O’Bannons Writing a Script for Student Success

Couple creates scholarship to support students in the UM School of Pharmacy

Linda and Chuck O’Bannon at home in Parsons, Tennessee.

Linda and Chuck O’Bannon at home in Parsons, Tennessee.

OXFORD, Miss. – On any given day, a visitor to Chuck O’Bannon’s home in Parsons, Tennessee, might find the retired pharmacist planting a garden, making preserves from blackberries and muscadines he grows or feeding the two canine “fur babies” who have adopted him and his wife, Linda.

You might just as easily find him painting and installing chair rails or hauling a load of walnut and cypress lumber, while Linda can probably be found working in her herb garden or tending to the many flowers and plants in their yard. Much of this is part of ongoing renovations to the countryside home on 20-plus wooded acres that the O’Bannons have enjoyed together for 17 years.

“We are busier now than we were before we retired,” said Linda, who’s not even really retired; she still works as a pharmacy consultant for nearby long-term care facilities. “Some days, Chuck will say, ‘What do you want to do today?’ and that’s just the most wonderful thing in the world to hear because that means we don’t have anything already planned.”

But those days are few and far between. The O’Bannons are accustomed to hard work; in fact, they thrive on it. They’ve done it all their lives: Chuck, as a delivery boy and occasional janitor for his father’s two Jackson, Tennessee, drugstores, and Linda as one of six children who were expected to earn their keep.

Hard work, they say, is what has allowed them to establish the Charles P. O’Bannon and Linda Rucker O’Bannon Scholarship Endowment in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy with a $700,000 planned gift.

“Many of our students deal with the same challenge Chuck and Linda O’Bannon faced on campus: the struggle to maintain their grades while also having to work their way through school,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “The O’Bannons’ generous gift will help alleviate some of that stress and we are extremely grateful for empathetic alumni like these who know the importance of private support.”

The O’Bannons’ work ethic is exceptional. Linda, who was raised on meager means in Kilmichael, followed her older brother, Bill Rucker, to Ole Miss and paid her way through college working for Wade Waters, then chair of the pharmacology department and distributor of student loans. She ultimately earned her pharmacy degree in 1969 at a time when few women chose the rigorous program and even fewer made it a career.

Likewise, Chuck earned his pharmacy degree in 1969 using veteran’s assistance he received after serving in the military following high school. At age 23, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Martin, where he studied three years before transferring to Ole Miss, where he was assigned Linda as a lab partner.

“Money from my family was almost nonexistent, but I received about $100 a month from a G.I. bill I had saved to use in college,” Chuck said. “I have always been so grateful for that assistance. I also worked in college to make a little extra money, but I can still tell you how many crackers you add to a pound of hamburger to make it go around.”

The O’Bannons hope their gift will help students avoid the financial pressure they experienced.

“If our gift can just give some encouragement to somebody who needs it, then it’s certainly worth it,” Linda said. “And we want what we’re giving to be ongoing support for generations of pharmacy students who may be challenged financially as we were. It’s our way of saying thank you for the opportunities our education at Ole Miss has given us.”

After college, Chuck and Linda started at what was then the bottom of the pharmacy profession’s food chain, with an annual salary between $6,000 and $12,000. Over time, they worked their way up, moving from place to place to better their standing in the field.

After six years in retail pharmacy, Chuck accepted the position of director of pharmacy in a Kentucky hospital owned by Hospital Corporation of America. He practiced there for 11 years before being transferred to a North Carolina HCA hospital. Following a corporate buyout, Chuck was transferred to a larger hospital in Nashville, where he served as director of several departments, including pharmacy.

“After a second buy-out that significantly changed patient care perspectives, I decided after 23 years as director of pharmacy to once again look at other areas of pharmacy practice, so I returned to retail,” Chuck said. “Five years later, I accepted an offer to enter long-term care pharmacy and remained there until I retired.”

Linda briefly worked as a retail pharmacist before becoming a hospital pharmacist for 13 years. In North Carolina, she became pharmacy director at a long-term care facility and has continued to work in a consulting capacity, helping long-term care facilities comply with government guidelines. She also was active for many years in the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, having served on the board of directors and as vice president of that organization, lobbying Washington on behalf of the profession.

Now, the O’Bannons enjoy their life in the country, entertaining friends in a breezy, shaded outdoor space that Linda decorated with easy chairs and slowly revolving ceiling fans. An industrial-size grill stands nearby, on which they often barbecue chickens, turkeys, ribs, beef brisket or wild game. Word has spread that Chuck has a knack for cooking meat to succulent perfection, using a method and special sauce he learned as a boy from sharecroppers on his grandfather’s farm.

