Federally Funded Marijuana Turns 50

University researchers observe half-century of growing contract

Mahmoud ElSohly, professor of pharmaceutics and director of the UM Marijuana Project, has worked with the project since joining as a postdoctoral fellow in 1975. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. ­– Fifty years ago, the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy was awarded a competitive contract from the government to grow marijuana that could be standardized for research.

Interest in marijuana research had grown throughout the late ’60s, and the government wanted to study the effects of cannabis on the brain and the body. To do that, it needed a source of certifiable plant material that was responsibly grown and harvested.

Coy Waller, who would later become the leading force of UM’s marijuana operation, was serving on a committee of the National Institute of Mental Health and recommended to the organization that a program be created to provide this standardized marijuana to the government.

After an open competition among institutions around the country, UM won the first contract in spring 1968 to be the government’s provider of marijuana for research purposes. Later that summer, Ole Miss researchers grew the first crop of legal research marijuana in the country, beginning a research project that has lasted half a century.

The marijuana growing field at UM was last planted in 2014, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse has requested a larger crop to be produced in 2019, so university officials are readying the field for use next summer. Photo by Don Stanford/Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences

The university’s Marijuana Project is under the supervision of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Its longevity is a result of decades of honing the operation through tough competition for the contract, for which UM competes every three to five years.

“The University of Mississippi applies for the contract just like everyone else,” said Mahmoud ElSohly, director of the Marijuana Project and professor of pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy. “Our research capability, our expertise, our knowledge in the areas of cannabis chemistry and production, our personnel and facilities ­­– everything is in place to make us very competitive.”

Since ElSohly joined the project as a postdoctoral fellow in 1975, the marijuana operation has expanded, security has increased and the project has been registered with the FDA as a drug manufacturer, meaning that everything they do must comply with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices.

“For half a century, the Marijuana Project has done an outstanding job of working within federal guidelines to produce cannabis products that are standardized for scientific research,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “I am extremely proud of the stellar faculty, research scientists and staff who have been deeply committed to excellence in this area.”

The Marijuana Project is part of the National Center for Natural Products Research, which is housed within the School of Pharmacy. Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR director, has been closely involved with the project over the years.

“We are very proud of our contribution towards the science and understanding of cannabis chemistry, pharmacology and product development over last 50 years,” Khan said.

Indeed, NCNPR and the Marijuana Project both contribute to the university’s unique research profile.

“This 50-year anniversary of the Marijuana Project at the University of Mississippi is truly a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to the quality of the science produced by the program,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. “The exciting part is that there is still much to discover and UM hopes for another 50 years of scientific leadership in this rapidly developing field.”

Since the university produces marijuana based on what researchers request from NIDA’s Drug Supply Program, it grows marijuana in a variety of chemical makeups. Recently, it has begun creating marijuana products for research, such as extracts rich in THC, marijuana’s psychoactive component, or cannabidiol, known as CBD.

For the 2019 growing season, NIDA has exercised the option in its contract to grow marijuana in about half the university’s marijuana field, which consists of roughly 12 total acres of heavily secured land. For the past several years, the project was able to fulfill NIDA’s demand for smaller amounts of plant material by growing in its 1,100-square-foot indoor grow room.

The exact amount to be grown is not yet finalized, said Suman Chandra, a co-director of the project. However, if the crop is planted based on the exercised option, it will be the largest amount of plant material NIDA has ever asked Ole Miss to grow in a single season.

“This is probably because of the research community’s increased interest in CBD oil and CBD-rich cannabis varieties,” Chandra said. “Therefore, we anticipate that the majority of the crop is going to have high levels of CBD.”

Pure CBD extract is created at the UM Marijuana Project for research and clinical trial use. Photo by Don Stanford/Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences

In fact, earlier this month, a clinical study on CBD’s impact on certain forms of juvenile epilepsy began at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, using standardized CBD extract produced on the Oxford campus.

“I truly believe that this CBD extract study will serve as a model for researchers across the country,” ElSohly said. “If we are able to show that a standardized CBD extract is safe and effective for the treatment of severe epilepsy in children, there could be a lot more demand for the material for research purposes.”

