Pharmacy Students Win NCPA Presidential Scholarships

Ashley Culbertson and Lily Van honored for achievement, interest in community pharmacies

Lily Van

Lily Van

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi pharmacy students have won presidential scholarships from the National Community Pharmacists Association. Ashley Culbertson and Lily Van, both third-professional-year students, are among only 25 students nationally who received the $2,000 awards.

The NCPA represents the employees of more than 22,000 independent community pharmacies across the country, which dispense nearly half of the nation’s retail prescription medicines. The organization selects presidential scholarship recipients based on academic achievement, leadership qualities and an interest in independent pharmacy.

Culbertson, a native of Leland, said it was an honor to win the scholarship since so many qualified students apply.

“It was very rewarding to see that my hard work is paying off,” she said.

Alicia Bouldin, associate dean for outcomes assessment and learning advancement at the school of pharmacy, recommended Culbertson for the scholarship.

“I have noted that the most promising student leaders seem to have in common several desirable characteristics – among them intellectual curiosity, enthusiastic involvement and a generally positive perspective,” Bouldin said. “I have had the opportunity to observe in Ashley all three of these traits.”

Culbertson’s career goals include working in a community pharmacy to one day manage or own an independent store.

Ashley Culbertson

Ashley Culbertson

“I enjoy the front lines of assisting patients with a new prescription or even finding the correct over-the-counter product,” Culbertson said.


Van, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, said she was “ecstatic,” when she learned she won the scholarship.

“To be recognized for your achievements is something that is very touching and rewarding from a student perspective, and it helps to push me further in my career,” Van said.

Van serves on NCPA’s national Student Leadership Council. She hopes to work as a clinical pharmacist in a community setting and eventually become a director of clinical services in a community for underserved populations.

Donna Strum, chair of the pharmacy administration department, wrote a letter of recommendation for Van’s scholarship application.

“Lily is excited about the opportunities for pharmacists in the community setting and has a passion for advancing pharmacy practice,” Strum said. “She shares her positive experience with independent pharmacy with the other students and testifies how community pharmacists can provide services and make a positive difference in patient lives.”

Both Van and Culbertson expressed gratitude for the opportunity to further their education and their careers.

“I am extremely thankful to be a recipient this year because not only does it help to advance my education, but it has also afforded me great opportunities to network with pharmacy leaders from across the U.S.,” Van said. “Being part of NCPA has really opened my eyes to the world of independent pharmacy and how integral community pharmacists are in the patient care process.”

Larry Walker Retires as NCNPR Director

UM School of Pharmacy celebrates administrator's 35-year career

Larry Walker retires this month as director of the UM National Center for Natural Products Center after 35 years of service. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Larry Walker retires this month as director of the UM National Center for Natural Products Research after 35 years of service. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – On Dec. 31, Larry Walker retires as director of the National Center for Natural Products Research after 35 years of service to the University of Mississippi.

Walker began his career at Ole Miss in 1981 as a research assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy. In 1987, he led a natural products discovery biological screening program, setting him up to be involved with the creation of the natural products center.

When the NCNPR was founded in 1995, Alice Clark, the center’s first director, asked Walker to take on some interim administration duties as the associate director. In 2001, Clark became the university’s vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, and Walker became the center’s director, a position he has held for 15 years.

“Through distinguished research, visionary leadership, selfless service and strategic international relationships, Dr. Walker has shaped the culture and success of the NCNPR, the School of Pharmacy, our university and our community,” Clark said. “He leaves a legacy of achievement that will serve as the foundation for future success.”

During Walker’s time as director, the NCNPR, which is housed in the School of Pharmacy, made countless scientific discoveries and breakthroughs. He helped to create a repository of natural products and developed a number of high-throughput screens for natural products discovery.

“The drug discovery operation was probably one of the highest impact developments for our program,” Walker said. “We had a vision to create a program where we could collect natural products from all over the world, and then use the high-throughput screening to learn what was in there that might account for the activity.

“That was an exciting vision, even though today it’s a routine part of our work. At that time, it was an ambitious and expensive new enterprise.”

Walker also was instrumental in establishing and sustaining thriving partnerships between the NCNPR and the FDA and USDA. Some of these collaborations yield new pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and alternative crops for small farmers, while others provide valuable information about the makeup of commercially available supplements and medicines.

He also was involved heavily in the design, planning and outfitting of what became the Thad Cochran Research Center.

Although the NCNPR has grown into an international leader in natural products research, Walker knows there is work to be done.

