Ole Miss School of Pharmacy Honors Senior Scientist

Environmental toxicologist specializes in biotechnology for Army Corps of Engineers

in the lab

Jeffery Steevens

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy honored its Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at the annual Alumni Weekend Awards Banquet and Reunion Dinner.

Jeffery Steevens, senior scientist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was recognized for his involvement in student service and professional achievement.

“We are so pleased to honor Dr. Steevens,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “He is the quintessential Alumnus of the Year. In addition to his distinguished career, he has time and time again mentored our students and served our school in multiple capacities.”

Steevens came to the university as a student in 1994 to work with Bill Benson, former faculty member and environmental toxicology research leader. Steevens graduated with a Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1999. That year, he accepted a position in Vicksburg, with the Army Corps of Engineers at the then-named Waterways Experiment Station.

“I started out as a team member on a toxicology team there,” Steevens said. “I was initially involved in a contaminant assessment in New York Harbor, where I worked with the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Within a year of graduating, Steevens was involved in developing an international treaty called the London Convention. The agreement controls ocean pollution and specifically addresses radioactive materials.

“The project was very interesting,” Steevens said. “I had to develop a guidance document for what is acceptable in regard to disposing radioactive materials at sea. Today, that document is used as the standard approach to this issue.”

In 2005, Steevens became one of only 28 senior scientists in the Army – an extraordinary accomplishment.

“The Army picks different focus areas for its senior scientists,” Steevens said. “My area is biotechnology. It’s a fairly broad topic. I’m currently involved in making sure that some of the new technologies that the Army is developing are safe for the environment and our soldiers.”

Nanotechnology is an emerging field that Steevens is evaluating.

Dean David D. Allen (right) presents Jeffery Steevens with the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award.

Dean David D. Allen (right) presents Jeffery Steevens with the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award.

“This is an exciting area right now,” Steevens said. “There are great opportunities for things like body armor, medicine and protective materials. These can be used to help the soldier, but at the same time, we want to make sure that the materials don’t harm the soldier or the environment.”

Kristine Willett, professor of pharmacology, has worked with Steevens over the years.

“Jeff has been so supportive of our program and our students,” Willett said. “With his role in the Vicksburg labs, he lectures to our students each year in my toxicology class. It’s an incredible experience for them because he has real-world examples from projects that he’s worked on around the world.”

Steevens is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of BioMolecular Sciences, which allows him to serve on student committees. Additionally, he serves on the school’s Board of Visitors, an external advisory group.

Upon learning of his selection for the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award, Steevens said he was excited and humbled.

“I have a very strong connection to the university and to the School of Pharmacy in particular,” he said. “I have a lot of great memories here. I’m thankful for the education I’ve received and contacts that I’ve made here, as well as to the people that have helped me along the way.”

Fourth-Year Pharmacy Student Lands National Scholarship

Program encourages students to pursue careers in academia

OXFORD, Miss. – Cody Tawater, a fourth-year professional pharmacy student at the University of Mississippi, has been chosen to participate in the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s Walmart Scholars Program.

John Rimoldi (left) and Cody Tawater

John Rimoldi (left) and Cody Tawater

In its 11th year, the prestigious program awards $1,000 scholarships to 85 student-faculty pairs from AACP member institutions to attend select seminars and annual meetings.

“The goal of the scholarship in general is to allow pharmacy students the opportunity to attend the (AACP) national meeting and strengthen students’ commitment to the profession of academia,” said Tawater, of Philadelphia, Mississippi. “It gives the recipients the opportunity to network with faculty from schools around the country and with other Walmart scholars who are envisioning a career in academia.”

John Rimoldi, UM professor of medicinal chemistry, is serving as Tawater’s faculty mentor and will help Tawater network with other faculty members. He will also help Tawater understand a number of academia issues, such as teaching pedagogies and curricular design.

“Cody has all the best attributes one desires in a student and a future faculty colleague: a resolute work ethic, a commitment to excellence in research and scholarship, and a desire and gift for teaching and service,” Rimoldi said.