UM is also conducting research on new pharmaceutical dosage forms that contain CBD, THC and other cannabinoids that will allow the therapeutic properties of marijuana to work while eliminating the psychoactive component.

“Our interest is not in medical marijuana, but in developing FDA-approved, cannabis-derived pharmaceutical products,” ElSohly said. “There are over 500 known chemicals in marijuana, 120 of which are cannabinoids, and we are interested in what they can be used for.”

Although ElSohly is familiar with some of marijuana’s potential therapeutic benefits, he has also seen how the drug can be misused. Through a potency-monitoring project, the lab has analyzed marijuana samples seized by law enforcement since the early days of the contract and has seen marijuana’s potency increase dramatically.

“We have data from over 85,000 seizures over the years,” ElSohly said. “In the 1970s, the average THC content of seized marijuana was 2 percent or less. In 2017, the potency reached 17 percent.”

This trend also aligns with an increase in the ratio of THC to CBD in seized marijuana. In the 1980s and early ’90s, most seized material had about 10 to 15 times more THC than CBD, ElSohly said. But in 2017, that ratio had jumped to 100 times.

“This is parallel to the increase in emergency room admissions of people experiencing psychosis, irritability and paranoia as a result of using cannabis,” he said.

Although many states have legalized some uses of marijuana, the federal government still considers it to be a Schedule I drug, meaning it is illegal at the federal level to produce or possess. Because of this, UM remains the only place in the country that produces legal marijuana grown within federal requirements and standardized for research.

The DEA announced in August 2016 that it would approve registrations for other qualified growers to produce and distribute marijuana for research purposes, but no additional registrations have yet been granted.

After 50 years of operation, researchers in the Marijuana Project are still working to secure the next growing contract from the government when the current one expires. The project is in its fourth year of a five-year contract, and the university will be reapplying next year.

For more information about marijuana research at UM, visit http://pharmacy.olemiss.edu/marijuana/.

Pharmacy School Hosts Mississippi Walk for Diabetes

Event takes place at 2 p.m. Nov. 4 on Ole Miss campus

Participants in a previous Walk for Diabetes Walk prepare to cut the ribbon to kick off the event on the Ole Miss campus. Photo courtesy Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, along with student pharmacist organization Prescription for Service, kicks off National Diabetes Awareness Month on Sunday (Nov. 4) with the Mississippi Walk for Diabetes, a fundraiser for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi.

Registration will begin at 1 p.m. by the Lyceum, with team pictures taking place at 1:10 p.m. Family-friendly competitions and a short program will begin around 1:30 p.m. before the ribbon cutting and walk begin at 2 p.m. Two routes on the Ole Miss campus will be available, with 1- and 2-mile options.

“I am looking forward to seeing so many people from the university and Oxford come together for a common purpose: to recognize and support those in our community affected by diabetes,” said Kristen Hollingsworth, second-year student pharmacist from Yazoo City and president of Prescription for Service.

“I hope that walk participants leave with a deeper understanding of the impact diabetes has on our community and state. When we stand together for greater awareness and support those affected by diabetes, we can truly make a difference in Mississippi.”

Similar walks occur across Mississippi each fall, and this is the 22nd year for the Oxford event. This year’s walk will honor the memory of the late Mart Chandler, an Oxford endocrinologist who cared for many diabetes patients in the community, and Anne Marie Liles, who was the pharmacy school’s director of experiential affairs and clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice.

Anne Marie Liles

Liles, a Type 1 diabetes patient herself, championed for diabetes awareness and served as coordinator for Oxford’s Walk for Diabetes for many years. Lauren Bloodworth, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice, said she’s honored to serve as the school’s representative to help carry on Liles’ commitment to improving the lives of diabetes patients.

“I am passionate about caring for our diabetes population and empowering each person to control their disease,” said Bloodworth, who works professionally with diabetes patients. “Given her personal experience with diabetes, Dr. Liles was a strong advocate for raising diabetes awareness and used her clinical skills to help others manage their disease.

“It is a special honor to follow Dr. Liles in this service role and continue the ‘Liles Legacy,’ supporting those with diabetes.”

To register for the walk, individuals can visit https://msdiabetes.org/events/walks or the Oxford’s Walk for Diabetes page on https://www.crowdrise.com. Donations from nonparticipants are also welcomed.

