Paul Larrat, the current Dean of Pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island, grew up with dreams of being an astronaut before he ever thought about joining higher education.
He holds three degrees from URI in business and pharmacy as well as a Ph.D from Brown University in Epidemiology.
When he first stepped on campus at URI as a pharmacy student, he didn’t have any plans or an idea of what he truly wanted to do in his career.
“I just knew that I liked business and management and administration, so that’s kind of the direction I headed in for a little while,” Larrat explained. Immediately after finishing what at the time was a five-year program for his Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy, he earned his Masters of Business Administration from URI, followed by his Masters of Science in Pharmacy Administration.
Even while earning all of these degrees, he never had a clear plan. “I know some people have their careers all planned out,” said Larrat. “I don’t think I ever did that. I probably should’ve thought about my career a little bit more as I went through it.”
Still, he managed to find himself in the position of Dean of Pharmacy. It was not a position that he hesitated to go after when the opportunity arose. In fact, he applied to become the Dean ten years before getting the job and was a finalist for that position, losing out to someone who is now a predecessor of his.
About becoming Dean he said, “I kind of knew that was something I would be interested in doing. It wasn’t too big of a jump and it wasn’t something I was surprised by.”
Larrat believes that working as the Executive Vice President for MIM Health Plans had helped him make the transition, as there were many skills that he learned while working for that company that are now required of him as a dean. The main thing he thought to have learned at MIM Health Plans was how to work with people.
“Personnel issues are probably the most important part of my job now,” he explained. “It was part of that job too.” A lot of his work as Dean of Pharmacy involves making people feel like they are a part of the organization, something he learned to do in his previous work experience.
Larrat’s favorite type of people to deal with are students. In addition to being Dean, he is a professor as well and is able to interact with many students and alumni which is what he considers the most rewarding part of his job.
“I love dropping in on them,” Larrat said. “I love knowing who they are, what their names are, and knowing where they’re going.”
Throughout his successful career, he has learned a lot and being a URI grad many times over, he has a lot of advice to impart on his pharmacy students, which he reiterates during the White Coat Ceremony for third-year students, where their family and friends attend to watch them get their white coats and officially enter the School of Pharmacy.
He tells his students, “Try everything. You have a small window of opportunity to go to another country, go to professional meetings, take courses that you normally wouldn’t take, you know, get involved with patient populations that you’re not comfortable with, like hospice or inmate populations. You know, do it now. That’s going to help you make a choice later on in your life,” he tells his students.”
Larrat really has taken the motto of “try everything” and run with it. He even jokes that he became close to his childhood dream of being an astronaut when he was named a NASA fellow in 2004, allowing him to work for several months at Kennedy Space Center.