Since the program’s inception, 14 scholar-mentor teams from the UM School of Pharmacy have participated in the program. Rimoldi said that this is telling.

“It’s a testament to our students’ outstanding achievements and our faculty commitment to mentoring,” he said.

Tawater hopes to get a behind-the-scenes look at academia through his involvement in the program.

“I hope to gain a greater understanding of academic pharmacy and how fulfilling of a career it could be,” he said. “There are so many parts of academia that are unseen by the students, and I hope to learn about them.”

In conjunction with the program, Tawater attended AACP’s annual meeting July 9-15 in National Harbor, Maryland.

“I feel that it is a great honor to represent the University of Mississippi as a Walmart scholar,” Tawater said. “Being a pharmacy student at Ole Miss has opened my eyes to all sorts of new things, including academic pharmacy. I hope I represented the school well.”

UM Students Get Pharmacy Experience in Peru

Mission provides medications, reading glasses to locals

Pharmacy students interact with Peruvian children while on a medical mission trip.

Pharmacy students interact with Peruvian children while on a medical mission trip.

OXFORD, Miss. – Arriving around midnight in Lima, Peru, six University of Mississippi pharmacy students began an arduous drive up the Pan-American Highway. After traversing mountain roads for eight hours, they arrived at their home base in Pomabamba.

From there, they ventured out to the remote villages of Pallahuasi, Chogo, Piscos and Vinauya. Their mission: reach the unreachable.

“We had very strenuous riding conditions,” said Jennifer Reid, a third-year professional student from Madison. “We traveled throughout the Andes Mountains on gravel roads – they were terrible for our trucks. In fact, we had two different trucks break down. We traveled these hard, dangerous roads because we wanted to reach people where no other mission teams have ever been before.”

Randy Calvert, a 1980 UM graduate who works as a pharmacist at Walgreens in Madison, recently led third-year students Reid, Anna Blair Brown, Colleen Riley and Laken Burrell, as well as fourth-year students Rachel Swearingen and Elizabeth Roland on the medical mission trip. Sponsored by First Baptist Church of Jackson, the 13-day trip had multiple goals that included filling prescriptions, fitting reading glasses, administering face cream and providing spiritual healing.

“The eagerness of the students to serve is so refreshing,” Calvert said. “We have a share time each night of what they observed during the course of the day – it is my favorite time of all. Usually we have something bad come into the clinic, anything from a scalded child to a broken bone, but this year we had a man come in with a severe leg infection, which we treated. The gratitude of the people makes it all worthwhile.”

The students assisted in all areas of service, which began with a doctor’s diagnosis. The patients then visited the pharmacy to have their prescriptions filled. All visitors received Albendazole for parasitic infections caused by unsanitary water. They were also administered face cream as the dry weather in the area chaps their faces.

“We were able to give the Quechua people that came to our clinic things that most Americans think of as commonplace,” said Brown, who hails from Raymond. “A lot of medications we dispensed were to help things as simple as indigestion, and we gave out many pairs of reading glasses.”

Laken Burrell fits a patient with reading glasses.

Laken Burrell fits a patient with reading glasses.

In fact, glasses were a hot commodity for the Peruvian people. All of them were cherished, except for one pair.

“We found a pair of purple glasses that no one wanted,” said Swearingen, a Memphis, Tennessee, native. “It became everyone’s goal to find them a home. We passed them around, and all modeled them. Finally, on the very last day, an older man picked the purple glasses. We cheered and took his picture – it was phenomenal.”

Culture shock and language barriers provided some challenges for the students on the trip. It was difficult to communicate with the people in villages, who either spoke Quechua or Spanish.

“We were able to use Spanish translation cheat sheets to counsel patients,” Burrell said. “The Peruvians would laugh and giggle with us when we mispronounced virtually everything we attempted to say.”

Roland, who also hails from Madison, recounted an unusual but amusing experience while examining patients in one of the villages.