The School of Pharmacy has created a scholarship in Liles’ honor that will be given to a rising fourth-year student pharmacist who has demonstrated a strong desire for community service in the first three years of the professional program. Donations may be made to the scholarship at the UM Foundation.

UM External Research Funding Surpasses $134 Million in 2017-18

Money funds projects that assist state, country and world

OXFORD, Miss. and JACKSON, Miss. – External funding for research at the University of Mississippi reached its highest level in four years in 2017-18, with more than $134 million in funding awarded.

A total of $134,735,332 in external funding was awarded to the Oxford campus and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, with research dollars being used to favorably impact lives in Mississippi and around the globe, fuel economic growth and prosperity, educate future leaders and innovators, and more.

The external funding amount for fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30, is the highest since 2014 and an increase of 9.3 percent from last year.

“The gains in external funding speak to the stellar research talent and culture at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “They also reflect our continuing commitment to produce scientific discoveries and innovations that enhance quality of life and benefit the citizens of our state and society at large.”

For fiscal year 2018, the university’s Oxford and Medical Center campuses received 581 awards. Examples of these awards include helping fund the data analytics graduate programs at the Patterson School of Accountancy, researching solar energy technologies, investigating the safety of antimalarial drug products and exploring solutions to improve the health and development outcomes for Mississippi children.

On the Oxford campus, awards to faculty and staff resulted in more than $71 million in external funding. The amount is the highest since 2010-11, when the campus received $78.8 million in external funding, an increase of 23 percent from 2016-17.

“The impact of UM research continues to grow, and that is reflected in increased success by our faculty, researchers and research centers on the national level,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs on the Oxford campus. “External funding for research and scholarly activity is extremely competitive, which makes this increase even more notable.”

The UM Medical Center received more than $63.6 million in external funding in 2017-18.

“Research is the lifeblood of our institution,” said Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research. “When the research mission is strong, we are able to help our education and health care missions succeed.”

In 2017-18, federal funding at both campuses included 387 awards for more than $101.5 million. The awards, agency and funding include:

  • 175 awards from the National Institutes of Health for $42.8 million
  • 35 awards from the U.S. Department of Defense for $13 million
  • 19 awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for $11.9 million
  • 32 awards from the Health Resources and Services Administration for $8.8 million
  • 31 awards from the National Science Foundation for $6.9 million
  • 26 awards from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for $5.7 million
  • 10 awards from NASA for $2.7 million.

Awards from corporate, private, state and other sources funded more than $33.1 million during 2017-18. Foundations and nonprofit groups provided $18.7 in funding, private or corporate business and industry provided $8.4 million, and state agencies in Mississippi provided $5.7 million. All other sources were almost $300,000.

The School of Pharmacy on the Oxford campus received 62 awards for $16.7 million. Both were the most for any unit on the Oxford campus.

According to the 2017 Faculty Research Grant Institutional Rankings published by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the UM School of Pharmacy ranked 13th in the nation for external research funding.

“The investigators at the School of Pharmacy have worked tirelessly to secure funding for projects that have the potential to impact the health of millions of people,” said David D. Allen, dean of the school. “This is truly a whole-school effort, as our faculty, research scientists, staff and students are all integral to our research mission.”

The pharmacy school has several grants investigating aspects of opioid use, including a study on long-term opioid use in older adults, led by principal investigator Yi Yang, professor of pharmacy administration. Older adults are more likely to have chronic pain and to be taking more than one medication, putting them at higher risk of harmful drug combinations.

“Our scientists and faculty are taking on the opioid epidemic from all sides, and this study aims to uncover the impact of sustained opioid therapy in older adults,” Allen said. “The elderly are just as vulnerable to the negative effects of opioid use as younger adults, but they aren’t studied as frequently.”

The School of Medicine at UMMC totaled 267 awards for $54.9 million, the most on that campus.

The top-funded units at UMMC were the departments of Physiology and Biophysics, Cell and Molecular Biology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Biomedical Materials Science, and the John D. Bower School of Population Health.

