Dr. Stephanie Zepeda serves in the primary leadership role for UTMB and Correctional Managed Care Pharmacy Services. As associate vice president, she oversees and directs all pharmacy-related services provided by the Health System and is responsible for strategic planning, client services, and overseeing operations and finances. Pharmacy services are provided to the hospitals on UTMB’s three campuses, outpatient clinics and 130 correctional facilities statewide.
Zepeda has 20 years of correctional pharmacy experience serving county, state and federal prisons and jails. She began her career as a clinical pharmacist with the University of Houston College of Pharmacy serving the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In 2000, she joined UTMB CMC. Since then, she has served in the roles of pharmacy clinical practice specialist, assistant director of pharmacy and director.
Zepeda earned her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from UH and completed a post-graduate pharmacy practice residency with an emphasis in managed care with the UH College of Pharmacy and TDCJ.
UTMB CMC Pharmacy Services fills more than 19,000 prescriptions per day—that’s much higher than any busy pharmacy such as CVS or Walgreens. How does your staff keep up with the high volume?
The work we do every day is possible because staff work together as a team and are talented, dedicated health care professionals. We have a shared vision to provide exceptional pharmacy services—to deliver the right medication, at the right time, to the right patient every time.
Best Care has to continue to be our focus and that is only possible if we continue to invest in and support the professional development of the people who make it possible—the great staff of UTMB.
What do you find to be the most difficult and rewarding parts of your job?
The most difficult part of my work is change, but that is what makes it rewarding, as well. Change challenges you to step outside of your comfort zone, to create new opportunities and try new things, and to continuously improve. For example, the Health System pharmacy is currently partnering with other disciplines to support the university’s Best Care efforts to be a high value practicing organization in the area of antimicrobial stewardship. The goal is to ensure we are following evidence-based guidelines to promote the appropriate use of antimicrobial medications to reduce resistance, minimize adverse effects and to provide the safest patient care. It is exciting to be part of this multi-disciplinary approach and rewarding to see the positive impact we are making on patient care.
How did you end up working in prison pharmacy?
The clinical practice specialists taught several of the therapeutics courses at the college of pharmacy I attended. They were extremely knowledgeable in their areas of expertise, were passionate about their roles with correctional managed care and were making a real impact on patient care. They encouraged me to consider the residency program. After doing some research, I interviewed and matched with the program. I had only planned to stay for one year to complete the program, but by the end, I knew I wanted to continue to work for CMC. That was 20 years ago.
Did anything surprise you when you first started working in correctional managed care?
I was impressed with the dedication and commitment of the individuals that work for CMC. They have a true calling to care for a vulnerable patient population. I was also impressed that each discipline is valued and is an important part of the team and decision-making process.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Personally, I am proud to be the mother of a wonderful daughter and son, Georgia, 17, and Matthew, 10. They continue to surprise me and I enjoy watching them grow, learn and succeed. Professionally, I am proud to be part of the pharmacy team and CMC and for the opportunities I’ve been given at UTMB.
What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
Do the best job you can, learn as much as you can while doing it, have fun and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Describe yourself in three words.
Dedicated, engaged and stubborn.
What do you like to do outside of work?
My family particularly enjoys camping and exploring the great state parks we have in Texas. On our last trip in March, we camped in Davis Mountains State Park. It is a beautiful park in the desert mountains in West Texas. We were able to attend a solar viewing at the nearby McDonald Observatory, take a cool dip in the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool in Balmorhea State Park, and see a variety of wildlife including javelina and yellow warblers. We were also able to explore the historic Fort Davis military frontier post. My daughter is interested in becoming a physician so she enjoyed visiting the post’s hospital and spinning the “Wheel of Misfortune.” It is an interactive exhibit that lists an illness and the corresponding medication used for treatment. Both of my children were surprised at how few medications were available 100 to 150 years ago on the frontier.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am part of a very large family—I have 40 nieces and nephews and 43 great nieces and nephews. My family has shown me the value of love, patience, commitment, care, appreciation and open communication, and has always been there to share life’s joys and sorrows.