“I told Rachel that I thought I heard a bird in the room,” she said. “We couldn’t figure out where the noise was coming from. Then, the lady we were helping started laughing and lifted the bottom of her shirt. To our surprise, a baby chick walked out. That is definitely something you don’t see every day in an American pharmacy!”

Calvert, who is a preceptor for the school, is a veteran when it comes to missions and has enlisted the help of pharmacy students on various trips since 2005. By diagnosing, counseling, dispensing and immunizing, pharmacists are the most versatile health professionals in the mission field, he said.

“This type of service is so important to others, and being in the field teaches teamwork, self-discipline, gratitude, humility, flexibility and service to others,” he said. “It takes the focus off of ourselves and onto the work that we were created to do.”

Burrell, an Amory native, said the experience was significant.

“These people rarely see medical doctors and rarely experience relief from ailments that we are able to treat,” she said. “Not only were we able to make an impact in these people’s lives, but also we were able to learn more about pharmacy and apply our knowledge in a different way and in a foreign environment. Most importantly, we were able to cater to their souls and give them spiritual and physical healing.”

Staff Member Keeps Pharmacy School’s Equipment in Working Order

Derek Oglesby

Derek Oglesby

A leap of faith brought Lowndes County native Derek Oglesby to the University of Mississippi.

“I hail from ‘Bulldog country,'” Oglesby said. “Ole Miss was never really on my list as one of the places I expected to work when I grew up.”

That changed, however, when Oglesby applied for a position with the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Marijuana Research Project 14 years ago. Hired as a groundskeeper, he eventually transitioned to the National Center for Natural Products Research’s Maynard W. Quimby Medicinal Plant Garden and served as an associate research and development horticulturist.

Growing up around farmland, Oglesby fit in well at the garden. During his tenure there, he worked with the resident botanist to improve the quality of tools and products used to assist research. He designed and built an array of these tools, some of which included wooden arbors and a trellis for climbing medicinal plant species, a mechanical dryer used to dry harvested plant materials under specific research parameters, and a plant propagator. He also made improvements and advancements to the plant specimen grinding program.

Oglesby said he is particularly proud of his involvement in the construction of the medicinal plant garden at its new location.

“It was very rewarding to get to work so closely with the architects, Facilities Planning, the Office of Research and NCNPR administration throughout that entire project from design to completion,” he said. “The garden has been an important part of the school’s research program since it began in 1965. We wanted to ensure that the new facility would not lose its rich history but would be able to thrive well into the future.”

After 12 years, Oglesby joined the school’s then-new Technical Services team, which provides an array of services, from maintaining the school’s vehicles to attending to large-scale mechanical systems and problems.

“Derek has quite a rapport with UM Facilities Management,” said Don Stanford, assistant director of the school’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and head of the Technical Services team. “They trust his judgment and advice. He doesn’t just report problems, he offers solutions.”

While Oglesby’s day-to-day tasks can vary, one constant exists.

“The School of Pharmacy has some of the best academic and research programs you will find, and my job is to do my part to ensure those programs and people experience the least disruptions possible from their work environment and the equipment they use each day,” Oglesby said. “If the day has gone smoothly for our faculty, researchers and staff, then I have had a successful day.”

Oglesby said that the most satisfying part about his job is his relationship with co-workers who have become like family.

“(My co-workers) have supported me and my family during some difficult times,” he said. “I know the school is the right fit for me and could not imagine working anywhere else.”

Steadfast Retiree Continues to Have Impact on Pharmacy School

Robert Bishop reflects on nearly 50 years of memories

Robert Bishop

Robert Bishop

OXFORD, Miss. – When looking back over his nearly 50 years at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, Robert Bishop remembers his friends the most.

“I made some very good friends at the pharmacy school,” he said. “I’ve had a really wonderful time here. Time really does fly when you’re having fun.”

Bishop, who was hired in 1968 as a stockroom clerk and eventually promoted to buyer, performed a variety of tasks to support the school.

“Basically, I took care of the stockroom,” he said. “I kept up with the school’s vehicles, set up seminars and worked with solvents. There were 3,000 gallons of solvents in bulk 55-gallon drums that we had to pour in 1-gallon bottles for our researchers. It took four hours to pour them.”