Student Pharmacists ‘Bowl for Breath’ in Cystic Fibrosis Fundraiser

Dr. Charlie Hufford's Rollers team named for former pharmacy administrator and avid bowler

The Dr. Charlie Hufford’s Rollers bowling team, made up of Ole Miss student pharmacists, raised more than $3,000 for cystic fibrosis research at a recent fundraising event with a 1950s theme. Photo courtesy of Gaston Box

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi student pharmacists bowled for a cause recently as a group of them formed a team for the Bowl for Breath fundraiser to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

The team finished second overall in the Oct. 9 fundraising competition for the most money raised, finishing with $3,422.

A local resident’s son who has cystic fibrosis inspired the student pharmacists to participate, said Gaston Box, a second professional year student who serves as the School of Pharmacy student body’s interprofessional practice and education liaison. Those diagnosed with cystic fibrosis have a buildup of mucus in essential organs, particularly in the lungs, which can cause breathing problems, and in the pancreas, which can cause digestive issues.

“Our bowling team wanted to raise money to help him and so many others fight this terrible disease,” Box said. “Multiple teams bowled against each other for fun, but with one common goal to fight cystic fibrosis.”

The late Charlie Hufford was a bowling enthusiast and served as inspiration for the team, made up of UM student pharmacists. Submitted photo

The team name, “Dr. Charlie Hufford’s Rollers,” was inspired by the late Charlie Hufford, the pharmacy school’s former associate dean for research and graduate programs. Hufford was a talented bowler who bowled more than 30 perfect games.

“I am so proud of our student pharmacists for supporting such a worthy cause,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “Naming the bowling team after Charlie is a wonderful way to honor his impact on the school and his love of bowling.”

The team consisted of six student pharmacists: first-year students Mary Morgan Mohamed and Alex Dixon, both of Yazoo City, and Rachel Wooten, of Flora, and second-year students Rachell Denney, of Oxford; Nason Wise, of Grenada; and Box, of Madison.

“We knew exactly what to name our team after Dean Allen told us about Dr. Hufford,” Box said. “By naming our bowling team ‘Dr. Charlie Hufford’s Rollers,’ we were able to support cystic fibrosis research while honoring a man who was dearly loved by the School of Pharmacy.”

Donations for the fundraiser can still be made at https://olemisspharmacybowling.passioncff.org/. The students also held a raffle with prizes donated from different businesses to raise money before the event.

“The community of Oxford was so giving and kind,” Box said. “Without our local businesses, the raffle wouldn’t have been possible. I hope those who participated in the raffle and donated felt that they were part of our fight to end cystic fibrosis.”

Pharmacy School Administrators Celebrate 25 Years of Friendship

Alicia Bouldin and John Bentley met as graduate students

Alicia Bouldin and John Bentley graduate together with their Master of Pharmacy Administration degrees from UM in 1996. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy administrators Alicia Bouldin and John Bentley are proof that opposites often complement each other.

The two met in August 1993 when they began graduate school in the School of Pharmacy’s pharmacy administration program.

Bouldin, associate dean of outcomes assessment and learning advancement and professor of pharmacy administration, was raised in the South. She’s a creative thinker who stays up-to-date on technological advances, while Bentley, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Administration, grew up in the Midwest, is passionate about statistics and took some time to adjust to smartphone culture.

However, for all the pair’s differences, 25 years of working alongside each other created a bond of trust and appreciation that has spurred them to celebrate their 25-year “friendiversary.”

“We always made a great team,” Bouldin said. “We complemented each other really well. Sometimes when we had joint projects within the department, they wouldn’t let us be on the same team because we needed to spread out and collaborate with other folks.”

A friendship was easy to strike up, as they were always together in class or working at the department’s one computer in Faser Hall. Bentley even got a head start on his teaching career by helping Bouldin find her way through statistics, which allowed Bouldin to see Bentley’s patience with others.

Alicia Bouldin and John Bentley celebrate 25 years of friendship at a recent party with the UM Department of Pharmacy Administration. Submitted photo

“The instructor would put carets on top of things, and Alicia kept calling them hats,” Bentley said. “She would say ‘What are those hats? Why does she keep putting those hats on top of things? Why do we need those hats?’

“Alicia went on about these hats, which in statistics, just show that it’s an estimate from a sample instead of a population parameter. She rolled her eyes at me a couple of times.”

