Former state stockpile director brings crisis expertise to the halls of Lipscomb
Pharmacy professor uses past experience preparing for statewide disasters to help Lipscomb open safely this past fall.
This spring as COVID-19 took over the thoughts and lives of Americans, as well as the world, Lipscomb University’s president decided to hire a full-time director of health and wellness to oversee efforts to keep the campus community safe and well. The man he turned to for such a critical role was an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy.
Kevin Eidson, Lipscomb’s director of health and wellness since June, worked eight years with the State of Tennessee Department of Health and part of his time at the state was spent as the state strategic national stockpile director and the director of pharmacy.
During his time at the state, Eidson developed many plans to address disasters, both man-made and natural, including bio-terrorism and pandemics. He worked in that public health role during the 2001 anthrax scare across the nation, and under his watch, Tennessee became the first state to deploy Mark 1 antidote kits to be used for exposure to nerve agents.
At Lipscomb, under Eidson’s direction, an on-campus COVID-19 rapid testing laboratory was established, and alternative care sites were built and outfitted on campus for use when a student needs to self-isolate and has no other alternative housing options. Lipscomb’s Health Center developed a system for contact tracing potential cases of the virus, as well as systems for care checks, food and exercise for students in self-isolation.
“What this situation has really highlighted for me is that Lipscomb is a community that cares” said Eidson, well into the fall 2020 semester after Lipscomb successfully returned students to on-campus classes and living. “Our students really want to be here, and to make that happen, they are following the guidelines we have set up. When I see students who really want to be here that badly, it makes me want to make sure we can stay here.”
Pharmacy was the logical career choice for Eidson as he was growing up in White House, Tennessee. His cousin was a co-owner of JP Brown Drugs, and his family encouraged him to go into the field. He obtained his degrees at Middle Tennessee State and at Mercer universities.
He worked in independent pharmacies in Atlanta and in Fort Myers, Florida, before moving back to Tennessee after 9/11 to work in emergency preparedness and as the state’s director of pharmacy for Tennessee’s public health department, addressing the state’s emergency preparedness and responses to bioterrorism.
“The logistics of getting medical assets like ventilators, medications and bandages out to workers and patients on the front lines of any crisis, uses the same logistical skills that pharmacists use on a daily basis,” Eidson said. “I was the first pharmacist to be employed at the Tennessee Department of Health's central office in Nashville. The state saw real value in those logistical skills. So when I left those roles, I was replaced by other pharmacists.”
During his time with the state, he helped recruit 30,000 volunteers who could dispense medications in the event of a crisis, similar to Lipscomb’s recent flu vaccination clinic, when more than 1,000 members of the Lipscomb community were provided vaccinations in the span of three days.
Part of Eidson’s job at the state was also to review pharmacy and medical laws and rules, and how they related to the needs faced during a bioterrorism or any crisis in the state. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. health professionals are working under executive orders that waive telehealth regulations to allow providers to see more patients without putting themselves at greater risk.
Prior to joining Lipscomb’s faculty 10 years ago, he served as the executive director of the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy and was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam as a board member for the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy.
As College of Pharmacy faculty, the assistant professor teaches courses on pharmacy law and ethics, leading Lipscomb’s student pharmacists to top scores in the state and nation on the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination.
“I have had the most rewarding career as a pharmacist, but being here—in the Lipscomb community—this is a good fit for my training and everything I have done in the past,” Eidson said.