Pharmacy Student Going ‘Over the Edge’ for Fundraiser

Meghan Wagner will rappel down a building to raise money for Batson Children's Hospital

Meghan Wagner

JACKSON, Miss. – Meghan Wagner isn’t taking the traditional route to raise money for Friends of Children’s Hospital. The University of Mississippi third-year student pharmacist is rappelling down a 14-story building instead.

Wagner, from Grenada, will rappel down the Trustmark corporate office building in downtown Jackson on April 21 as part of the Over the Edge event, for which she has raised over $1,000. Friends of Children’s Hospital is hosting the event to support Batson Children’s Hospital, and the organization is aiming to raise $200,000.

“I’ve never been particularly afraid of heights, but as a small human being, 14 stories seems a bit daunting,” Wagner said. “I think excitement will win out, though, because it gives me courage to think about how brave all of the kids, families and staff at Batson are while trying to make the world a little bit brighter.

“When you compare it to what they conquer every day, I think I can take the plunge.”

Wagner plans to descend the 14 stories as a representative of the pharmacy student group PediaRebs, which focuses on pediatric pharmacy. She knows the group’s success stems from its mission to help kids in all stages of health.

“I have worked with kids for many years and have always been incredibly inspired by their unwavering confidence that they have the ability to make their dreams and goals come true,” Wagner said. “I hope to work as a pediatric pharmacist one day so I can be a part of the health care team that helps these kids achieve their goals, because without obstacles like illnesses or uncontrolled conditions, kids are unstoppable.”

“It’s great to see Meghan and PediaRebs support such a great cause,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “Their passion for helping children will continue to impact pediatric health care in our state, and I’m excited to see the chapter continue to thrive in Oxford and Jackson.”

For more information about Over the Edge, visit Wagner is accepting fundraising donations at

Former Arkansas Senator Named UM Pharmacy Alumnus of the Year

Consumer advocate and children's rights champion Percy Malone wins honor

Percy Malone (center), who founded AllCare Pharmacy in 1972, is the UM School of Pharmacy’s 2018 Alumnus of the Year. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – State senator, state representative, pharmacist and University of Mississippi alumnus – of all Percy Malone’s titles, the one which he is proudest of is advocate.

The former Arkansas state senator and 1965 pharmacy graduate is the School of Pharmacy‘s 2018 Alumnus of the Year. He has spent his career fighting to represent the interests of those who may be otherwise overlooked: namely, children, sick or incapacitated people and those living below the poverty line.

Originally from the small Mississippi Delta town of Rosedale, Malone’s parents had little education, but a strong work ethic.

“I came from a meager background,” Malone said. “My mother told me, ‘The way out of poverty is through education.'”

As a sixth-grader, Malone began working as a soda jerk in his local pharmacy, Lewis Drug Store. It was there he decided he wanted to become a pharmacist. After graduating from Rosedale High School, he completed his pre-pharmacy requirements at Delta State University before coming to the School of Pharmacy.

“I had people tell me that I would never get into Ole Miss, and if I did, I would never get out,” Malone said. “I didn’t spend my energy trying to prove them wrong. I spent my energy on telling myself I could do it.”

Malone recalls that he was not prepared for college, but that his professors at Delta State and Ole Miss spent extra time with him. His sister, who worked at a factory, gave him a credit card to buy gas for his old car. When he left Ole Miss on weekends to work at Lewis Drug Store, his mother sent him back with enough food to eat for the next week.

“It wasn’t easy, but I had a lot of people helping me, and I credit that for being able to get a good education,” Malone said. “I’m not a self-made man.”

After graduating, Malone found himself in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, one Sunday afternoon, speaking with I.B. Fuller, owner of a local drugstore, about a job. Fuller was looking to pass down the business, and Malone was looking to set down roots. Soon thereafter, Malone had stock in his first pharmacy.