Bentley experienced Bouldin’s kindness upon his arrival in Oxford. With Bentley’s wife still living in Iowa, Bouldin became an adoptive older sibling, making sure he ate well, washed his clothes and got haircuts.

“We still have to do things together and are thrown together, much like in the way we started,” Bentley said. “Part of why our friendship has lasted this long is because of the complete trust in the quality of work that the other does.

“Yes, it’s a work relationship, and we have been through a lot together, but I have such an admiration and respect for her.”

The duo says that it doesn’t feel like 25 years since they met. Bouldin and Bentley have gone through a lot together since their graduate school days, such as faculty promotions, a failed attempt to watch the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Movies – their families made it through only two – and Bouldin translating Southernisms for Bentley.

While some things remain the same, the colleagues acknowledge that changes have come only for the better.

“I was very lucky to have that encouragement from him in school,” Bouldin said. “I probably did more than I would have if it had been someone else because he’s super smart and capable. I couldn’t slack.

“We grew up together, in a way, and entered into a different phase of life. It was nice to do that together.”

Marijuana Project Head to Deliver Pharmacy School’s Waller Lecture

Mahmoud ElSohly will speak about marijuana project founder Coy W. Waller

Mahmoud ElSohly

OXFORD, Miss. – Mahmoud ElSohly, director of the University of Mississippi’s Marijuana Project, will deliver the School of Pharmacy’s 15th Coy W. Waller Distinguished Lecture at 11 a.m. Friday (Oct. 19) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The lecture series was established in 2004 to recognize the founder of UM’s marijuana cultivation program and former director of the pharmacy school’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Coy W. Waller. ElSohly’s talk, “Building on the Legacy of Coy Waller at Ole Miss,” will celebrate Waller’s vision for the Marijuana Project and expand on research developments.

“I think Coy would be pleased about the progress we’ve made on his research projects to continue his legacy,” ElSohly said.

ElSohly assisted with Waller’s research for several years before Waller retired in 1979. Two of Waller’s major research contributions were the study of cannabinoids to treat glaucoma and working to formulate a natural remedy for poison ivy.

“Coy Waller had an ambitious vision for the pharmacy school and its Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences that informs much of the research we conduct today,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

ElSohly received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Cairo University in Egypt, and his doctorate in 1975 from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. He joined UM in 1975 and has directed its Marijuana Project since 1981.

He has more than 40 years’ experience working with the isolation of natural products, most notably, secondary metabolites in cannabis, as well as synthetic, analytical and forensic chemistry. He has more than 30 patents and over 300 publications related to these disciplines.

The School of Pharmacy and its National Center for Natural Products Research are hosting the event, which is free and open to the public.

Cannabis plants thrive in the indoor grow room of the UM Marijuana Project. Photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest/School of Pharmacy

“I am pleased we can honor Dr. Waller in this way while highlighting the ways in which his work is continued at the National Center for Natural Products Research and the school,” said Ikhlas Khan, the center’s director.

School of Law Introduces Living-Learning Community

Freshmen get a glimpse of legal education through program

UM freshmen (front row, from left) Cassidy Grace Porter, Abigail Avery, Katharine Papp, Carley Sheppard and Nicholas DiConsiglio and (back row) Carson Whitney, Dorrian Reagan, Joseph Shelley, Faith Chatten and Virgil ‘Trey’ Ledbetter are participating in the inaugural School of Law Living Learning Community. Photo by Macey Edmondson

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten freshmen at the University of Mississippi will begin their legal education early through the School of Law Living-Learning Community.

This is the inaugural year of the program, which will take these young students interested in attending law school after graduation and introduce them to the law.

The program will provide opportunities for students to learn about the law and legal education; offer guidance on applying to law school; introduce undergraduates to law students who will serve as mentors throughout their freshman year; and educate students on professionalism and what it takes to be a successful lawyer.

“These students are already interested in law school as high school seniors, and they’re really go-getters,” said Macey Edmondson, assistant dean for student affairs at the law school. “Through the LLC, they will be part of a tight-knit community, and we’re excited to provide them with resources to enhance their future careers.”

This is a relatively new practice among law schools, she said.

