Pharmacy Professor Wins UM Faculty Achievement Award

John Bentley honored for teaching, contributions to school and dedication to profession

John Bentley

John Bentley

OXFORD, Miss. – John P. Bentley, professor of pharmacy administration, has been named the recipient of the 2016 University of Mississippi Faculty Achievement Award.

At the Aug. 26 fall faculty meeting, Provost Morris Stocks called Bentley one of the university’s finest.

“His pharmacy research helps the world understand the roles that pharmacists play in medication therapy and how the medication consumption experience affects patients,” Stocks said. “His biostatistics research and proficiency have a direct benefit to our students, faculty and research scientists here at the University of Mississippi.”

Selection for the award is based on achievement in teaching, research, service and involvement in the classroom.

Bentley came to UM in 1993 as a graduate student and teaching assistant in the School of Pharmacy, becoming an assistant professor in 1998. Since then, he has received multiple awards for his service, teaching and research.

“I could think of no more deserving person for this award than John Bentley,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “His contributions have had a tremendous impact on our school, from creating an engaging and supportive environment for students to consistently enhancing health and patient care with his research. I am incredibly thrilled to call him a co-worker and a friend.”

Although Bentley is primarily a pharmacy administration professor, he holds a joint appointment in the School of Business Administration. He is actively involved in multiple university and pharmacy school committees.

Bentley has a passion for advising graduate students, which earned him the Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring Award from the university’s Graduate School in 2014. He has served on more than 100 thesis and dissertation committees, and routinely serves on committees outside his department.

“He has been a mentor who has helped me find my passions and be my own independent researcher,” said pharmacy doctoral candidate Sujith Ramachandran. “Several times during these past few years, it felt like he understood me better than I did myself.”

In letters of recommendation, Bentley’s colleagues, both past and present, praised his aptitude for teaching, his contributions to the school and his dedication to the profession.

Many anecdotes focused on Bentley’s pursuance of a second doctorate in biostatistics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham while teaching full time at the University of Mississippi, a commitment that required commuting between Birmingham and Oxford, as well as occasionally living in a dorm room.

“Nothing defines one’s thirst for knowledge quite as much as what he or she is willing to give up to obtain it, and this stood out to me,” said John Young, associate professor in clinical psychology.

“I believe that John viewed this much like he views the process of science more generally, which was simply a logical step in a progression toward a goal. The difficulty of that step was irrelevant to him in the context of determining it needed to be taken.”

Ole Miss pharmacy students also detailed his dedication to their studies and educational experience. He is the faculty adviser for two pharmacy student organizations and serves as an adviser for one of the school’s Professional Development Advising Teams.

“In the classroom, Dr. Bentley is an engaging and effective teacher,” said Jesse Bowen, Pharmacy Student Body secretary. “He challenges students, but he always gives them the tools necessary to succeed.”

The Pharmacy Student Body honored Bentley with the Friend of the Student Award in both 2011 and 2014.

“From serving as the emcee at a philanthropic social event to assisting students with service projects to donating his time and food to make events successful, Dr. Bentley never disappoints,” pharmacy student Lauren Daigle said.

Dean David D. Allen (right) presents Bentley with the 2015 School of Pharmacy Faculty Service Award.

Dean David D. Allen (right) presents Bentley with the 2015 School of Pharmacy Faculty Service Award.

Since the Faculty Achievement Award was established in 1986, 10 of the 34 annual awardees have had full or joint appointments in the School of Pharmacy.

“So many outstanding individuals from across the university, including the School of Pharmacy, have received this award,” Bentley said. “It is truly an honor, and quite humbling, to be recognized in this way.”

Bentley credited the university, the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Pharmacy Administration for creating an atmosphere of commitment, passion and excellence that has inspired his own work.

“I am fortunate to work with truly outstanding students, collaborators and colleagues,” Bentley said. “These individuals are from my home department, the School of Pharmacy and also other departments across campus. They are intellectually curious, driven, creative, persistent, highly capable people with high integrity, leaders, and they also share with me a love of learning.

“I already receive so many intrinsic benefits from what I do, and to be recognized for work that one really enjoys doing is quite meaningful and very special.”

Pharmacy Graduate Student Wins $10,000 Fellowship

Dennis McCarty honored for research on potential anti-epileptic drugs

 School of Pharmacy Ph.D. candidate Dennis Carty won a $10,000 fellowship from the American College of Toxicology.

UM doctoral candidate Dennis Carty won a $10,000 fellowship from the American College of Toxicology.

OXFORD, Miss. – Dennis Carty, a University of Mississippi doctoral student in environmental toxicology, has received a 2016 North American Graduate Fellowship from the American College of Toxicology.

Five of these prestigious national fellowships are awarded each year by ACT, and they come with a two-year stipend of $5,000 per year to be used toward the recipient’s education, as well as financial assistance to attend ACT’s annual meeting. The fellowship is given based on the quality of the applicants’ graduate-level work.

Carty’s award-winning research was an abstract titled “Cannabinoid Toxicity versus Antiepileptic Potential using Zebrafish,” which explores the effects of different chemicals within cannabis on zebrafish, inspired by the recent trend of using cannabinoids in epilepsy treatments. Cannabinoids are compounds unique to the cannabis plant.