Just four miles from the Tennessee River, Chuck fishes and hunts white-tail deer. The O’Bannons also enjoy traveling to Oxford, a central meeting spot for Linda’s scattered siblings, and to Canada and Alaska, where Chuck hunted big-horn sheep.

In the off-season, Chuck, a state champion marksman who was a member of the Air Force big-bore rifle team and lettered in intercollegiate small bore at UTM, indulges his love of hunting by teaching others to shoot. Among his many students was a brother-in-law of country music legend Hank Williams Jr.

Equally philanthropic, Linda volunteers to serve food to participants in the World’s Largest Coon Hunt, a wildly popular annual fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that draws hundreds of hunters to the community from across the country.

The O’Bannons’ planned gift gives them membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university welcomed its first students. The society recognizes generous donors who thoughtfully provide for the university through planned and deferred gifts.

Linda said those who inspired their career choice and ultimate gift to the university include her parents, who encouraged her to pursue a degree; her brother, Bill, also a successful pharmacist who encouraged her through college; Waters, who gave her a job in college; pharmacy alumnus Sonny Potts who was a special family friend and acted as her preceptor; Joe B. McCaskill; the late Kerby Ladner, director of the UM Bureau of Pharmaceutical Services; the late Dean Charles W. Hartman; former pharmacy professor Mickey Smith; and former development officer Sarah Hollis, who introduced the O’Bannons to the planned giving option.

“Linda and Chuck are the epitome of the Ole Miss family,” Hollis said. “They are loyal alumni who value their education and the experience they received at Ole Miss. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them.

“They have a genuine heart for their profession and believe in the strides that our School of Pharmacy is making in pharmacy education, clinical practice and ground-breaking research. Their legacy will be realized in the impact this gift makes on individual students and on the lives of patients when those students become capable practitioners as the O’Bannons have been throughout their careers.”

For more information about including the university in a will or other estate plans, contact the UM Foundation at 800-340-9542 or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/planning.

Ikhlas Khan Receives UM Distinguished Researcher Award

Associate director of National Center for Natural Products Research excels in leadership, scholarship

University of Mississippi Interim Vice Chancellor of Research and Sponsored Programs Josh Gladden presents Ikhlas A. Khan with the Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award during Commencement 2016. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

University of Mississippi Interim Vice Chancellor of Research and Sponsored Programs Josh Gladden presents Ikhlas A. Khan with the Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award during Commencement 2016. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – External recognition is always appreciated, but being honored internally by peers is far better. So says Ikhlas A. Khan, who received the University of Mississippi’s 2016 Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award on Saturday (May 14).

The UM research professor of pharmacognosy and associate director of the National Center for Natural Products Research was presented the prestigious honor, which includes $7,500 and a personal plaque, during the university’s annual Commencement ceremonies in the Grove.

“I was humbled and honored to be considered for this prestigious award,” Khan said upon learning of his latest accolade. “I have received many awards before, but getting recognition at home always has special meaning and is a feeling which is hard to describe.”

Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, said Khan is most deserving of the award.

“The University of Mississippi is fortunate to have had a very qualified pool of outstanding candidates for this year’s award,” Gladden said. “Each candidate is evaluated by a panel of distinguished researchers from across the UM research community, and Dr. Khan quickly rose to the top.

“Dr. Khan’s prolific and impactful work has been well recognized on a national and international level, and we are pleased to recognize his accomplishments on his home campus.”

Khan also recently received the IAMSTAM Zandu International Award for Excellence in the Field of Ayurvedic and/or Natural Products and the Outstanding Contribution in Natural Products Research/Water’s Corp.

He holds a doctorate in pharmacy from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology in Munich, Germany, and joined UM as a research scientist in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1992. Because of his valuable contributions and potential for leadership, he was appointed as a research assistant professor in the university’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Department of Pharmacognosy three years later.

In 2001, Khan was promoted to associate professor and in 2002 became NCNPR assistant director. Within three years, he was again promoted to professor, and promoted to his current position in 2015. Khan also serves as director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Excellence, Sino-US TCM Research Center and Center for Research of Indian Systems of Medicine at UM.

During his tenure at the university, Khan’s scientific achievements have gained him international recognition as a scholar, leader and innovator. He is renowned for his collaborative work with the U.S. FDA to ensure quality and safety of botanical dietary supplements worldwide.

His other honors include the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Director’s Special Citation Award, Varro E. Tyle Prize from the American Society of Pharmacognosy and ABC’s Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award.

