A Less Traditional Option

Denise Jeffers Finds Her Way to Nuclear Pharmacy

Denise Jeffers and two men dressed in scrubs work in the lab HSOP Class of 1993 member Charlotte Denise Jeffers (left) works in the lab at UAB.

December 19, 2017

AUBURN, Alabama – A degree in pharmacy can open so many opportunities from research, retail practice, hospital practice, academia, and many others. For Charlotte Denise Jeffers, a member of the Harrison School of Pharmacy Class of 1993, her path took her somewhere a little more radioactive.

Jeffers is currently the Director of Radiopharmaceutical Quality Assurance in the University of Alabama-Birmingham Cyclotron Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Production Facility and Nuclear Pharmacy in the Division of Advanced Medical Imaging Research. She joined UAB as a Supervising Nuclear Pharmacist in 2002 and was promoted to her current position in 2014.

With interests in science and medicine, the practice of pharmacy, and later nuclear pharmacy, allowed her to combine those interests. After graduating from HSOP, she worked in retail, long-term care and mail-order pharmacy, but eventually found her way to nuclear pharmacy.

“After graduation, I practiced in several settings but I could not find a career pathway that was fulfilling. I started searching for a less traditional option and came upon the specialty of radiopharmacy,” said Jeffers. “Since I was young, I have always had a fascination with all things ‘nuclear;’ everything from fission and fusion to carbon-14 dating really spoke to me. When I realized I could combine the love of pharmacy and the love of nuclear I thought it was worth a try.

“The risk was rewarded with a huge payoff in that I found a career pathway that was exciting, rapidly changing and full of promise.”

After completing her nuclear pharmacy training and certification, Jeffers spent several years with Cardinal Health before finding her way to UAB in 2012.

Jeffers describes her position as “an atypical job in an atypical career.” Every day is different with responsibilities including compounding radiopharmaceuticals for clinical or investigational use, compiling and reviewing various regulatory documents, ensuring operational compliance, discussing regulatory or quality assurance components with regulators including but not limited to the Food and Drug Administration, State Board of Pharmacy or Institutional Review Board, and collaborating with investigators to determine an appropriate regulatory pathway forward for radiopharmaceutical production and use.

“My favorite and most interesting part of my job is regulatory affairs,” said Jeffers. “Radiopharmaceutical regulations and standards are ever evolving and I find that very challenging and exciting.”


Denise Jeffers speaks to a group of students in an auditorium Charlotte Denise Jeffers was the featured speaker as part of HSOP's Professional Seminar Series on Oct. 27, 2017.

While women have a strong presence in traditional pharmacy practice, radiopharmacy is a discipline that is still mostly men. While their numbers are small, Jeffers is thankful for the female colleagues she has and wants to be a positive influence for others.

“There are very few women in radiopharmacy, however, there are some very successful, strong and amazing women in this field, especially those in academia,” said Jeffers. “I have a strong group of female radiopharmacist friends and we are super supportive of each other and we all try to mentor those coming up in this field.”

While it took her a few years after graduation to find the path to her current position, Jeffers said she would encourage any student to explore their options.

“If I have one piece of advice it would be this: don’t settle,” said Jeffers. “Find a career pathway that fits you even if it means making your own path.”

Jeffers had an opportunity to discuss her work and offer advice to those that may be interested in October when she spoke as part of HSOP’s Professional Seminar Series. While it had been a while since she had visited, she was impressed with the beauty of Auburn.

“I was immediately struck by how beautiful the campus remains. The old familiar landmarks have been wonderfully maintained along with the shiny new buildings,” said Jeffers. “All the cherished memories I have revolve around an outstanding feeling of pride; I am so proud to call Auburn my alma mater.”

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About the Harrison School of Pharmacy

Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

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Last Updated: December 19, 2017