“My greatest hope for the center is that we develop a broader interface with the private sector, and that eventually we’ll have a robust cluster of natural products-related industries in Mississippi,” Walker said. “We already have several small companies that have started and been very successful, but I think we could expand that greatly.”

Walker’s leadership of the NCNPR has “had an immeasurable impact not only on the school, but on the future of natural products,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean.

“The natural products center is successful not only because of his research and his leadership, but because of his unending compassion,” Allen said. “He is an incredible administrator, an excellent scientist and a wonderful friend.”

Walker says he will miss his colleagues and the center’s environment of collaboration and discovery.

“Back when I was doing more lab work day-to-day, very rarely would a week go by that you didn’t have something that was new or interesting,” Walker said. “It was really exciting to find that a plant makes a certain compound or impacts a cancer cell. Just to see something new like that every week and to think about how to use that to develop new drugs or generate new research ideas or utilize the expertise of a new collaborator – I’ll miss that.

“And I’ll miss the people, no doubt. Our group has a sense of family. If we have a success, it’s all of us that contribute to it. I think that’s very hard to find in a lot of our workplaces.”

Having lived in Oxford since 1981, Walker said his career has been all the more rewarding for having been spent at UM.

“I don’t think many people in my line of work get to spend their lives, their research careers in such a great setting as Oxford and Ole Miss,” Walker said. “It’s a small town with a lot of culture, a lot of history, a great place for family life, a great place for academic inquiry. To have had the privilege of working in a place like that all my life, it’s been a blessing.”

The School of Pharmacy celebrated Walker’s career with a retirement reception earlier this month.

Ikhlas Khan, the center’s associate director, will become director on Jan. 1, 2017.

Walker also will retire as associate director for research at the Cancer Institute in Jackson, where he has served for six years. He plans to spend more time with his wife, his five children and 13 grandchildren.

USDA Renews Drug Discovery Grant for Natural Products Center

University has held research grant since 1996

The NCNPR grew stevia and bitter gourd this summer at teh UM Medicinal Plant Garden as part of the USDA partnership. Photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

The NCNPR grew stevia and bitter gourd this summer at the UM Medicinal Plant Garden as part of the USDA partnership. Photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has renewed a grant for the National Center for Natural Products Research  to work on the discovery and development of bioactive products that have potential to become pharmaceuticals, agrichemicals or alternative crops for small farmers.

The grant project, “Discovery and Development of Natural Products for Pharmaceutical and Agrichemical Applications,” has been renewed every five years since it began in 1996. A panel of outside experts convened by the USDA’s Office of Scientific Quality Review reviews the project, which awards $2.4 million per year for five years.

This grant also helps to foster commercialization of newly discovered products that may have wide-ranging benefits, such as pesticides, antibiotics and anticancer agents. The research funded by this project is complementary to the university’s research and has resulted in patents for both pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals.

“We continue to appreciate the USDA’s support and partnership with the NCNPR and the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “This grant makes it possible for us to remain dedicated to the research of natural products to solve health and economic issues.”

The grant will be up for renewal again in 2021.

Pharmacy Administration Chair Named Associate UM Provost

Donna Strum hailed as 'outstanding leader and administrator'

Donna Strum, chair and professor of the University of Mississippi's Department of Pharmacy Administration, will become associate provost in 2017. Photo by Nathan Latil Ole Miss Communications

Donna Strum, chair and professor of the UM Department of Pharmacy Administration, will become associate provost in 2017. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Donna Strum, chair and professor of the University of Mississippi’s Department of Pharmacy Administration and research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the School of Pharmacy, will become associate provost in 2017.

A native of Germantown, Tennessee, Strum earned three degrees from UM, including a doctorate in pharmacy administration in 1999. After eight years on the faculty of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arkansas for Medicine Sciences, she returned to Ole Miss in 2008 as chair of pharmacy administration.

“I love being here at the university, and it was exciting to see this position open up because I thought it would be a good opportunity to really contribute to the university in a broader capacity,” Strum said.

During her eight years as chair, she helped to restructure the graduate curriculum, decreased the time needed to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacy administration and helped the department win the university’s Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education award.

Strum also helped create the “Educating Pharmacists in Quality” program, a teaching tool aimed at improving medical safety and quality of pharmacy care. The program, which is used around the world, won the 2015 Duncan Neuhauser Award from the Academy for Healthcare Improvement, and won Strum the 2016 Faculty Instructional Innovations Award from the UM pharmacy school.

“I have every confidence that Donna will do well as associate provost,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “Her balanced leadership of the Department of Pharmacy Administration has directly resulted in many of our school’s success and innovations.”