Khan has authored or co-authored more than 600 refereed journal articles, served on dissertation committees for 29 graduate students and trained more than 100 post-doctoral associates and visiting scholars. He serves/served as an editorial or advisory board member for more than 15 international research journals and has presented over 100 invited lectures globally.

As a principal or co-principal investigator, he has generated more than $30 million in external funding for NCNPR research in the last 15 years. Khan serves as PI in UM’s cooperative agreement with FDA and as a co-PI in the NIDA Marijuana Project.

His professional memberships include the International Society of Ethnopharmacology, New York Academy of Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, American Society of Pharmacognosy, International Society for Horticultural Science, American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and many more.

“It is very gratifying to us in NCNPR to see Dr. Khan’s career research contributions recognized in this way by the University community,” said Larry A. Walker, NCNPR director and research professor. “The laboratory pursuits in his group have greatly contributed to scientific reference standards and methods for botanical identity, purity and safety.

“Just as importantly, his interface with industry, regulatory groups, scientific and trade associations, government health agencies, and research collaborators worldwide have framed a robust dialog and raised awareness for higher quality and greater accountability in the marketing and regulation of herbal and medicinal products.”

Khan already has plans for how he will spend funds that come with his award.

“I’m going to celebrate with the people who contributed through their hard work to achieve this award,” he said.

Khan and his wife, Shabana, a principal scientist at NCNPR, have a son, Farjad, a third-year pharmacy student at Ole Miss, and a daughter, Sariya, who is graduating from Oxford High School and has been accepted into the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Created in 2008, the annual honor recognizes a faculty member who has shown outstanding accomplishment in research, scholarship and/or creative activity. It is sponsored by Pharmaceutics International Inc., whose CEO, Syed Abidi, is a UM alumnus. 

Much like Hall of Fame inductions, recipients can receive the honor only once. Nominees must be an associate or full professor (including research associate professors or research professors who are not tenure-track faculty) and must have been continuously employed full-time by the university for at least five years.

UM Dedicates Natural Products Training Center

Waters Corp.-partnered facility houses equipment for international scientific training

Participants in the 16th annual International Conference on the Science of Botanicals toured the Natural Products Training Center following its dedication ceremony. (Photo by Kevin Bain, UM Imaging Services)

Participants at the 16th annual International Conference on the Science of Botanicals toured the Natural Products Training Center following its dedication ceremony. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy and National Center for Natural Products Research, in partnership with Waters Corp., dedicated a state-of-the-art natural products training center including laboratories, an informatics suite and lecture space on Wednesday (April 13).

Alice Clark, UM vice chancellor of University Relations, welcomed participants and observers to the ceremony in the new Thad Cochran Research Center-West Wing. Making remarks were David D. Allen, dean of the pharmacy school; Steve McDonough, vice president of Waters’ North American field operations; Diane Diehl, Waters’ director of pharmaceutical marketing; and Larry Walker, NCNPR director.

The Natural Products Training Center was developed through collaboration between Ole Miss researchers and Waters Corp., said Don Stanford, assistant director of the university’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“NPTC will provide hands-on training in plant taxonomy, laboratory analytical techniques and quality standards for botanical-based products,” Stanford said. “In addition, the NPTC will expand the capabilities of the School of Pharmacy to discover new drugs and to expand the scientific knowledge base of medicinal plants and other natural products.”

Attendees at the International Conference on the Science of Botanicals, going on this week at the Oxford Conference Center, were invited to the ceremony, along with university administration, economic development, research park, legislative and local government officials. A reception and guided tours of the TCRC West Wing followed.

The training center includes five laboratories, occupying 3,000 square feet, that can be used to educate government officials, academic or industry professionals, and scientists on best practices in natural products and botanical dietary supplements. Courses taught by NCNPR personnel will offer hands-on training in laboratory methods, plant taxonomy and quality systems for laboratories, including guidance in good manufacturing practices for dietary supplements.

In addition, a number of support areas will be involved with NPTC workshops, including conference rooms and offices.

“This training lab was created while keeping the future of the dietary supplement industry in mind,” said Ikhlas A. Khan, NCNPR associate director. “This will be a great resource for people to get hands-on training and develop the skills to implement good manufacturing practices.”

Kelly Johnson (left), senior manager of worldwide strategic relations for Waters Corp. asks a UM pharmacy school student about research that will be conducted in the NPTC. (Photo by Kevin Bain, UM Imaging Services)

Kelly Johnson (left), senior manager of worldwide strategic relations for Waters Corp., asks a UM pharmacy school student about research that will be conducted in the NPTC. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

NCNPR scientists leading one-, three- and five-day courses include Khan, Bharathi Avula, YanHong Wang, Vijay Raman and Lal Jayaratna.

