Meet Sam Newton! For more than seven years she’s been a Veterinary Specialty Sales Representative at Epicur, but her connections to veterinary medicine and her love for animals started long before that. While she lives in Raleigh, NC, Sam works closely with veterinary practices and vet schools in several other states, including South Carolina, California, Illinois, Ohio, and Virginia.
To help you get to know Sam more before you see her at vet conferences or in your practice, we sat down with her to learn more about her background, her veterinary ophthalmology passion, and how veterinary medicine has changed.
Where did it all start? What were you up to before joining Epicur?
I come from a human pharmaceuticals background, where I called on doctors and pharmacy managers. I have tons of pharmaceutical industry experience and covered cardiology, oncology, neurology, psychiatry, and endocrinology. I did product launches, rep field training, and I had responsibility for military accounts. I also managed a pharmacy and was a licensed pharmacy technician for many years. I have a unique advantage of having compounded ophthalmic medications, such as tacrolimus eyedrops. I worked on MCT and aqueous formulas, with ophthalmologists, at a time that was really cutting edge and new to the ophthalmology arena. Providing options for veterinary ophthalmologists to treat eye diseases was very gratifying.
Wow, that background in pharmacy must open a lot of conversations between you and the veterinary specialists you meet with.
My background has been very helpful in my current position. I bring the knowledge of working in a pharmacy sourcing chemicals and formulating drugs, from start to finish. If you’ve been there and done it, you certainly can provide credibility when meeting with a veterinarian.
Working as a licensed pharmacy technician gave me an appreciation for our pharmacists and our pharmacy technicians. The necessary 503B manufacturing training and always being prepared for an FDA inspection doesn’t happen overnight. For instance, our pharmacists and technicians manufacturing our chemotherapy mini tablets have a higher level of training and processes in place to reduce exposure risk. Several years ago, I gave a tour of our facility to Dr. Laura Garrett, Clinical Professor, Veterinary Clinical Medicine Section Head, Specialty Medicine Service Head, Oncology, College of Veterinary Medicine University of Illinois. A few months later Dr. Garrett visited our manufacturing facility and was surprised to see how different it is compared to a compounding pharmacy.
Tell us more about those relationships. How did you start building such a big network of veterinary ophthalmology contacts?
I attended my first veterinary ophthalmology conference (SEVOS) 21 years ago – I had my baby in a stroller with me! She was my sidekick! I met Dave Whitley, DACVO from Iowa State University, at the national ophthalmology conference, ACVO, and he introduced me to so many of his brilliant colleagues. It just started from there. I was able to ask ophthalmologists what they needed and gauge their willingness to try new formulas of ophthalmic medications. They themselves were innovative. They’d say, “can we do a tacrolimus cyclosporin combo?” “Here’s what’s in it, let’s make this medication better.” They kept the questions coming and wanted to see testing.
Dr. Whitley was the catalyst who connected me to specialists that elevated veterinary ophthalmology, in general, and still do – including Sandra van der Woerdt of Animal Medical Center, NY; Ralph Hamor at the University of Illinois, now at the University of Florida; David Maggs from UC Davis; Ann Meltzer from Ohio State; Brian Gilger from NC State and Brad Nadelstein.
They too were influential in growing my interest and relationships in veterinary ophthalmology medicine. Years ago, I would have to drive hours to get to the next veterinary ophthalmologist or oncologist. That’s not the case anymore. The veterinary industry has really evolved, and pet owners are demanding more.
How has their influence shaped your growth in your work?
Their influence threw open the door in the field of ophthalmology and ignited my passion for veterinary ophthalmology. It wasn’t long before I became involved in the Vision for Animals Foundation, an organization that provides funding for grants supporting research by qualified animal health care professionals and scientists that’s focused on the elimination of ocular diseases causing vision loss and suffering in animals. My real passion is in training and assisting people with where they want to go in life—where do you want to be? What do you want to do? Over the years, I’ve made introductions to veterinarians seeking ophthalmology internships and residencies and have enjoyed seeing the residents become boarded. Most recently I prepared a college student for her pharmacy school interviews, and she was accepted!
When I began with Epicur Pharma, a division of Stokes Healthcare, I already had years of experience and relationships with specialists and with veterinary schools. So initially, I spent weeks on the road introducing our sales reps to specialists and vet schools in their territories. Oh, the road trip stories I could share! I love helping people on their life journeys. When somebody else helps you get your foot in the door, the team effort is much sweeter. I also actively serve on North Carolina and Virginia Veterinary Medical Associations Industry Councils.
It’s obvious you love working in this industry! I’m guessing it’s not just the people you love, you’re an animal lover, I’m sure.
We all say our pets are members of our family, and that’s certainly true for my family. When my daughter was in first grade, she begged for a little puppy that we had seen at an outdoor festival. She told me, “I want a puppy just like this,” and I thought, “Oh no, we can’t even keep a beta fish alive.” I tried to move her on from it, but she kept on asking.
When I took her to see Santa Claus at the mall, she sat with him and said, “Do you remember that little black puppy? That’s what I want for Christmas, Santa Claus!” He looked me in the eye as I’m on my video camera and said, “Did you hear that, mom? Remember that little black puppy? This is what she wants for Christmas.” At that moment, I knew I had to go find a little black puppy!
And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my daughter and our family. We got that little black puppy and she has been with us for 14 years. Her name is Carrington and over the two years of COVID, I’ve introduced her many times on my virtual meetings. It is truly unconditional love, and she has such a funny personality. She’s so sweet and sassy.
Sam with her dog, Carrington!
