watching clips of that Championship and talking stats like they had known one another for years. That night meant so much to Tim and his friendship with Jason and the Memphis Chapter fan club was born.” Amidst conversations about touchdowns and triumphs, the air was filled with a sense of camaraderie that transcended illness. As Jason shared anecdotes from his glory days, Tim’s eyes lit up with the unmistakable spark of a true fan.

Jason urged Tim to fight on, promising to reunite at the local Michigan alumni club once he regained his strength. And true to his word, Tim got better and began regularly attending the club and igniting the room with his passion for the Wolverines. Jason says, “And I’ll tell you what, he was one avid Michigan fan. So, he added a lot to the club while he was there because he was very much an avid fan”.

Sadly, three years after their initial encounter, Denise delivered the heartbreaking news of Tim’s passing. But the story does not end there. One year after Tim’s passing, Jason made a rather serendipitous discovery. An old photograph of Jason and his wife at the end of spring practice 1998 captured a familiar face in the background. Upon further inspection, Jason realized that the person cheering in the background of a photo from over 20 years ago was none other than Tim, “So 25 years ago, a man that I met in Memphis years later was in a photo of me and my wife. You know, the fact that I eventually meet someone that’s having a medical issue, in a place that we didn’t grow up, and eventually got to know him…to then realize 3-4 years after that, noticing that he was behind me in a picture with my wife while we were in college…it just kind of floored me”.

Ultimately, Jason’s story underscores the profound impact of human connection in healthcare. Whether it’s through supporting patients during difficult times, mentoring future pharmacists, or sharing personal experiences to help others, healthcare professionals have the power to make a difference—one patient at a time. Tim’s wife Denise couldn’t agree more, “While Tim was not a patient of Jason’s, he still went out of his way to touch the life of a super fan and left a lasting impression on our entire circle of family and friends. When most people think about healthcare hero’s, they think of surgeons and oncologists who save lives and bring people back from the brink of death. But I think of Jason Vinson and pharmacists who make the quality of those lives better.”

Advice For Future Pharmacists: A Lesson In Compassion And Understanding

When asked what advice he would like to share with any prospective pharmacists, Jason shares that compassion and understanding should be at the heart of the work one does:

“You know, money’s great for a pharmacist but the impact you can have on people’s lives is really something that sometimes is overlooked. You never know what somebody’s actually going through. You know that mom that comes into a store that it seems like she never picks up their kids’ medications on time or never has her stuff filled on time…she might be dealing with being a single mom or doesn’t have a car or has to take public transportation. And I think it’s very important for us, in our profession to really look at the patient as a whole, not just what you’re dealing with medically. And don’t discount any singular connection with somebody as being insignificant, because you may never know the full impact nor how significant it might have actually been for them.”

We thank Jason for sharing his incredible story and Denise for her beautiful words about Tim. For those interested in a similarly fulfilling career in pharmacy, check out the Pharm4Me website for valuable information on becoming a pharmacist, and read more inspirational stories on the Pharm4Me Blog.

In remembrance of Tim Atkinson—a beacon of hope, a pillar of strength, and above all, a devoted Michigan Wolverine.




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