Bishop worked under five deans, each of whom had different personalities, he said. One memory that comes to his mind is a prank pulled on Ken Roberts, who served as dean in the ’90s.

“We had a big meeting in the Y building, where they were serving lunch,” Bishop said. “Most people who knew Dean Roberts at the time knew he would only drink Diet Coke. We took all the Diet Cokes out of the cooler and waited for him to come by. You should have seen his face. It was all in good fun, though – we hit it off really well.”

Outside the pharmacy school, Bishop was a tank commander in the Mississippi National Guard for almost 30 years. He credits the school with giving him the flexibility to serve when duty called.

An avid outdoorsman, Bishop hunts and fishes regularly – he’s even hunted elk in the Tetons. This could be the reason for his levelheadedness the time a deer ended up in the stockroom.

One of Smith's favorite pastimes is crappie fishing.

One of Smith’s favorite pastimes is crappie fishing.

“There are often deer on campus, but I didn’t believe it when they first told me there was one in the stockroom,” Bishop said. “Then I heard it hit the shelves. It was a mess. We finally managed to lure it out.”

Bishop has been described as honest, hardworking and dedicated. According to Don Stanford, assistant director for the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, these descriptors couldn’t be more accurate.

“Robert always puts the School of Pharmacy first,” Stanford said. “He’s truly concerned about the certain aspects of the school that he’s involved with. He wants to see things done properly and efficiently, and takes it upon himself to see tasks through.”

One example of his commitment to the school was on a recent snow day, Stanford said.

“I woke up that morning and got a RebAlert text stating that the university wouldn’t open until 10 a.m.,” Stanford said. “The first thing I did was call Robert. He was just a few minutes away from driving to Oxford. He had no intentions of even asking anybody if the university was closed or open.”

Bishop officially retired from the school in 2009 but has continued working part time and is still going strong. While working for the school full time, he said the key to his success was his effort to go “above and beyond” as much as possible.

“I tried to give the school the best service that someone could possibly give,” Bishop said. “I thought if I could do that, I’d be respected. I also tried to make everyone enjoy working here.”

UM Student Appointed to ASHP Student Executive Committee

Gabe Hinojosa of Picayune among five students nationally named to panel

Clinical assistant professor Joshua Fleming (left) and student Gabe Hinojosa at ASHP’s summer meeting.

Clinical assistant professor Joshua Fleming (left) and student Gabe Hinojosa at ASHP’s summer meeting.

OXFORD, Miss. – The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has appointed Gabe Hinojosa, a University of Mississippi pharmacy student, to its Pharmacy Student Forum Executive Committee.

“The executive committee is responsible for advising the ASHP board of directors and staff on the overall direction of the Pharmacy Student Forum,” Hinojosa said. “In everything we do, our overarching goal is to provide students around the nation with the information and tools they need to be successful leaders in their communities and advance the profession of pharmacy.”

ASHP’s president appoints five students from across the nation to the Student Forum Executive Committee each year.

Hinojosa, a Picayune native in his fourth professional year of pharmacy school, has served in various leadership positions within ASHP at local, state and national levels. He served as the president of the pharmacy school’s Student Society of Health-System Pharmacists and on ASHP’s Leadership Development Advisory Group this year.

Hinojosa was recently given the Bruce Parks Memorial Mississippi Society of Health-System Pharmacists Student Award. The award is presented to a student who exemplifies “outstanding integrity, leadership and a strong desire to enhance the mission of health-system pharmacy in Mississippi,” according to MSHP.

Joshua Fleming, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice and newly inducted chair of ASHP’s New Practitioner Forum Executive Committee, will advise Hinojosa in his new role.

“I am very excited about Gabe’s appointment,” Fleming said. “Throughout his tenure at the School of Pharmacy, he has exhibited exemplary leadership. I look forward to working with him in a mentoring relationship for his new role in ASHP.”

