Pharmacy, Natural & Health Sciences

In the Service of His People

Capt. Clelland ’21 adds PGx to his Expertise in Health Policy for Tribal Affairs

Capt. Clelland ’21 adds PGx to his expertise in health policy for Tribal affairs

Captain Carmen “Skip” Clelland, 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 University’s Master of Pharmacogenomics (PGx) online program in 2019 while home in Georgia. Manchester offers the PGx master's as a one-year on-campus degree or as a two-year online degree. A one-year, online graduate certificate program is also an option. 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 Manchester 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 University 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.