Participating students are Abigail Avery, public policy and leadership and psychology major from Lake St. Louis, Missouri; Faith Chatten, business and art, Erie, Colorado; Nicholas DiConsiglio, political science, Clearwater, Florida; Trey Ledbetter, political science, Iuka; Katharine Papp, history, Austin, Texas; Cassidy Grace Porter, paralegal studies, Bakersfield, California; Dorrian Regan, economics, Tucker, Georgia; Joseph Shelley, political science, Flanders, New Jersey; Carley Sheppard, paralegal studies, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Carson Whitney, business, Edwardsville, Illinois.

Edmondson has coordinated programming for the students throughout the year, including a social event with law Dean Susan Duncan, guest speakers including judges and attorneys, and a field trip to Jackson to gain a better understanding of the legal system and how it works.

“We hope the experience of immersing yourself in the legal field will only strengthen the interest of a legal education for these students,” Duncan said. “Our faculty and students at the Ole Miss law school will work closely with these freshmen to introduce them to the law and foster their educational success.”

The School of Law LLC is one of four offered to Ole Miss students. Other LLCs include the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, School of Pharmacy and FASTrack.

The new program became a deciding factor for some students to attend UM.

Chatten researched colleges and universities for months to find one that offered something unique for undergraduate students who wanted to become attorneys.

“My search had been unsuccessful until one day, I was looking at Ole Miss housing and saw that there was a School of Law Living-Learning Community,” she said. “It was the exact thing that I had been searching for all along in the college process, and I felt extremely grateful to be accepted.”

Her interest in law began in high school through a U.S. government and politics course.

“I took the class looking to fulfill a required high school credit, not knowing that I would grow to love it so much that it would end up being my favorite class that I have ever taken,” she said. “I considered myself pretty studious in high school, but I had never read a textbook cover to cover until this class.”

Chatten’s interest in becoming an attorney was solidified when she participated in the Law and Advocacy National Student Leadership Conference at Yale University the following summer. She participated in mock trial at the conference, which prompted her to search for undergraduate programs related to law interests and become part of the LLC.

“I wanted to build a community of people around me with the same aspirations who will be going through the same things as me, like caring about good grades because law school is on the line and studying for the LSAT,” she said. “I was also so excited to see that the LLC pairs students up with law school mentors, which will be so impactful to have someone giving me advice since they were once in my position.”

Members of the LLC live among peers who are also interested in pursuing law school after graduation.

“We’re excited to offer the School of Law Living-Learning Community for the 2018-19 academic year,” said Jennifer McClure, student housing assistant director for marketing. “Living-learning communities enhance students’ residential experiences by connecting activities and events in their homes on campus to their academic lives.”

Faculty members and students from the law school will serve as community leaders and resources for these students.

“Through these partnerships with faculty, the Department of Student Housing supports student success by promoting engaged scholarship and responsible citizenship,” McClure said.

For more information, visit https://studenthousing.olemiss.edu/.

Symposium on Opioid Crisis Brings Law and Pharmacy Together

UM students from both schools learn about interprofessional approach to challenge

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood speaks to law and pharmacy students during the interprofessional symposium regarding the opioid crisis in the state. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

OXFORD, Miss. – More than 115 people die each day in the United States from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

These statistics constitute a crisis, and the University of Mississippi schools of Law and Pharmacy are working together to combat that crisis in an interdisciplinary manner.

Last week, the schools collaborated for an education symposium on “An Interprofessional Approach to the Opioid Crisis in Mississippi.” More than 300 law and pharmacy students attended the event, which included a mock trial in front of Roy Percy, magistrate judge for the Northern District of Mississippi, and a keynote speech by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

“A multidisciplinary approach is great and our university here is the first I’ve seen do this, so y’all are on the front end of addressing the crisis,” Hood said. “These epidemics come and go, but we have yet to see an epidemic affect such a broad cross-section of people.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter provided opening comments at the symposium and commended the schools for proactively addressing the opioid epidemic.

“By working together, we are more likely to understand the full breadth of this challenge and to find innovative solutions,” Vitter said.