Hinojosa, who was installed at ASHP’s summer meeting in June, said he is excited to serve students across the country.

“The thing I am looking forward to the most during my appointment is the relationships I will build and the people I will meet,” he said. “I love meeting new people and hearing about the amazing things they are doing for our profession in their home state.

“It is even more rewarding when you meet someone who is facing a problem you have already overcome and you are able to provide (that person) with ideas and resources to do the same.”

On-campus Pharmacy Provides Vital Services for Quarter-century

Facility serves campus community and offers educational experiences for pharmacy residents

Chad Westmoreland (left), Michael Warren, Sandy Bentley, Erin Murphy, Alyson Hamm and Anne Marie Liles

Chad Westmoreland (left), Michael Warren, Sandy Bentley, Erin Murphy, Alyson Hamm and Anne Marie Liles

OXFORD, Miss. – Conveniently located near the heart of campus, the Student Health Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi has been helping students with their medical needs for 25 years.

The Student Health Pharmacy is administered by the School of Pharmacy, under the direct leadership of co-directors Sandy Bentley and Anne Marie Liles.

“Our pharmacy provides on-campus pharmacy resources for students, from prescription medications to direct patient care services, such as tobacco cessation counseling and immunizations,” said Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs for the pharmacy school. “With the recent reorganization to include a co-director of clinical services, we plan to continue to provide stellar medication delivery and counseling while expanding the clinical pharmacy services provided for our students and employees.”

Bentley, director of operations, said that the pharmacy primarily exists for the students.

“We exist to take care of their needs,” Bentley said. “We offer quick services, especially for students who need to get back to class. That’s the whole idea of having a health center on campus.”

Student Health Center pharmacists provide informational counseling to those students who are getting a prescription for the first time.

One of the staff pharmacists, Chad Westmoreland, said he finds it rewarding to provide services to the students.

“I answer any type of questions they have and educate them on prescription uses, so it’s nice to get to interact with students one-on-one,” Westmoreland said.

The clinic also provides counseling for students and employees who are trying to quit smoking and using tobacco products.

“I am the primary tobacco cessation provider in the pharmacy,” Bentley said. “Students are able to quit tobacco, but the most important factor is their desire or motivation to quit tobacco use.”

The pharmacy offers immunizations and vaccines to students without an appointment. Often, these are vaccines required for different medical majors. Students in health care-related fields are required to have hepatitis B, chicken pox and yearly flu shots.

Michael Warren, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, provides vaccinations for students who are going on mission trips and other studies abroad. Employees also can take advantage of this service when traveling abroad.

Liles, who serves in the new role of clinical director of the pharmacy, is working to further develop existing clinical pharmacy services and expand these into new areas for both students and campus employees. She said she hopes to offer disease and medication management as well.

“There are many unique aspects about working for a pharmacy on a university campus,” Liles said. “Certainly, the patient population is the most unique. When pharmacies in the community develop clinical services, college students are not the typical targeted population. So finding out what their needs are and how to address them is definitely a challenge.”

The Student Health Pharmacy works closely with professional pharmacy students, who receive hands-on training while completing Introductory or Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences.

“We take pharmacy students on rotation,” Bentley said. “The students have the opportunity to counsel patients, interact with the clinic physicians and shadow the nurses to learn more about health care delivery in this setting.”

Alex Hudson, a rising third-year professional pharmacy student, works with Bentley. He said that counseling patients on their new medications gives him a better understanding of the importance of the pharmacist-patient relationship.

“I could not be happier with my experience working at the Student Health Center Pharmacy,” Hudson said. “The hands-on experiences I am gaining have taught me so much and will allow me to be a better, more competent pharmacist.”

A Don of All Trades

Longtime pharmacy employee has many talents

OXFORD, Miss. – Whether at work or at home, Don Stanford is always looking for the next adventure.

Once featured on National Geographic’s website, this photo, shot by Stanford with a remote control camera, shows Stanford camped in a red oak.

Once featured on National Geographic’s website, this photo, shot by Stanford with a remote control camera, shows Stanford camping in a red oak.