My love for animals started early growing up in the country. Both sets of grandparents were farmers and had cows. Let’s see if I can remember all the animals we had:
- A Shetland pony named Blackjack. We actually rode in a cart with Blackjack pulling us up and down the country roads.
- A German Shepherd named Sandy.
- A black lab named Ace who was very smart.
- A turtle named Sally who we found when we were digging a hole to put in an inground swimming pool.
- A lot of rabbits.
- A pet frog named Theodore.
- We nursed a baby squirrel back to life, but then it got loose in the house and my mom was not happy.
- There were always chickens, too.
That is a lot of pets with a lot of great names! Beyond your love for animals, what’s the draw to working with veterinarians and their staff?
They’re just good people. When you call on veterinary professionals— whether they’re a technician, the doctor, the front desk staff— you can tell these professionals have the biggest hearts. They want to make a difference and love what they’re doing.
The National Service Animal Eye Exam hosted by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists always reminds me of their dedication and serving others. Since 2014, Epicur Pharma has generously sponsored the national event, so I’ve been able to participate firsthand by sitting in on the service eye exams. I’m also passionate about it because it’s an opportunity to spend time talking with pet owners, specifically service animal owners. It’s been one of the best parts of this job.
During an exam with Nancy Bromberg, DACVO, I met a young Virginia/DC professional who attended law school but lost her vision due to diabetes and a complicated organ transplantation. Although her life changed dramatically, she was still able to be a successful attorney and her trained service dog was her vision to the world. The dog was everything to her. And it was obvious how much she appreciated Dr. Bromberg’s time. To receive a free, ocular screening eye exam care from the specialist, and to track the service animals’ vision, year to year, is vital to the service animal owner.
One ophthalmologist, Dr. Micki Armour, did service eye exams and had the cardiology department providing free cardiology workups for the service animals on the same day. It was amazing to witness—now that’s giving back to your community and to those who really need your expertise. It’s wonderful to see veterinary ophthalmologists and staff across the nation volunteer their time to provide free service animal eye exams.
We are so excited the ACVO/Epicur National Service Animal Eye Exam Event is back!
We love sponsoring and celebrating this cause!
Learn more about this philanthropic event and check out our pet eye health page, which includes our new handout—Eyes on Health!
Veterinary medicine is a special industry to be a part of. Your passion for ophthalmology is evident too. Why is that your favorite veterinary specialty?
Years ago, I sat in on a cataract surgery with Susan Nelms, an ophthalmologist in Alabama. I had always admired ophthalmologists; what they can do to restore vision is remarkable. But after watching a cataract surgery, I had a new appreciation for all her years of studying cases, working in a minute area with such precision, and the quality of life she gave to the pet. The technical degree of an actual eye surgery is fascinating and mind-blowing.
What’s something unique about working in the veterinary industry people may not think of?
Oh, one of my favorite things to do is explore a zoo with a veterinarian, because it’s a totally different zoo experience. For instance, I toured the Indianapolis Zoo with Dr. Elizabeth Adkins. She’s an ophthalmologist I’ve known for many years, but what I learned while touring the zoo was her interest in orangutangs. She’s seen the endangered species in the wild and wants to study them. I also learned Dr. Adkins has worked extensively on seals and sea lions. During the dolphin show, she noticed a dolphin being given fluids and she spoke to one of the attendants after the show. So, for anyone who has the chance, I recommend going to a zoo with a veterinarian. It should be on your bucket list. It’s not like going to the zoo any other time, it takes a zoo field trip to another level!
So, we know why the veterinary industry has your heart. What is it about Epicur that sets you apart from other medication providers in the veterinary marketplace?
How many examples can I give? Epicur Pharma has a long-standing commitment to animal health and is a pioneer in animal drug standards. We’re proud to be one of the first 503B facilities, overseen by the FDA, manufacturing drugs for animals. Epicur follows Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), the same rules and regulations as pharmaceutical companies. As an FDA-registered facility, Epicur manufactures drugs with reliable potency and sterility from lot number to lot number. This improves patient outcomes, reduces veterinary practice liability, and allows veterinarians to trust in the medication they prescribe – every time. Our goal is manufacturing a superior medication for the patient, not where can we cut corners. We also employ dedicated pharmacists, technicians, chemists, and customer service reps!
Beyond our excellency with animal drugs, Epicur Pharma is innovative when it comes to the safety and handling of toxic medications like chemo tablets. Our unit-dose blister packaging of chemotherapeutic tablets is safer for veterinary professionals as well as pet owners to administer. We’re also committed to patient education. We reached out to Ralph Hamor, an ophthalmology professor at the University of Florida, to record videos on how to give your pet an eyedrop or ointment. When clients get their eye medication filled, they receive a QR code card to scan and watch Dr. Hamor’s instructional video. In less than a minute, Dr. Hamor demonstrates how to properly administer the eyedrop. It’s one of the ways we can ease the stresses of the pet owner administering the medication.
What’s one of your favorite things about Epicur?
We work with a lot of great partners like the Veterinary Cancer Society, the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, the Academy of Veterinary Ophthalmic Technicians, and the Veterinary Technician Cancer Society. Epicur Pharma is also a sponsor of Not One More Vet, an important organization with a focus on veterinary mental health. I’m proud of the love and support we show the veterinary community and our pet owners.
We love having Sam on the Epicur team and hope you get to meet her soon! Check back to meet more of our team!
Interested in More Resources?
Our downloads share educational 503B insights and veterinary best practices. Download copies to share with your practice!
503B Basics: Why They Are So Important to Veterinary Medicine
Get to Know Epicur Pharma: What We Do & How We Partner With You
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