Symposium panelists discuss the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the opioid crisis. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

The afternoon panel featured Lauren Bloodworth, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice; Dr. Kenneth Cleveland, executive director of the Mississippi State Medical Board of Licensure; Amanda Criswell, nurse practitioner and instructor of nursing at the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and Julie Mitchell, an attorney at Mitchell Day Law Firm in Ridgeland.

Law professor Larry Pittman and pharmacy practice professor Kim Adcock worked over the last year to organize the event to ensure that both professional schools developed an understanding of how different professions are navigating the opioid crisis.

“This interprofessional mock trial and symposium exemplified the importance of interdisciplinary interactions and provided a springboard for our students to begin working together to learn from, about and with each other,” Adcock said.

The goal of the event was to provide students and future practitioners a foundation to make the best professional decisions related to pain management.

“Interprofessional education and collaboration are very important because such efforts are necessary for resolving many of the pressing issues that we as a nation will continue to encounter,” Pittman said.

UM law student Sammy Brown serves as an attorney during the mock trial portion of the interprofessional collaboration between the schools of Law and Pharmacy. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

The School of Pharmacy engages in regular interprofessional education with many of the health sciences schools on the UMMC campus, where upper-level pharmacy students receive training, and the School of Law engages in interdisciplinary endeavors with undergraduate programs and other legal entities. However, this is one of the first such events where the two schools collaborated to address a national crisis.

“Law is inextricable from the profession of pharmacy,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “This is an incredible way to demonstrate to our future pharmacy, nursing and law professionals that together they have the power to make real contributions that can lessen or end the opioid crisis.”

Allen and Susan Duncan, dean of the law school, both expressed hope that the seminar would show students that interprofessional collaboration has potential to create solutions for any number of professional issues.

“We are educating future leaders, and it’s so important that they understand the importance in collaborating with those of other disciplines,” Duncan said. “Students in professional schools work well with each other, but it is vital for them to learn from their peers in other schools who can provide a different perspective.”

McLean Institute Grant Award to Fund Community Engagement

Hearin Foundation provides support for research and service efforts

The University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement welcomed a new group of outstanding students from around the globe this fall, representing majors from across the university. First row from left, Albert Nylander, Hannah Newbold, Navodit Paudel, Kristina Fields, J.R. Love, Laura Martin; second row from left, Michael Mott, Allison Borst, Zachary Pugh, Joshua Baker, Kendall Walker, Curtis Hill; third row from left, Bryce Williams, Elena Bauer, Adam Franco, Arielle Rogers, Virginia Parkinson, Anna Katherine Burress, Ashley Bowen.

OXFORD, Miss – A grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement will fund research and service aimed at increasing community and economic development in Mississippi communities.

The McLean Institute welcomes a new group of outstanding students from around the globe this fall, representing majors from across the university. This scholarship opportunity serves to build actionable partnerships across the state to promote entrepreneurship and economic development.

Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute, professor of sociology and principal investigator for the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, program, said he is thankful for the approximately $500,000 provided by the foundation.

“The wonderful people at the Hearin Foundation continue their remarkable record of supporting university students through fellowships to make a difference throughout Mississippi,” Nylander said.

Fifteen students were selected this year to continue a nearly $2 million McLean Institute investment from the Hearin Foundation to bolster community and economic development in Mississippi. This grant will support UM students through 2021.

The CEED Initiative works with Ole Miss students and faculty to implement projects and conduct research that directly affects Mississippi communities. These students join a network of more than 50 UM students and faculty, as well as a collaboration of more than 400 community and business leaders in the state, who embarked on the first CEED project in 2014-18.

The annual entrepreneurship forums, business webinars, youth leadership programs and other activities are focused on spurring economic growth in the state.

“We are thankful to the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for providing the opportunity to continue working in Mississippi with business and community leaders in partnership with UM students to help move our state forward,” said J.R. Love, CEED project manager.

The program’s annual Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum, which helps strengthen the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, will take place March 8, 2019, at Millsaps College in partnership with other universities throughout the state.

The CEED program supports undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members to research poverty, education, asset building, and health care in Mississippi.

“As a McLean Institute innovation fellow, I am to think critically about the issues of poverty and development in Mississippi, in particular the Delta area,” said Ashley Bowen, a master’s student in computer science from Lambert. “Through sustained community engagement, and by applying strategies in community development, I have been able to positively impact the community and develop myself professionally.”