“I really enjoy doing anything new or anything challenging,” Stanford said. “I’ll be right in the middle of those projects to try to shepherd things through and make things happen.”

Stanford is assistant director of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, part of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. He first began working with the school as a senior research technician in 1980.

“Don has been an integral part of our team for years,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “His talent is impressive on multiple levels.”

As assistant director of RIPS, Stanford oversees and directs the school’s infrastructure and research operations. He has organized a team that is responsible for facilities and information technology. The team is in charge of everything inside the school’s buildings, including research equipment.

Outside the School of Pharmacy, however, Stanford is just as ambitious. He said he loves to be outdoors and will “take any excuse to be outside.” A professional tree climber, Stanford has climbed trees that are 200 feet tall.

“For a while, I was going to the annual rendezvous for Tree Climbers International,” he said. “They held it in different places, in Oregon and Nebraska and Colorado. I would stay a week, and we would camp up in the trees.

“We would use a ‘tree boat’ to camp, which is a heavy-duty hammock that you sleep in. You use a harness to get up into the tree, and then you are anchored to a limb up above. When you sleep, you stay in that harness and never come out of it.”

In the past, Stanford has acted as a certified facilitator for various guided tree climbs.

“I’ve taken people up into trees – I always had extra equipment to rescue them if they got stuck,” he said. “People have their ceilings when it comes to heights. For some people it’s 20 feet off the ground, and for others it’s much higher.”

Stanford is also a member of an 800-acre hunting club in Lafayette County, though not for the reason one might think.

“I hardly ever hunt; it just gives me an excuse to go sit outdoors,” Stanford said. “I photograph the interesting things I see. I really enjoy nature photography.”

Stanford is known around the school for his interest in hot air ballooning. He began flying in 1979 after watching a PBS documentary about wildlife photographers using a balloon to photograph African animals.

After earning a commercial pilot license, which is required by the Federal Aviation Administration for passenger balloon pilots, Stanford flew at festivals in Canada and France. One of his most memorable flights was for a presidential candidate.

“In 1980 when Ronald Reagan was the Republican nominee for president, his campaign people hired me to fly at an outdoor rally in Columbus, Mississippi, where Mr. Reagan was to speak,” Stanford said. “The plan was for him to make his opening remarks; I would launch and fly over the stage while the audience was still applauding. Because it was very windy, we had to rush the launch and I interrupted Mr. Reagan in the middle of his opening remarks. He paused, looked up and said, ‘Wow!'”

Ole Miss Student Receives National Pharmacy Scholarship

Kelsey Stephens honored for leadership and commitment to profession

Kelsey Stephens (center) receives the Gloria Francke Scholarship from Lucy West, national APhA-ASP president, and Nick Capote, outgoing APhA-ASP president.

Kelsey Stephens (center) receives the Gloria Francke Scholarship from Lucy West, national APhA-ASP president, and Nick Capote, outgoing APhA-ASP president.

OXFORD, Miss. – Kelsey Stephens, a rising third-year professional pharmacy student at the University of Mississippi, has been awarded the $1,000 Gloria Francke Scholarship from the American Pharmacists Association Foundation Student Scholarship Program.

APhA student scholarships are awarded to students who “demonstrate school and community leadership, and a commitment to the future of pharmacy,” according to the organization’s website.

A Greenwood native, Stephens has served as professional year one, or PY1, liaison for the Ole Miss chapter of APhA-Academy of Student Pharmacists and as the chapter’s president-elect.

Francke was a nationally renowned leader in pharmacy. She served in a number of significant roles, some of which included acting as assistant director of the APhA Division of Hospital Pharmacy, serving as a drug literature specialist and serving as the honorary president of APhA. She was also the owner and operator of Drug Intelligence Publications.

Joseph A. Dikun, Stephens’ APhA-ASP adviser, said he knew that she was the perfect fit for this scholarship because she exemplifies the same leadership that Francke did.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Kelsey grow as a leader over these past few years,” Dikun said. “Since she began her service to APhA-ASP, she has completely invested herself into the success of the chapter.”