According to the center’s mission, it will serve to ensure uniform scientific standards in the advancement of commercially viable natural products by “demonstrating leading-edge techniques using world-class analytical instrumentation.”

Waters provided several cutting-edge analytical systems and software as part of establishing the laboratory. These include three liquid chromatography/mass spectrometer systems, as well as an accelerated supercritical fluid extraction system, each designed for various applications.

“The ACQUITY UPLC/TQ-S® tandem quadrupole mass spectrometer provides ultimate sensitivity to identify and quantitate trace-level constituents of natural products,” Stanford said.

“Two other high-performance and ultra-performance liquid chromatographs, coupled to mass spectrometers, photodiode array and evaporative light-scattering detectors, will offer training experience in a multitude of applications. The Waters Empower enterprise network system will allow multiple users in the NPTC informatics training lab to control the instruments remotely.”

“Waters is committed to partnering with world-class experts to foster new ideas and promote innovation,” said Steve McDonough, vice president of Waters’ North American field operations. “The facility will increase scientific and regulatory knowledge and promote the use of global best practices in dietary and botanical supplement testing.”

The UM School of Pharmacy has long been involved in natural products research and education. The Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences was founded in 1964 to explore natural products as sources for new drugs and new agricultural crops that would benefit Mississippi.

The NCNPR was founded in 1996 to discover new plant-derived pharmaceuticals and agrichemicals. After a partnership with FDA since 2000, the NCNPR botanical program was designated as the FDA Center of Excellence on Botanical Dietary Supplement Research in 2013.

Waters Corp. develops and manufactures advanced analytical and material science technologies for laboratory dependent organizations. For more than 50 years, the company has pioneered a connected portfolio of separation science, laboratory information management, mass spectrometry and thermal analysis systems.

For more information about the NPTC, visit http://umnptc.org.

Natural Products Center Hosts Annual Botanicals Conference

April 11-14 sessions to focus on regulatory issues in dietary supplements and cosmetics

The event hosted by the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy's National Center for Natural Products Research is scheduled April 11-14 at the Oxford Conference Center.

The event hosted by the School of Pharmacy’s National Center for Natural Products Research is scheduled for April 11-14 at the Oxford Conference Center.

OXFORD, Miss. – The 16th annual Oxford International Conference on the Science of Botanicals, the premier annual event for examining medicinal plants and dietary supplements, will bring together research, regulatory and industry representatives to focus on quality and safety of dietary supplements.

Hosted by the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s National Center for Natural Products Research, the event is scheduled April 11-14 at the Oxford Conference Center. More than 300 participants from around the globe are expected to attend.

This year’s event is also in conjunction with the Interim Meeting of the American Society of Pharmacognosy, the leading scientific society for the study of drugs derived from natural products.

“For the botanical supplement world, there is no other meeting quite like this,” said Larry Walker, NCNPR director. “Regulatory agencies, trade associations, quality assurance, and analytical and safety people, as well as physicians, toxicologists and media representatives will be offering their perspectives on botanicals 22 years after the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.”

That theme is the topic of the conference’s opening session and the keynote address to be delivered by Steven Musser, deputy director for scientific operations of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. As deputy director, Musser is responsible for promoting and protecting the public’s health by ensuring that the nation’s food supply is safe, sanitary, wholesome and honestly labeled. He also ensures that cosmetic products are safe and properly labeled.

Musser joined CFSAN in 1991 as a research chemist and became the branch chief of the Instrumentation and Biophysics Branch in 1998. In 2005, he was appointed director of the Office of Scientific Analysis and Support, and following centerwide reorganization in 2007, he became director of the newly formed Office of Regulatory Science.

As the ORS director, Musser oversaw an extensive research portfolio supporting a number of priority food and cosmetic programs, including research on foodborne pathogens, chemical contaminants, natural toxins and dietary supplements.

The opening session of the conference also features an officer from American Society of Pharmacognosy and a welcome by UM Chancellor Jeffery S. Vitter.

The conference’s first session focuses on an update and future perspectives from the regulators. Sau “Larry” Lee, acting associate director of FDA; Cara Welch, acting deputy director of FDA; Rahaul Pawar, research chemist in CFSAN-FDA; and Yitong Liu, senior staff fellow and research pharmacologist in CFSAN-FDA, will provide those perspectives.

