Doctorates and Division I

School of Pharmacy student-athletes
Katie Tuck, Mallory Short and Melinda Johnson are School of Pharmacy students who juggle being UMKC athletes with doctorate-level studies. Photos by Brandon Parigo, Strategic Marketing and Communications

School of Pharmacy student-athletes balance high-level health studies and sports competition

Pick a sports metaphor about facing a challenge and University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy student-athletes are living it. They’re pursuing health doctorates while competing at the Division I level.

For track-team captain Mallory Short, it’s one more hurdle to jump. For runner Katie Tuck, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. For tennis player Melinda Johnson, it’s keeping a lot of balls in the air.


Melinda Johnson

Why pharmacy? “I really like the idea of working with people to solve their health problems.”


Melinda Johnson, ’20
PharmD, School of Pharmacy
Team: Tennis
Achievements: First Team All WAC Conference; All WAC Conference Tournament; WAC Conference Champion; team captain
Hometown: Overland Park, Kansas
High school: Blue Valley Northwest


“There have been some points where I’ve asked myself if I can do this, and I know these will be the two most challenging years of my life so far,” said Johnson, who is a UMKC Tennis team captain and on track to receive her Doctor of Pharmacy, commonly known as a PharmD, in 2020. “I am grateful that the UMKC School of Pharmacy and UMKC Athletics have helped make this possible for me and other student-athletes. It’s really unusual that a Division I school will let you compete while pursuing a health professions degree.”

Indeed, Johnson, who has wanted to become a pharmacist since she was a high-school freshman, began her academic and athletic career at the University of Kansas. It became apparent she wouldn’t be able to both study pharmacy and compete there so she transferred to UMKC.

At UMKC, the coaches say there’s a reason they’re called student-athletes: they’re students first, athletes second.

“People want to hire athletes because they can juggle and manage a lot,” said Kendell Hale, head coach for UMKC Men’s and Women’s Tennis. “Only a select few student-athletes are going to go pro in their sports so our job is to give them the memories and tools to be successful in the workforce.”

UMKC coaches have been able to accommodate nearly all graduate-degree programs. Coaches worked with Johnson’s, Short’s and Tuck’s academic schedules by creating special one-on-one practice sessions — some starting as early as 5 a.m.


Mallory Short

Why pharmacy? “Athletics helped pave an interest in pharmacy, health care and counseling patients.”


Mallory Short, ‘20
PharmD, School of Pharmacy
Team: Track and Field, hurdles and sprints
Achievements: Seven-time All WAC Conference; Six-time WAC Academic All-Conference; Two-time Conference Champion in 100-meter hurdles; team captain for two years
Hometown: Columbia, Missouri
High school: Rock Bridge High School


“There were a lot of practices in the dark,” said Short, an All WAC Conference and All WAC Academic in track.

Short and her student-athlete colleagues met with UMKC School of Pharmacy administrators and professors to coordinate academic requirements with athletics schedules, which includes traveling to universities in the western states of the U.S. UMKC is part of the WAC — Western Athletic Conference.

“This has taken tremendous feats of time management and sacrifice on their parts,” said Patricia Marken, associate dean for student affairs at the UMKC School of Pharmacy. “Although it’s challenging, everyone benefits from the student-athletes and their leadership skills and passion for health and wellness.”

Johnson, Short and Tuck all acknowledge they’re not able to become involved as they’d like to with pharmacy school student organizations and activities. Still, Tuck thrives on the hectic schedule.

“I do better when I’m challenged and busy,” she said.


Katie Tuck

Why pharmacy? “I’m fascinated by addiction and rehabilitation, and pharmacy was a natural fit.”


Katie Tuck, ’19
PharmD, School of Pharmacy
Team: Cross Country and Track and Field
Achievements: Four-time WAC Academic All Conference; Rho Chi Pharmacy Honors Society inductee 2017; Dean’s List fall 2015, spring 2016, fall 2016, spring 2017
Hometown: Smithville, Missouri
High school: Smithville High School

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