As a pharmacist and professor, Strum has focused on quantifying and measuring the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals and pharmacy care. She hopes this interest in evaluating and improving established processes will serve her when dealing with universitywide issues.

“I’m data-driven,” Strum said. “I appreciate data when making decisions, so I think that I’m capable of taking a lot of different pieces of information and sorting through them to find the best path.”

Interim Provost Noel Wilkin said he is honored to have Strum join the provost’s office.

“It is clear that she has distinguished herself as a respected leader,” Wilkin said. “She will bring unique abilities, perspectives and energy to the work that we do to facilitate the success of the university.”

Strum said that she will miss her department and her pharmacy research, but that she is looking forward to working with and contributing to the provost’s office.

“I hope to make a meaningful difference at this university for faculty and students, and I hope that being in a central position will allow me to make a positive impact across campus,” she said.

John Bentley, professor of pharmacy administration and research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, will become the new chair of the pharmacy administration department. Bentley called Strum “an outstanding leader and administrator.”

“She seeks input from individuals before making decisions and is fully capable of making and justifying decisions, even those that are challenging and potentially controversial,” Bentley said.

“She knows what it takes to be productive and successful, and understands the barriers to, and facilitators of, success. She understands the many facets of a comprehensive university such as the University of Mississippi.”

Strum assumes her new role Jan. 1, along with fellow associate provost, Rich Forgette, senior associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

UM Pharmacy Students to Test Clinical Skills in National Competition

Team to compete this weekend in Las Vegas

Colleen Riley

Colleen Riley

OXFORD, Miss. ­– Two students from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy will participate in the annual American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Clinical Skills Competition, where student pharmacists demonstrate their ability to analyze and respond to clinical pharmacy scenarios.

Colleen Riley of Kansas City, Missouri, and Cody Taylor of Booneville, both in their fourth year of the school’s professional program, are set to compete Saturday (Dec. 3) at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting in Las Vegas. They were chosen based on their performance in a local, similar competition hosted by the university’s student chapter of ASHP.

Both the local and national competitions require students to analyze a patient’s case and provide a comprehensive treatment plan using their knowledge of pharmacy. To prepare for the national competition, Riley and Taylor have studied the previous year’s competition topics and spoken with former competitors.

“First, you have to be able to prioritize the correct problem,” Taylor said. “You have to pick out what the patient’s most serious issue is.

“We have to quickly recall treatment options and guideline recommendations. Knowing drug classes and how to monitor these drugs, both therapeutically and toxicity, is also very important.”

Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor

Competitors are called on to demonstrate not only technical and scientific principles they learn in the classroom but also interpersonal and leadership skills that are required of pharmacists.

“The competition requires teamwork, efficiency, communication skills, problem-solving, time management and decisiveness,” Riley said. “We must work together to make decisions about ranking problems and treating them.”

The students “have done an excellent job at preparing for the competition,” said Joshua Fleming, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice and a co-adviser for the ASHP student chapter.

Riley and Taylor both hope to complete a Postgraduate Year One residency upon graduating. Taylor would like to continue into a PGY2 residency in critical care or infectious diseases, and Riley hopes to become a clinical pharmacist in a hospital.

“This competition will not only help me become a more competitive residency candidate but also improve upon the skills I will need to be a good resident and pharmacist,” Riley said.

UM Student Wins Independent Pharmacies Grant

Jasmine Turner honored for second straight year

Jasmine Turner. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Jasmine Turner. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Jasmine Turner, a fourth-year student in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has received a $1,000 grant from the 2016 EPIC Pharmacies student grant program.

EPIC Pharmacies is a national group of independent pharmacies that annually provides grants to pharmacy students who plan to practice in independent pharmacy after graduation. This is the second year in a row Turner, a native of Tippo, has received this grant.

“I feel proud to be in the midst of such an amazing, supportive and selfless group of individuals who have aimed to build stronger patient relationships and deeper communities within independent pharmacies,” Turner said.

“This scholarship recognizes the hard work that I have put into pharmacy as well as myself. It also provides me with lifelong networking opportunities with other independent pharmacists.”

Turner was chosen for the grant based on her application that detailed her pharmacy-related employment, professional service activities and honors, as well as faculty recommendations and an essay about her career goals, which include practicing in an independent, rural community pharmacy.

“Jasmine exhibits many qualities that would allow her to excel in a community pharmacy setting, including excellent leadership and teamwork skills and extensive experience working with independent pharmacies in rural areas of Mississippi,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs, who recommended Turner for the grant.

“She is truly keen about her career choice, and she looks forward to serving the profession of pharmacy in a positive manner.”

