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Pharmacy school adds new wellness counselor, prioritizing holistic health

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Photo Courtesy of Ardith Burkes.

Ardith Burkes is now a direct resource for pharmacy students in Kerr Hall. She was introduced by Counseling and Psychological Services as a new embedded counselor in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy. 

The program was previously introduced to the School of Medicine, the School of Law and, recently, the Hussman School of Journalism and Media

Burkes said she is excited to be in a position to help students with their many stressors during their time at UNC.  

"For me that just feels fulfilling to be able to provide that space for students when they’ve worked really hard to accomplish their goal," Burkes said. 

In her initial hiring interview, Burkes said she felt a sense of cohesion within the administration and student body with an emphasis on "thriving."

The intention of the program is to provide Eshelman students and faculty with a cultivated counseling experience based on anticipated course load and the dynamics of the community, Suzanne Harris, the director of well-being and resilience at Eshelman, said.

“I think having Ardith embedded in our school allows her to learn the culture of our school, as well as gain a better understanding of some of the challenges or stressors that students within our program might be facing, both professionally and personally,” she said.

Burkes earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2000 and her master’s in social work and public health in maternal and child health in 2007, each from UNC. She previously worked with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center and the Compass Center in Chapel Hill for relationship violence counseling.

“I really like being able to be a safe and comfortable person to connect with to explore challenging topics,” Burkes said.

Harris said the Eshleman School launched their first well-being assessment in 2021, and it focused around several core areas of the school community: workload, culture, training and resources.

Graduate student Kaitlin Liu said the decision to increase mental health resources followed controversy over Eshleman’s expansion to UNC Asheville. 

“Basically they made everyone believe that you had your preference in campus when you really didn't,” she said. “A lot of the students ended up fighting back on that one, and they were going to send about 25 kids that really didn't want to go to Asheville.”

However, Liu said the school listened to the concerns of students.

“I think a lot changed after they sent an email apologizing about how they approached the situation in general about Asheville,” she said. “They listened, and I think that meant a lot to the student body in general.”

While Harris and other members of the administration looked at the specific needs for Eshelman, Harris said they also looked at the successes of other embedded programs on campus.

In order to make an appointment with Burkes, she said students within the school should email her at aburkes@unc.edu before setting up their first appointment.

“There's an initial 20- to 30-minute triage appointment where I get a better understanding of what it is that they're wanting to work on and talk about,” Burkes said. After the initial assessment, she then decides whether brief treatment at CAPS or other community resources is the most appropriate for a given situation. 

“Wellness is so much more than just academics,” Burkes said. 

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