In other sessions:

  • CDC Medication Safety Program, RIVM and USADA executives will discuss the safety of dietary supplements;
  • Hunan University of Chinese Medicine, Jamia Hamdard, Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Ohio University and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health clinicians will discuss natural products discovery and development;
  • CDER-FDA, GW Pharmaceuticals and UAB Epilepsy Center officials will discuss prospects for naturally derived cannabinoids as FDA-regulated therapeutics;
  • SafetyCall International, Einstein Healthcare Network, Thorne Research and Consortium for Health and Military Performance managers will discuss clinical toxicology investigations impacting supplement safety surveillance;
  • FDA, Aveda International, UM and British Essential Oils Association scientists will discuss natural products and cosmetics;
  • NIST, BI Nutraceuticals, Missouri Botanical Garden, USDA, University of Johannesburg, University of Illinois at Chicago and Integra Healthcare officials will discuss botanical reference material and authentication;
  • University of Arkansas, Procter & Gamble and UM scientists will talk about safety assessment of botanicals, psrticularly herb-drug interactions;
  • University of Illinois, Blackmore Research Institute and University of Karachi researchers will discuss international perspectives on botanical research;
  • Institute for Food and Drug Control, American Botanical Council and UNPA representatives will talk about botanical development and regulation;
  • Lehman College, University of Talca and University of Regensburg scientists will discuss natural product discovery and regulation;
  • Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Second Military Medical University and Tasly Academy scientists will share international efforts on the development of traditional Chinese medicines;
  • National University of Malaysia, China Medical University and Ewha Woman’s University researchers will discuss international efforts on the development of herbal medicines;
  • FDA, CFSAN and UM scientists will discuss DNA authentications;
  • Agilent Technologies and Waters Corporation scientists will discuss quality assessment of natural products;
  • Maryland University of Integrative Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Emory University, Tasly Academy and Zayed Herbal Complex will discuss safety and efficacy.

In the conference’s closing session, representatives from the American Herbal Products Association, Council for Responsible Nutrition and Natural Products Association will provide industry reaction to information and opinions shared during previous sessions.

The conference is supported by a cooperative agreement between the NCNPR and the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

“Our mission is to put science behind dietary supplements, natural products and traditional forms of medicine,” said Ikhlas Khan, assistant director of the natural products center, director of NCNPR’s FDA Center for Excellence in Botanicals and the conference coordinator.

“This year, we’re fulfilling that mission by enabling government, industry, trade, clinical and media representatives to share their perspectives, experiences and concerns about pressing issues affecting botanical dietary supplements with each other, as well as the conference’s more-than-300 attendees.”

The Waters Corp., United Natural Products Alliance and Agilent Technologies are the event’s major sponsors.

For a complete conference schedule, visit http://oxfordicsb.org.

Pharmacy Alumni Weekend to be Held April 15-16

Reunion to feature cookout, golf tournament, banquet and more

 Last year, first-year professional pharmacy students took home a win at the School of Pharmacy Scholarship Golf Tournament.

Last year, first-year professional pharmacy students took home a win at the School of Pharmacy Scholarship Golf Tournament.

OXFORD, Miss. – With several new and exciting events on the schedule, the School of Pharmacy‘s annual Pharmacy Alumni Weekend is slated for April 15-16 in Oxford.

Pharmacy alumni from the classes of 1956, 1966, 1976, 1986, 1991, 1996 and 2006 (Pharm.D.) will be celebrated this year.

“I’m particularly excited about this year’s Pharmacy Weekend,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “We have some fun things planned. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect with our alumni – it’s one of my favorite times of the year.”

The weekend will begin with the annual School of Pharmacy Scholarship Golf Tournament at 11 a.m. Friday morning at the Ole Miss Golf Course.

This year, the golf tournament will be part of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Alumni Cup. Dixon Golf will be on the course for an added competition. The tournament’s proceeds support the Pharmacy Alumni Chapter Scholarship, which was fully endowed in 2012.

The dean’s reception begins at 6 p.m. at Bryant Hall, hosted by Allen and his wife, Loree, and sponsored by Bob Broadus.

A recognition breakfast honoring the 50- and 60-year classes is set for Saturday morning at the Triplett Alumni Center, followed by a continuing education program.

This year, a cookout at 12:30 p.m. will allow alumni and friends to gather at the Thad Cochran Research Center and enjoy catering from Taylor Grocery.

“The new Pharmacy Weekend cookout will allow alumni to reconnect and afford them the opportunity to see pharmacy buildings that are either brand new or newly renovated,” said Scott Thompson, the school’s alumni officer. “The cookout, like all Pharmacy Weekend events, is open to all School of Pharmacy alumni and friends, not just those celebrating reunions.”