Through her leadership positions in APhA-ASP, Stephens has worked with the pharmacy student executive committee, as well as with her fellow chapter members to help develop new projects and operations within the APhA-ASP chapter. Some of those include Generation Rx, Operation GameDay, fundraising events, a table etiquette dinner and Operation Breathe.

“(Kelsey) has been a shining example of picking up the torch to ensure that the work of past leaders has not been done in vain through her dedicated service to improve our APhA-ASP chapter,” Dikun said. “As a result of that service, she has created a valuable member experience and provided care to the local community.”

Stephens said she is thankful for APhA’s focus on “advocacy, responsibility, organization and communication skills.” She said she hopes her experience in APhA-ASP will help her bring about change locally and nationally while helping to improve patient care.

“I am truly honored to be selected as the 2015 Gloria Francke Scholar due to her legacy as an outstanding female pioneer in the profession of pharmacy,” she said. “I aspire to influence the pharmacy profession in the same manner as Gloria Francke.”

Student Conducts First Study on Autistic Adults’ Quality of Life

Research outlines essential roles of family and friends

Krutika Jariwala-Parikh

Krutika Jariwala-Parikh

OXFORD, Miss. – A doctoral student in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has conducted the first U.S. study on quality of life among adults with autism.

Krutika Jariwala-Parikh, who graduated in May with a Ph.D. in pharmacy administration, wrote her dissertation on “Quality of Life and Health Care Utilization and Costs among Adults with Autism.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Jariwala-Parikh’s study focuses on how the disorder affects adults – the first of its kind.

Rahul Khanna, assistant professor of pharmacy administration, and Donna West-Strum, professor and chair of pharmacy administration, worked with Jariwala-Parikh on the project. Both faculty members were co-chairs on her dissertation committee.

“While I was exploring potential dissertation topics in the autism area, Dr. Khanna suggested looking at adults with autism,” Jariwala-Parikh said. “After doing a detailed literature review in that area, I realized that very few studies focused on outcomes among adults with autism.”

Khanna, who has previously conducted autism-related research, helped Jariwala-Parikh with various facets of the study such as conceptualization and data analysis. They acquired data by surveying autistic adults who were registered with the Interactive Autism Network. The surveys sought to determine whether coping technique, social support, severity of autism and functional independence had an impact on the respondents’ quality of life.

Jariwala-Parikh found that how adults cope with autism has a profound influence on their quality of life. Her dissertation outlines three key areas where family and friends of individuals with autism can play an essential role: helping with social support, functional independence and coping.

“The results of the study suggest that better coping abilities, social support and functional independence can lead to better quality of life among adults with autism,” Jariwala-Parikh said. “Some of the negative effects of severity of autism can also be reduced if better coping and social support is provided to these individuals. The results of this study can direct clinicians and family members’ focus on issues, which are modifiable and can be improved – such as better social support and coping – to ensure better health among this population.”

The study is timely, as Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed an autism insurance reform bill into law March 26.

“I commend Dr. Jariwala-Parikh and her colleagues for focusing on such an important topic,” West-Strum said. “Her study provides insight into the types of interventions needed to improve quality of life in patients with autism.

“It is exciting to see how this research provides support for the Mississippi autism insurance reform bill. It will be important for researchers to continue this research to advance patient care for autism patients.”

Khanna agreed that the research has great potential to influence policy and patient care.

“We feel that policymakers, health care practitioners and family members could use our results to better assist individuals with autism in improving their quality of life,” he said. “Health care practitioners could emphasize the provision of support and the use of positive coping when providing treatment to individuals with autism. Policymakers could invest in developing interventions that teach autistic individuals about positive coping techniques.”

The study was funded through grants from the Organization for Autism Research and the UM Graduate Student Council. Jariwala-Parikh commended those who helped her with the project.

“I’d like to extend thanks to my co-chairs and other faculty members in the pharmacy administration department,” she said. “I would especially like to acknowledge all of our study respondents for their participation.”