Turner said her desire to work in rural community pharmacy stems from her connection to and care for the people of her small hometown of Tippo.

“Growing up in such a small place, I want to serve those who have played a role in making me who I am today,” Turner said. “My ultimate goal is to help my patients get healthy and stay healthy not only by being their pharmacist but also by being a friend, a mentor and a leader.”

UM Pharmacy Graduate Student Wins Drug Discovery Award

Work explores compounds that may help treat Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and depression

Vedanjali Gogineni works on her research in a UM School of Pharmacy laboratory. Submitted photo

Vedanjali Gogineni works on her research in a UM School of Pharmacy laboratory. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Vedanjali Gogineni, a doctoral candidate in medicinal chemistry in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has been awarded a 2016 Graduate Student Research Award in Drug Discovery and Development Interface from the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

AAPS gives four of these awards annually to recognize graduate students who significantly influence the research in their field. The award includes a $250 prize and travel expenses to the AAPS annual meeting.

Gogineni, a native of Andhra Pradesh, India, will be recognized at the AAPS annual meeting, set for Nov. 13-17 in Denver.

“This national recognition means a lot to my career,” Gogineni said. “Any recognition is valuable, especially as a graduate student. I hope this will create opportunities for the future, especially since it is so competitive.”

Gogineni’s award-winning research is an abstract titled “Phytochemical Investigation of Secondary Metabolites in Psychoactive Medicinal Plants for the Treatment of Neurological Disorders,” which explores compounds from medicinal plants that could be used to treat neurological disorders.

This work discovered a compound that could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and depression. Gogineni’s overall research aims to identify and purify new natural products, some of which have an affinity with opioid or cannabinoid receptors to treat pain without addiction.

Christopher McCurdy, interim chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences, and former department chair Steve Cutler both advised Gogineni’s research.

“It is a significant accomplishment to be recognized by the AAPS with a graduate student research award,” McCurdy said. “These awards are highly competitive, and such recognition speaks to the quality of Veda’s research. She is a deserving awardee and serves as a great ambassador of our graduate program.”

Gogineni, who also is a member of the university’s chapter of honors and service organization Gamma Beta Phi, hopes to find a postdoctoral position after her May 2017 graduation.

Pharmacy Professor Earns Health Care Hero Award

Daniel Riche noted for leadership in pharmacy, patient management fields

Daniel Riche

Daniel Riche

OXFORD, Miss. – Daniel M. Riche, an associate professor of pharmacy practice in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has been honored with Mississippi Business Journal’s 2016 Health Care Heroes award, which recognizes contributions to health and well-being.

Riche was chosen as one of 33 winners from around the state after a patient of the UM Medical Center Cardiometabolic Clinic, where Riche is coordinator, nominated him for the award. Riche does not know the patient’s identity.

“It’s nice to be noticed for what you do in health care, and especially since this is from the Mississippi Business Journal, which isn’t a pharmacy-only area,” he said. “It’s a very intriguing recognition.

“Awardees range from M.D.s to the insurance commissioner of Mississippi. This enables us get pharmacy’s name out there, outside of our discipline.”

Honey East, an endocrinology physician and a colleague of Riche’s, submitted a letter of recommendation in support of his nomination.

“Dr. Riche has always provided leadership in his representation of the profession of pharmacy,” East said. “He is highly respected by several health care disciplines, from both patient management and education fields who rely upon his contributions in their daily clinical activities.

“To this day, when I need someone to discuss cases in my private endocrinology practice, I still call Dr. Riche for advice.”

Besides this recognition, Riche became certified as a lipid specialist earlier this fall. He is one of only 53 pharmacists nationwide who are certified in the specialty.

The qualifications needed to take the certification test are stringent and extensive, yet Riche had qualified for some time before becoming certified.

“I practice in ambulatory care and cardiometabolics, and we refer to ourselves as experts in a field,” Riche said. “Yet in order to be an expert, you have to point to something that differentiates you, and one of those things is certification. Before I could actually say that I’m an expert, I wanted to be lipid specialist.”

Riche is also an associate professor of medicine at UMMC and research associate professor in both the university’s National Center for Natural Products Research and the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Clinical Pharmacy Pioneer to Give UM Waller Lecture

John E. Murphy selected as distinguished lecturer for Nov. 4 event

John E. Murphy

John E. Murphy

OXFORD, Miss. – John E. Murphy, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, will deliver the 2016 Coy W. Waller Distinguished Lecture at the University of Mississippi.

