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Daughter following in father's footsteps at Marshall

Aug. 12, 2012 @ 10:25 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Sarah Toney is about to embark on a journey as part of the first incoming class for the Marshall University School of Pharmacy.

She said she's excited to be a part of that first group, but it's a special honor because her father, Dr. John Toney, was part of the inaugural class for Marshall's School of Medicine in January 1978.

"I always knew dad was in the first group," Sarah Toney said prior to Sunday's white coat ceremony in the Memorial Student Center. "It's not as important as getting a good education. I know he did, and I knew if I came up here, I'd get a good education."

The Toneys live on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where John and Teresa Toney moved for his residency after graduating from medical school in 1981. He currently teaches at the medical school at the University of South Florida and also practices medicine at his local VA Medical Center.

John and Teresa grew up in St. Albans and came to Marshall together in 1972. Toward the end of his senior year, he decided to go to medical school but wanted to stay in West Virginia. At the time, the only option was West Virginia University.

"When I learned about the Marshall University School of Medicine, I took an extra year of classes in special topics and biological sciences with some of the professors who would be teaching the medical school," John Toney said.

He applied to and was accepted to both medical schools, but he said he was impressed with the faculty and enamored with being part of the first class.

"Yes, (WVU) had an established curriculum, but who (Marshall) brought in that first year rivaled other medical schools," he said. "But there was nobody to tell you 'here's what you need to know' or 'here's what this professor expects.' You were a trailblazer."

He said he feels just as confident in his daughter's decision to attend the new pharmacy school, particularly after meeting the dean, Dr. Kevin Yingling.

Sarah Toney graduated from USF in 2010 with a degree in biomedical science and a minor in biomedical physics. She also received a pharmacy technician certification last year in Florda.

She has originally wanted to attend medical school but said she came to realize she was more passionate about patient care than diagnosis, and pharmacy clicked.

USF started a pharmacy school last year, but Sarah Toney was unable to get all her materials in on time. However, her father, a supportive alumni, received information in the mail about Marshall's new pharmacy school. For Sarah, she said it immediately felt like the right fit.

"I needed somewhere I could focus and I have family up here," she said. "I feel at home up here. I knew this is the place I wanted to be."

John Toney has offered some advice to his daughter about being in the first class, mainly about the camaraderie that will develop among those first 80 students. But he said she will probably have a much easier time finding a job when she graduates in 2016.

When he was interviewing for his residency, there were people who had no idea Marshall had started a medical school and didn't seem interested in accepting someone from school in its infancy. But he now encounters doctors who have graduated from Marshall's medical school, while also seeing many USF grads coming to Huntington for the program.

It has gained attention and respect, in part, because success of the students, something Sarah Toney and her classmates hope to start with the pharmacy school.

"It's more of an incentive and driving force," she said. "I've met with some of my classmates, and we've talked about it. And we want to make sure we are the top."

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