Following the cookout, there will be a facilities tour that showcases the school’s new research building, skills training laboratory and more.

To close out the weekend, the Pharmacy Awards Banquet and Class Reunion Dinner will be held at 6 p.m.int the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. The evening will honor all reunion classes and the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year, Todd Sandroni.

To register online, visit http://www.olemissalumni.com/events. For more information, contact Scott Thompson at sthompson@alumni.olemiss.edu.

Abramowitz to Deliver Charles W. Hartman Memorial Lecture

Speaker is an expert on the effects of quality pharmacy care on patient outcomes, health care costs

Paul W. Abramowitz, chief executive officer of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, will give the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy's 2016 Charles W. Hartman Memorial Lecture.

Paul W. Abramowitz, chief executive officer of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, will give the School of Pharmacy’s 2016 Charles W. Hartman Memorial Lecture.

OXFORD, Miss. – Paul W. Abramowitz, chief executive officer of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, will give the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s 2016 Charles W. Hartman Memorial Lecture.

The lecture, which is sponsored by the pharmacy school, is set for 11 a.m. Thursday (March 31) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

“We are thrilled to host Paul Abramowitz as our 2016 Hartman lecturer,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “He has an extraordinary background in practice, teaching and research. His leadership focused on the advancement of pharmacy practice is unprecedented. This is an amazing opportunity for our faculty, staff and students to interact with such an outstanding leader.”

The speaker has lectured extensively and also been published on the effect quality pharmacy care can have on improving patient outcomes and reducing costs. He has also lectured and written about developing new care models, reducing adverse drug events and expanding comprehensive pharmacy care to the ambulatory setting.

Abramowitz heads the ASHP, which represents pharmacists who serve as patient care providers in acute and ambulatory settings. Some 43,000 members constitute the group, which includes pharmacists, student pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

Before he joined the group in 2011, Abramowitz worked in hospitals and health systems for 34 years. He was associate hospital director for professional services and chief pharmacy officer at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and is a professor emeritus at the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy. He also was director of pharmacy and associate professor at the Medical College of Virginia and the University of Minnesota.

He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from Indiana University, a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Toledo and Pharm.D. from the University of Michigan.

Abramowitz serves on the boards of the National Patient Safety Foundation, the American Nurses Foundation, the Pharmacy Quality Alliance, the Council for Pharmacy Practice Accreditation and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. He also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy.

The Hartman Lecture was established at UM in 1973 to honor the late Charles W. Hartman, who was dean of the pharmacy school from 1961 until his death in 1970. Former lecturers include Lois Margaret Nora, president and CEO of the American Board of Medical Specialties; former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter; and U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott. Pharmacy alumna and author Susan A. Cantrell delivered the lecture in 2015.

For more information or assistance related to a disability, email sopdean@olemiss.edu or call 662-915-7267.

Alumnus Establishes Pharmacy Scholarship to Honor Mentor

John Dewey Owings Jr. influenced generations of pharmacists

Tina Red (left), Romelle Gibson, David D. Allen, Jessie Hamilton, Michael May, Judy Birmingham, Jerry Morgan and Susie Morgan at Okolona Drug

Tina Red (left), Romelle Gibson, UM pharmacy Dean David Allen, Jessie Hamilton, Michael May, Judy Birmingham, Jerry Morgan and Susie Morgan enjoy a visit at Okolona Drug.

OXFORD, Miss. – If you ask Sidney Gerald “Jerry” Morgan about why he chose pharmacy, he’ll tell you about his mentor and champion of the career, John Dewey Owings Jr.

“(Owings) was like a father figure to me,” Morgan said. “He was a great influence, and I would probably not have gone to pharmacy school if it weren’t for him.”

Morgan and his wife, Susie, have created the John Dewey Owings Memorial Scholarship at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy to honor the man who first steered Morgan toward his longtime profession.

The scholarship serves to support students in the professional pharmacy program who are Mississippi residents with first preference being given to those from Noxubee and Chickasaw counties.

“This scholarship is a great way to honor (Owings’) lifetime legacy,” said Morgan, who earned his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from UM in 1972.

It all started in 1950, when Owings opened Owings Drug in Brooksville. He had just graduated from the Ole Miss pharmacy school after serving in the military as a B-52 pilot in World War II.

Morgan began working at Owings Drug at the “ripe old age” of 13. He spent summers, weekends and holidays at the store until he was in college, learning all about the profession along the way.

Like Owings, Morgan enrolled in pharmacy school following his service in the Vietnam War.