The McLean Institute also supports faculty research projects through the CEED Initiative. Cristiane Surbeck, associate professor of civil engineering; Kate Centellas, Croft associate professor of anthropology and international studies; David Holben, professor of nutrition and hospitality management; Tejas Pandya, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Annie Cafer, assistant professor of sociology, all have received funds to conduct projects in Mississippi.

The 2018-19 CEED program includes students from the College of Liberal Arts and the schools of Accountancy, Applied Science, Business Administration, Engineering, Journalism and New Media, Law and Pharmacy.

Other students in the program are: Josh Baker, a junior majoring in economics from Katy, Texas; Elena Bauer, second-year law student, Freiburg, Germany; Allison Borst, junior in biological sciences and sociology, Madison; Anna Katherine Burress, junior in pharmaceutical science, Water Valley; Kristina Fields, junior in psychology, Belden; Adam Franco, senior in public policy leadership, Birmingham, Alabama; Michael Mott, junior in integrated marketing communications and Spanish, Chicago; Hannah Newbold, junior in integrated marketing communications, Roswell, Georgia; Virginia Parkinson, sophomore in marketing and corporate relations, Oxford; Navodit Paudel, junior in general business, Dhading, Nepal; Zach Pugh, sophomore in public policy leadership, Oxford; Arielle Rogers, sophomore in accountancy, Guntown; Kendall Walker, junior in communication sciences and disorders, Tupelo; and Bryce Williams, master’s student in exercise science, Ridgeland.

For more information on the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, visit http://mclean.olemiss.edu/ or contact Albert Nylander at 662-915-2050, or nylander@olemiss.edu.

Ole Miss Pharmacy Becomes Tradition for Yielding Family

UM alumnus inspired his daughter and niece to pursue the profession

Lauren Yielding Black (left) and cousin Audrey Yielding, both first-year student pharmacists, attend the 2018 White Coat Ceremony with Frank Yielding, a 1992 graduate of the School of Pharmacy, who is Lauren’s father and Audrey’s uncle. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – First-year student pharmacists and cousins Lauren Yielding Black and Audrey Yielding looked no further than their own dinner table when they were searching for their career paths.

The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy students found inspiration from 1992 Ole Miss pharmacy alumnus Frank Yielding, who is Lauren’s dad and Audrey’s uncle.

“I think Lauren and Audrey grew up listening to family and friends ask me for suggestions and advice concerning their health care,” said Frank Yielding, of Fulton. “Both felt a desire to help others as I have been fortunate to do for so many years. They are both very caring people and will be great assets to the pharmacy profession.”

Frank is the perfect candidate for the duo to learn from. His fascination with the profession began early when he was drawn to the atmosphere of his local pharmacy, Fulton Drug. After gaining experience behind the counter with pharmacist Dan McElroy, Frank followed in his mother’s footsteps and attended Ole Miss.

He has spent the last 24 years as pharmacy manager at his local Walmart and is the one passing knowledge to younger generations.

“As a child, I never understood exactly what he did,” said Audrey, a native of Tremont. “I knew that he was highly respected in the community and that he was the person we went to when we had questions about medications.

“When I was in high school, I did a research project on careers, and he answered all of my questions. I fell in love with the idea of being a pharmacist.”

For Lauren, the decision came about more gradually.                                                 

“I could not think of a single major event throughout my childhood that my dad missed, and that made a major impact on my decision to pursue a career in pharmacy,” Lauren said. “I want to be able to balance my work and personal life with my future family like my dad does.”

David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy, said the Yieldings’ story is representative of the pharmacy school’s emphasis on the importance of family.

“We welcome them from their family into our Ole Miss pharmacy ‘phamily,”’ Allen said.

When it came time to choose a school, Lauren and Audrey didn’t have to look far; UM was their top choice. As the Yielding family tradition continues, Frank is eager to watch the pair contribute to the profession in their own ways.

“It is an honor for me to watch as my daughter and niece follow down the same career path as I did many years ago,” he said. “It’s exciting to see all the changes that have taken place in the program, and I look forward to continuing this family legacy and remaining a part of the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy.”