“Dennis has formulated a research plan to investigate what, as a toxicologist, I believe is the fundamental question in drug development: the underlying mechanisms of both toxicity and therapeutic efficacy of cannabinoids,” said Kristie Willett, professor of pharmacology and environmental toxicology and Carty’s graduate adviser.

Along with his research, Carty, a native of Dallas, submitted an essay outlining his career aspirations as a toxicologist. This is his first national award, and he said the financial assistance to attend the conference is just as helpful for his career aspirations as the stipend.

“As a graduate student, conferences are invaluable to our growth in research, communication and networking,” Carty said. “Not only will I be able to share my research with the nation’s leading toxicologists and receive much-needed feedback, but I am also afforded the opportunity to network with potential future employers.”

After completing his Ph.D., Carty plans to seek a postdoctoral position and ultimately work in discovering treatments for human diseases. Specifically, he hopes to test common chemicals for their effects on the endocrine system.

Carty’s award-winning research focused on the toxicity of cannabinoids versus antiepileptic potential in zebrafish.

Carty’s award-winning research focused on the toxicity of cannabinoids versus anti-epileptic potential in zebrafish.

Besides his studies, Carty serves as the student representative for the School of Pharmacy’s research and graduate affairs committee and is immediate past president of the BioMolecular Sciences Journal Club.

Carty, along with the four other fellowship recipients, will be recognized Nov. 10 at the 2016 annual meeting of ACT in Baltimore.

UM Hosts World Health Organization Working Group

Three-day session helps group develop guidelines for herb and drug interactions

The World Health Organization's Traditional and Complementary Medicines Program gathered at the University of Mississippi to develop an update to the WHO guidance documents on the utilization of traditional and herbal medicines.

The university’s National Center for Natural Products Research hosted a working group assembled by the World Health Organization’s Traditional and Complementary Medicines Program to develop an update to guidance documents on the utilization of traditional and herbal medicines.

OXFORD, Miss. – A working group constituted by the World Health Organization’s Traditional and Complementary Medicines Program gathered recently at the University of Mississippi to develop another in the series of WHO guidance documents on the utilization of traditional and herbal medicines.

The increased use of herbal medicines and botanical supplements around the world raises concerns about their interactions with conventional prescription medicines. The goal of the July 12-14 meeting was to frame these issues and draft globally relevant guidelines on herb and drug interactions for health care professionals and regulatory or compliance organizations.

The university’s National Center for Natural Products Research served as local hosts for the three-day meeting, which included 35 representatives from around the world. Dr. Zhang Qi, coordinator of the WHO’s Traditional and Complementary Medicine Program, led the group.

“We are grateful to the University of Mississippi for their hospitality in providing this venue for our meeting, and for facilitating the meeting organization on the ground,” Zhang said. “This allowed us to spend three productive days focusing on these important guidelines.”

The National Center for Natural Products Research has a long-standing research program focused on the authenticity, quality and safety of botanical supplements in this country. The program is led by Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR associate director, and supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Center of Excellence.

Several scientists from NCNPR also participated in the meeting as working group members or invited observers.

“We were very pleased to host such a distinguished group from WHO, with other scientists, health policymakers and regulators, and to participate in these deliberations,” said Larry Walker, NCNPR director and a UM professor of pharmacology.

UM Pharmacy Student Awarded Phi Kappa Phi Scholarship

Meghan Walker is university's second straight fellow of the honor society

Meghan Wagner. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Meghan Wagner. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi pharmacy student Meghan Wagner has been named a 2016 fellow of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, which recognizes academic excellence in higher education.

This marks the second year in a row that an Ole Miss student has won a fellowship from Phi Kappa Phi, which is the oldest honor society that recognizes all academic disciplines. The honor society honors 57 students a year from around the country with fellowships.

Wagner, who is entering her second year of the Doctor of Pharmacy program, also receives a $5,000 scholarship as part of the fellowship. The Grenada native plans to use the award money to pay for books and class fees, and to lessen her need for student loans.

“I was extremely grateful to be chosen for this fellowship,” Wagner said. “I know the list of potential candidates was stellar, so to be first chosen by the university, then by Phi Kappa Phi, I felt honored.

“For me, to have such a distinguished group of people find my hard work to be worth the recognition and financial support helped validate that I have been working hard in the right direction.”

Applicants must first apply within their local chapter of Phi Kappa Phi in hopes of being selected as the university’s sole applicant to the national chapter.

Michael L. Warren, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice and a former president of the university’s Phi Kappa Phi chapter, knows Wagner through a course she took with him in the pharmacy school.

“She is a gifted student with a positive attitude and professional demeanor,” Warren said. “Meghan is actively engaged in community service, both on- and off-campus. She is passionate about having a positive impact on children’s lives after graduating from pharmacy school.

“I cannot speak for the national committee, but her passion to help others was likely evident in her application materials and led to her selection.”

Wagner hopes to go into pediatric pharmacy.

Past Phi Kappa Phi fellows include notable names such as poet Rita Dove, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and two NASA scientists. Marcus Daniels, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biological science in 2015, was last year’s fellowship winner from UM.

“My dream job would be to work in an oncology wing of a pediatric hospital as a clinical pharmacist, and I am very grateful to both the school of pharmacy and Phi Kappa Phi for supporting me in this endeavor,” Wagner said.