“I feel so fortunate to have been able to go to school where (Owings) went,” Morgan said.

Owings not only inspired Morgan but also his son, John Dewey Owings III, to attend pharmacy school at Samford University, as well as his granddaughter Laney Owings to attend pharmacy school at Ole Miss, where she earned her Pharm.D. last spring.

“I remember when I was struggling with career paths and changing majors, and my father reassured me by saying ‘no education is ever wasted,'” John Dewey Owings III said. “He was a wonderful father and role model, and Jerry is right there with him.”

Laney Owings recalled a number of fun stories about her grandfather. For one, she always wondered why she couldn’t find her grandfather’s composite photo at the school. Her father told her that he was likely fishing when it was time to take the photo.

“My grandmother Susie once told me that while living in Oxford, she worked with William Faulkner’s daughter, and that Mr. Faulkner would always have to give her a ride home from work when he came to pick up his daughter,” she said. “My grandfather was otherwise occupied with fishing.”

John Dewey Owings Jr. greatly influenced Morgan’s life and inspired him to be the best pharmacist he could be.

“He was an excellent pharmacist and was ahead of his time as far as innovation,” Morgan said. “He cared for the people of his community and tried to help everyone as much as he could. He was a great sponsor of athletics, a Boy Scout leader and friend. He would do anything in the world for anyone.”

Following his graduation, Morgan also opened an independent pharmacy, Okolona Drug, in 1974. Though he sold the store in 2015, Morgan still works there a couple of days per week.

“Owning Okolona Drug gave me the opportunity to help many people,” Morgan said. “It was extremely rewarding to meet so many generations of customers and people who trusted me as a pharmacist. It was amazing to return the favor of being good to the community.”

Morgan credited his wife and two daughters, Amy Morgan Meyers, who earned a Pharm.D. at the university in 2007, and Stephanie Morgan Zippy, for their support.

John Dewey Owings III said he cherishes the memory of Morgan and his father.

“Jerry is the nearest thing that I have to a brother, and I could speak volumes about the wonderful things he has done for me before this immensely thoughtful gift,” he said. “We spent many days hunting and fishing, as well as time in the store. My entire childhood is filled with memories of adventures with Jerry and my dad.”

Laney Owings echoed her father’s sentiments.

“There are truly no words to express our deepest appreciation to Jerry,” she said. “I will always remember my grandparents as kind and humble people, but to have someone else not only recognize that but also memorialize it in such a way that carries on my grandfather’s legacy is incredibly meaningful.”

To contribute to the John Dewey Owings Memorial Scholarship, mail a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. For more information, contact development director Raina McClure at rmcclure@olemiss.edu.

UM Collaboration Leads to New Research Center in Poland

Pharmacy researchers excited about possibilities of three-year collaboration

Bialystok University of Technology’s Scientific and Research Centre

Bialystok University of Technology’s Scientific and Research Centre

OXFORD, Miss. – A new center devoted to natural products research has been dedicated at Bialystok University of Technology in Poland, due in part to collaboration with the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.

Located in Hajnowka and funded by the European Union, the state-of-the-art Scientific and Research Centre is overseen by Bialystok’s Faculty of Forestry. The center is strategically located near one of the oldest forests in Europe. Bialowieza Forest, which is 7,000 years old, holds great potential for the discovery of new natural products that could be used to develop medicines to treat abroad range of ailments.

“The new center will expand research capabilities of an existing team of scientists in Hajnowka,” said Jordan Zjawiony, UM professor of pharmacognosy. “It is the first center in Europe that is conveniently located within a natural setting. As such, there is endless potential for accelerated research on plants and fungi from this ancient forest.”

Zjawiony, who has worked with natural products for 26 years, was instrumental in the development of the center. He delivered a keynote address at the center’s opening in November.

Zjawiony gives a keynote address at the Scientific and Research Centre’s opening in November.

UM professor Jordan Zjawiony gives a keynote address at the Scientific and Research Centre’s opening in November.

“We found common interest with professor Zjawiony about the great natural resources of Bialowieza Forest,” said Slawomir Bakier, dean of the Faculty of Forestry and professor at Bialystok. “We have decided to develop collaboration between two laboratories, which initiated scientific and student exchange.”

Bakier said the center will provide a wide range of research possibilities.

“Our laboratories are very diverse and include areas to study entomology, waste forest products, environmental monitoring and genetics,” he said. “One is especially important: the supercritical fluid extraction lab. There are few labs of this nature in Poland, and even in Europe as a whole.”

