Campus News

O’Donnell stepping down as dean of School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences


Published October 14, 2020

headshot of Jim O'Donnell.
“I am confident that we are among the elite schools of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences and will continue to excel in research and the education and training of outstanding pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists. ”
James O'Donnell, dean
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

James M. O’Donnell is stepping down as dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, capping seven years of leadership that includes overseeing the school’s rise in national rankings, launching new educational programs, and recruiting world-class faculty members to UB.

His decision, effective at the end of the 2020-21 academic year, was announced Wednesday by Provost A. Scott Weber and Michael Cain, vice president for health sciences, in a memo to the university community.

O’Donnell, an internationally recognized expert in molecular and translational neuroscience, and a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, will return to a UB faculty role as professor of pharmaceutical sciences, and pharmacology and toxicology.

UB will begin a search for his replacement this semester and plans to have new leadership determined by the end of the spring semester, Weber and Cain wrote in the memo.

“Jim has been a dedicated dean, advancing each of UB’s teaching, research and engagement missions. He will leave the school well poised to build on this success for years to come,” the memo from Weber and Cain said.

“During his seven years of leadership at UB, the school’s U.S. News & World Report ranking has significantly improved, up from 22 to 14, and the school’s enrollment has remained strong, despite increasing competition in New York State,” the memo stated.

“It is a privilege to serve as dean and to work with exceptional faculty, staff, students and community partners,” O’Donnell said. “I am confident that we are among the elite schools of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, and will continue to excel in research and the education and training of outstanding pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists.” 

O’Donnell is leading an ongoing comprehensive fundraising campaign for the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences to support its programs and students, recruit and support excellent faculty, and increase opportunities for students, faculty and staff to engage the larger scientific and professional communities, as well as positively influence local and global communities. This campaign has resulted in the establishment of the school’s first two endowed chairs.

O’Donnell joined UB in 2013 from West Virginia University, where he served as associate dean for research in the School of Medicine and assistant vice president for health sciences research.

Under his leadership, the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences committed itself to strong hiring and increased national recognition of faculty, two key factors for the school’s success and recognition.

With support from SUNY’s Empire Innovation Program and UB’s Disciplinary Excellence initiative, the school has attracted world-class faculty to the university. It enhanced faculty development and mentoring programs, and substantially improved its promotion process for clinical faculty.

Additionally, the school implemented new programs to increase faculty recognition and grant application submissions. In cooperation with UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the school established a research pharmacy to support clinical trials.

These efforts led to a significant increase in the number of external awards and grants that faculty members have received, as well as the appointment of two new SUNY Distinguished Professors and one UB Distinguished Professor.

O’Donnell has been committed to providing high-quality, innovative education in pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, preparing graduates for success and leadership in their fields.

Under his leadership, the school launched a master’s degree in pharmacometrics and personalized pharmacotherapy, one of only a few in the country, and added micro-credential programs focused on improving competencies in data analysis, clinical and translational research, and application of enhanced patient care principles and leadership. The school also formed numerous collaborative agreements with SUNY community colleges and other universities to streamline student entry into School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences doctoral programs.

The school has increased student opportunities for global engagement and identified new collaborations with sites for experiential education. In partnership with UB’s other health sciences schools, the school has established an excellent interprofessional education program that prepares professional students to be collaborative-practice ready when they enter the workforce.


I have one very important comment and hope in the wake of our dean stepping down. I urge that the leadership who will replace O’Donnell will uphold the integrity and elite standards UBSPPS upholds. The pharmacy profession is in distress from over-saturation, and wages are squeezing. What separates UB graduates from the rest lies in our rigorous curriculum and high standards. I urge you not to reduce standards and increase enrollment in the eyes of competition, but uphold your statute and improve the school’s credibility as a world-class curriculum. Don't give in to pressure for monetary gain to the detriment to the profession.

Gabriel Fiorella