The Nov. 4 lecture, “Pharmacy World Domination,” is set for 11 a.m. at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The School of Pharmacy and its Department of Pharmacy Practice are sponsoring this free event.

“The Department of Pharmacy Practice is very honored to have Dr. John Murphy as this year’s Coy W. Waller lecturer,” said Seena Haines, chair of pharmacy practice. “He has made significant contributions to our profession through numerous accomplishments related to his academic career, clinical practice advancement and service to the profession.”

Murphy is a former interim dean of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy. He is also a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson and an honorary professor at the University of Otago School of Pharmacy in New Zealand.

He earned his bachelor’s and Pharm.D. degrees from the University of Florida and has published more than 200 papers, 100 abstracts and five editions of the journal Clinical Pharmacokinetics. He also is co-editor of the Pharmacotherapy Self-Assessment Program.

Murphy has also served as president of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and Georgia Society of Hospital Pharmacists. Among his numerous professional and teaching recognitions are the Award for Sustained Contributions to the Literature of Pharmacy Practice from the ASHP Research and Education Foundation, the ASHP Whitney award, the ACCP Education Award and the Robert K. Chalmers Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

The Coy W. Waller Distinguished Lecture series was established in 2004 to recognize the former director of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences’ contributions to the field of pharmaceutics and the pharmacy school. Each year, a department within the school hosts the lecture, and lecturers are selected for their contributions to the host department’s discipline.

UM Pharmacy Researchers Launch Diabetes Self-Management Project

Effort supported by $214,000 grant from independent research institute

UM School of Pharmacy researchers Meagen Rosenthal (left) and Erin Holmes meet with a diabetes patient as part of their PCORI-funded diabetes study. Photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

UM School of Pharmacy researchers Meagen Rosenthal (left) and Erin Holmes meet with a diabetes patient as part of their PCORI-funded diabetes study. Photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. ­– Researchers from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy invite diabetes patients from three north Mississippi communities to meet with physicians, pharmacists, nurses and others in a nonclinical environment to talk about where they struggle with diabetes self-management.

The effort to help patients self-manage their health is funded by a Eugene Washington Engagement Award of $214,084 from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

The researchers are seeking people with diabetes from Oxford, Charleston and Saltillo to meet with medical professionals. Together, they will brainstorm patient-centered research questions aimed at improving strategies for diabetes self-management.

“Traditionally, people with diabetes have been the receivers of information about how they can better manage their condition,” said Meagen Rosenthal, UM assistant professor of pharmacy administration. “This project is designed to turn people with diabetes from receivers of information to the generators of information.

“We will ask people specifically about areas where they struggle with diabetes self-management and use that information to develop research projects that specifically target those concerns.”

The project, titled “PaRTICIpate in Diabetes Self-Management Research Collaborative: A Conference Series,” will build on research that shows improvement in the health of diabetes patients when they are able to self-manage their treatment. (The “PaRTICI” in “PaRTICIpate” stands for “Patient Centered Research to Improve Community Involvement.”)

Rosenthal is leading the project, along with Erin Holmes, associate professor of pharmacy administration, and Donna West-Strum, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Administration.

The initial meetings are set for 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Stone Center in Oxford, 1-3 p.m. Nov. 1 at Saltillo Pharmacy and Solutions in Saltillo and 6-8 p.m. Nov. 3 at the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center in Charleston. Food and gift cards will be provided free for participants.

Mississippi has the second-highest rate of adults with type 2 diabetes in the nation. This prevalence is a major concern for pharmacists and one of the reasons for the study.

“Through these discussions, we hope to develop new research projects that matter to patients,” Rosenthal said. “These projects will develop evidence that is meaningful to people with diabetes, making the research more likely to be adopted and used to improve their health.”

The project is one in a portfolio of projects approved for PCORI funding to help develop a skilled community of patients and other stakeholders from across the entire health care enterprise and to involve them meaningfully in every aspect of the institute’s work.

“This project was selected for Engagement Award funding not only for its commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to increase the usefulness and trustworthiness of the information we produce and facilitate its dissemination and uptake,” said Jean Slutsky, PCORI’s chief engagement and dissemination officer.

“We look forward to following the project’s progress and working with the UM School of Pharmacy to share the results.”

The UM School of Pharmacy project and the other projects approved for funding by the PCORI Engagement Award program were selected through a competitive review process in which applications were assessed for their ability to meet the institute’s engagement goals and program criteria.

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization that funds comparative effectiveness research that will provide patients, caregivers and clinicians with evidence needed to make better-informed health care decisions.

For more information or to RSVP for the initial discussion sessions, contact Rosenthal at 662-915-2475.