Zjawiony will further collaborate with Bialystok and the new center through a three-year project funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (grant no. 1459504). The grant allows groups of Ole Miss students to travel to Europe each summer to conduct research in the Bialowieza Forest alongside Bialystok students and scientists.

The first year of the project went very well, Zjawiony said.

“Thanks to tremendous dedication of Bialystok scientists who voluntarily worked with our students, the first year of our project was successful,” he said. “With the new center in Hajnowka, I have high hopes for even greater collaboration in the future.”

UM Pharmacy Graduate Student Partners with St. Jude

Nick Keeling works to strengthen hospital safety

Nick Keeling

Nick Keeling

OXFORD, Miss. – Through a relatively new fellowship, a graduate student in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy is working at one of the world’s premier pediatric cancer research centers, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

Nick Keeling, who is pursuing a doctorate in pharmacy administration, is working under the hospital’s chief patient safety officer, James Hoffman, Pharm.D., and a team in St. Jude’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Keeling’s work is specifically focused on patient safety and medication outcomes.

The Jackson native said that his experience has been extremely gratifying.

“To be surrounded by so many talented people, and to know that you are serving to advance the mission of St. Jude, has been very rewarding,” he said. “This is my first time to work in a hospital setting, and I have been trying to absorb as much information as I can.”

Donna West-Strum, chair of the UM Department of Pharmacy Administration, and Hoffman created the Medication Safety and Outcomes Research Fellowship in 2013.

“This fellowship in medication safety and outcomes research provides our students with the opportunity to train at a top-tier hospital,” West-Strum said. “St. Jude offers specialized research programs that provide a rich student-learning experience and appropriately qualified and credentialed faculty members who the student can learn from.”

In his role, Keeling spends two days a week working at the hospital as a research assistant. His first project involved assessing St. Jude as a high-reliability organization through a survey with hospital leaders.

A high-reliability organization focuses on reducing patient harm to none, a practice encouraged by the Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.

Keeling is working on a project to evaluate hospital safety at St. Jude, which involves administering a survey on patient safety culture to hospital staff in various departments. The research team is analyzing the results, produced by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Hoffman, who is an investigator for St. Jude’s ongoing study on how to integrate pharmacogenetic information into patient care, said he has enjoyed working with Keeling.

“Nick has been able to quickly contribute on several important efforts as we’ve also given him exposure to the hospital environment,” Hoffman said. “I am also excited about the pharmacogenetics research project he is developing. Pharmacogenetics is a practice that improves patient safety at St. Jude, but it is not as widely adopted as it could be in other settings.”

Keeling was selected as the program’s second fellow because of his “excellent communication skills and analytical skills,” West-Strum said.

“We have outstanding graduate students who are looking for real-world experiences to use their research skills in outcomes and safety research,” she said. “This fellowship will help the research program at St. Jude, as well as give Nick access to outstanding research opportunities.”

Keeling said he knows this experience will prepare him for a future in health systems financing and innovation.

“Being able to work with such high-caliber researchers is going to serve me well as I move forward with my career,” he said. “I am thankful to the Department of Pharmacy Administration and St. Jude for this amazing opportunity.”

UM Professor Elected to National Environmental Toxicology Board

Kristine Willett to work with student leaders in new role

Kristine Willett

Kristine Willett

OXFORD, Miss. – Kristine Willett, professor of pharmacology and environmental toxicology at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has been elected to the board of directors for the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

SETAC is a not-for-profit global professional organization that promotes research related to environmental contaminants, education in environmental sciences and the use of science in environmental policy. Its board of directors represents the tripartite membership of the society, which includes academic, industry and government representatives.

“Collectively our task is to direct the affairs and policies of the society related to its committees, regional chapters and publications,” Willett said. “While we all work together to promote the mission of SETAC, in part my role is to be sure the academic perspectives are represented in decision making.”

Willett, who assumed the new role in November, serves as a liaison between the board and SETAC’s North American Student Advisory Council. Students make up 19 percent of SETAC North America, and Willett is passionate about her opportunity to make an impression on these members.

“Even in my short time in this position, I have been so impressed with the enthusiasm and motivation of the student leaders in NASAC,” she said. “I first became involved with SETAC as a graduate student, so I think it is absolutely critical to cultivate student participation and involvement with the society as a whole for the continued success of the organization.”

Stephen Cutler, chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences, said the appointment was meaningful for Willett, as well as for biomolecular sciences.

“Dr. Willett’s appointment brings great recognition to her and the School of Pharmacy,” Cutler said. “It’s especially impressive because it comes from her peers in acknowledgment of her scientific accomplishments.”