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JANUARY 17, 2023

Through struggles, Holly Canupp, PharmD ’10 never gave up. Now she helps others build resiliency and succeed.


East of the Research Triangle – far from healthcare hubs and a medical metropolis – Holly Canupp, PharmD ’10, was raised on a small farm. The plot of land her father tended had been in his family for generations. Throughout her youth, Holly spent many Saturdays alongside her younger sister helping their father vaccinate the 3,500 hogs he managed each growing season. Their wake-up call was 6:30am, and if they were efficient enough, they could be done by 3pm.

“You did school, you did sports or whatever else,” said Holly. “But you knew that if you were needed at the hog house, that’s what you did.”

So where does a pharmaceutical dream sprout on a hog farm? Throughout middle school, Holly would tell others she’d grow up to be either a doctor or a veterinarian. By the time she entered high school, however, the latter dropped off. She was certain of pursuing a career in healthcare.

Holly’s paternal grandmother, dubbed “Little Granny,” was a type two diabetic. Managing the disease throughout the 90s looked a lot different than it does now. Holly recalled Little Granny’s refrigerator being stocked with medications, and her kitchen cabinets with syringes.

“She would all of a sudden stop being interactive and have slurred speech,” said Holly, remembering how the disease affected her grandmother. “Essentially what we’d now call having low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.”

After participating in an East Carolina University “spend the day with a pharmacist” event in high school, Holly knew she wanted to become a pharmacist.

She applied and was accepted to each undergrad program she targeted – Campbell University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. Holly ultimately chose to attend Campbell due to a sizable scholarship and a pre-requisite which only required she complete two years of undergrad before applying to pharmacy school.

While Holly intended to remain at Campbell, a question posed by her father changed this: Why aren’t you applying to Carolina? Holly simply didn’t believe she would get in. Then, during winter break of her sophomore year, she received notice of her acceptance to both the Campbell College of Pharmacy and the UNC School of Pharmacy.

“I didn’t think I would have that decision faced before me,” said Holly. “I ended up choosing Carolina for pharmacy school and the number one reason for that was because it was out of my comfort zone.”

Leaving Campbell was tough and Holly struggled at Carolina. She felt intimidated by the intelligence and experience of her classmates – some having four years of undergrad compared to her two. Resilience, she hoped, would come out of it.

The road remained rocky when it came time for rotations. Holly first worked at the Durham VA in ambulatory care with an intense preceptor who has since become a close friend.

“That year I started to realize what I really cared the most about. The first lesson I learned was, I really love working with people in an outpatient ambulatory setting,” said Holly. “I like getting to know them, and I like being able to see how they do over the course of time.”

When it came time to apply for residency, however, Holly faced a roadblock: she wasn’t matched with a program. Within the same week, she took another blow when her mom was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. Perhaps remaining in North Carolina wasn’t bad luck but rather a blessing in disguise.

Holly found herself back at Campbell amid the “post-match scramble.” There she completed a first-year community residency through Kerr Drug. She went on to complete her second-year ambulatory specialty residency at Duke University Hospitals, where she has worked ever since, currently as the Ambulatory Care Residency Director.

Holly credits the numerous precepting opportunities her position has given her, in addition to the challenging types of patients she sees at her clinic – medically, clinically and behaviorally – as her reason for staying.

After a winding and sometimes difficult path to where she is, Holly is doing exactly what she enjoys: “I have yet to get bored with taking care of patients.”


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