A photo of a woman in a lavendar two piece suit set
Camille Schrier’s impact “on health care and women in STEM is nothing short of incredible,” according to K.C. Ogbonna, Pharm.D., dean of the School of Pharmacy. (Photo by Rick Myers)

Class of 2024: Former Miss America Camille Schrier adding a new title: Doctor of Pharmacy

She credits the VCU School of Pharmacy for crucial support before, during and after her reign, and she continues to promote STEM to young people.

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Fulfilling her duties as Miss America 2020 helped shape Camille Schrier’s views of the world and health care.

“It was the most important experience of my time in the VCU School of Pharmacy. It gave me a greater perspective from a human level,” said Schrier, who will graduate with a pharmacy doctorate in May. “I was able to travel the U.S. and meet people from so many different backgrounds. I would encourage every student to do that.”

Schrier came to Virginia Commonwealth University in 2018 after earning bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and in systems biology from Virginia Tech. She took two years off — 2019 through 2021 — to fulfill her duties, first as Miss Virginia and then as Miss America after winning the national competition. Schrier returned to VCU and remained the titleholder for another year after the annual event was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Miss America organization granted her an exception to continue her education while performing her official duties.

“I went back to school and then participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as Miss America,” Schrier said of juggling her responsibilities.

The Pennsylvania native is grateful for the students, staff and faculty at the School of Pharmacy who made her feel “welcomed and normal, that I could exist like any other student. I could be myself and not Miss America,” she said.

In particular, Schrier had high praise for K.C. Ogbonna, Pharm.D., dean of the School of Pharmacy, who supported and encouraged her during the Miss America competition and beyond.

When Schrier planned to enter the Miss Virginia competition, Ogbonna, then the school’s leader of admissions and student services, worked with her to develop a plan to take time off from the pharmacy program and, later, return to finish her studies. He also offered her support with the science experiment she planned to create on the competition stage for her talent showcase to educate young girls about STEM fields.

“Camille is an excellent ambassador for the pharmacy profession, from encouraging the next generation of girls and women in STEM to improving Americans’ understanding of health care and medication safety on the whole,” Ogbonna said. “The impact she has made – and will continue to make – on health care and women in STEM is nothing short of incredible. To have been able to offer her the flexibility to be both Miss America and a pharmacy student – I am happy to have played a small role. However, I am even happier to have had an opportunity to witness her achieve her goals.”

A photo of a woman demonstrating something on a table in front of two children.
Camille Schrier has embraced the opportunity to share her love of science and how it can improve lives, including through her project, Her Royal Scientist, a female-centered science education program for children. (Photo by Tyler Thrasher)

Schrier said the two years she spent away from school helped her reset and become more grateful for the opportunity to learn.

“I felt more passionate about advocacy work and helping people in general. I was motivated and focused,” she said.

Schrier said she learned fundamental tools of effective communication at the School of Pharmacy and built on that foundation as Miss America. During her travels, she met people from many walks of life and was able to craft her communications in ways that could be easily understood.

“The skills and experiences I have gained translate to providing health and educational information as a pharmacist,” Schrier said. “It helped me understand what I wanted to do after graduation. I never thought that the role as Miss America would have as much impact and benefit on my professional career.”

Choosing her social initiative, “Mind Your Meds: Drug Safety,” during her term as Miss America was based on her work in pharmacy. That included an internship with Richmond-based Phlow Corp., where she did market research on drug shortages and coordinated and participated in community outreach events. 

Schrier also conducted STEM outreach throughout her reigns as Miss Virginia and Miss America. She continues that effort today through her own project, Her Royal Scientist, a female-centered science education program for children.

“I have become the character of the scientist princess. It brings in my story of science with me as the physical model,” she said.

After graduation, Schrier will head to Philadelphia as a postdoctoral medical affairs fellow with Biohaven through the Saint Joseph’s University/Philadelphia College of Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Industry and Education Fellowship Program. The one-year position is focused on medical communications and strategy.

“As Miss America, I shared my love of science with people and how it can improve lives. I will be able to, on behalf of an organization, provide and share information about pharmaceutical products,” she said of pursuing a career in medical affairs. “I can take my skills into business and be able to speak at scientific levels about products being created. I will also be able to transfer data and information into something the general public can understand.”

Schrier is grateful for how the School of Pharmacy, and VCU as whole, supported all her endeavors as well as the nontraditional path she chose.

“That support is what allowed me to get out of the classroom and experience being Miss America,” Schrier said. “VCU has a culture of innovation and not being afraid to make a positive change. That culture and the support for me as an individual to fully step outside of the box helped to propel my personal and professional success overall.”

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