“I worked very hard for many years to say yes to patients who needed me,” Malone said. “If they called me on Thanksgiving or Sunday or at night needing medicine, I wouldn’t tell them I was busy. I would go.”

From there, Malone went on to become one of the state’s top pharmacy innovators. He founded AllCare Pharmacy in 1972, which has grown to more than 17 community pharmacy locations across Arkansas.

He had one of the first pharmacy computer systems in Arkansas and expanded his business to fill prescriptions for long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and correctional facilities, as well as specialty prescriptions for complex diseases.

As a pharmacist and businessperson, he focused on finding ways to be more efficient and patient-oriented. Malone’s concern for the consumer stemmed from the understanding his background had given him of not being able to afford medicine.

In an effort to do more for patients, he ran for state government, and in 1995, began his first of three terms as an Arkansas state representative.

“As a representative, Percy worked to bring generic drugs into Arkansas pharmacies, and the traditional pharmacists did not like that,” said Donna Malone, Percy’s wife. “But he fought and he prevailed, and now every drugstore in America has generic drugs available. He passed his savings on to the consumer.”

Percy Malone served three terms as an Arkansas state representative and five terms as an Arkansas state senator. Submitted photo

As one of the only people in the Arkansas Legislature at the time with a health care background, he also advocated to allow pharmacists to administer immunizations and worked to pass evidence-based medicine in the state.

Besides health care advocacy, Malone stumbled upon what would become his other focus while in the Legislature. On his first day as a state representative, Malone read a news article he couldn’t forget about an abused and neglected child. From then on, he made it his mission to introduce at least one measure per legislative session aimed at protecting children.

Along with his wife, he helped expand the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, where children could go to report abuse. Because of this, as well as the numerous child protection laws he initiated, the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas honored him with the first Senator Percy Malone Child Protection Award in 2010, which is given to someone in Arkansas each year.

He spent 18 years in the Legislature, eventually becoming a senator for five terms, befriending then-future President Bill Clinton and continuing to fight for the vulnerable. He also has been lauded for his work pioneering innovative health care solutions that benefit assisted and long-term care facilities and their residents.

“Being in the Legislature, I was able to speak the words of the people who couldn’t speak for themselves,” Malone said. “There are a lot of people that deserve a hand up and not a handout.”

Malone’s generous spirit and care for those in need is well-known throughout the state.

Misty Huerkamp, staff pharmacist at AllCare Pharmacy, is an Ole Miss pharmacy alumna and Arkansas native who grew up hearing about Malone.

“He pretty much goes by the name Percy, and everyone knows who you’re talking about,” Huerkamp said. “He has done so much for the profession of pharmacy and so much to serve those around him, giving to those who need help or a little encouragement.”

Another Ole Miss pharmacy grad, Lauren Lyles, met Malone in 2014 during her second year of pharmacy school at the National Community Pharmacists Association annual meeting, after which Malone became a mentor to her.

“Percy values more than anything doing what is right instead of doing what is convenient,” Lyles said. “He has given back to broken communities that have suffered from generational poverty, domestic violence and limited access to health care through his businesses, philanthropic efforts and legislative work.”

Malone credits his Ole Miss education and the people he’s encountered for helping him to reach a place where he can freely give back.

“Ole Miss gave me the opportunity to fail, and no one wants to fail,” Malone said. “It’s been a marvelous life, and I’m very fortunate to be able to give. My upbringing taught me that once you’re on top of the ladder, you don’t pull the ladder up behind you.”

Malone will be honored Saturday (April 21) with the Alumnus of the Year Award at the School of Pharmacy’s awards banquet and reunion dinner at The Inn at Ole Miss.

“The School of Pharmacy is humbled and honored to call Percy an alumnus,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “He is beyond deserving of this award, not only for his contributions to our profession, but for the way he embodies the Ole Miss spirit.

“He earned his influence by being a champion for vulnerable and forgotten people and has continued to use his time and resources for their benefit.”

Botanical Experts Gather in Oxford for International Conference

UM School of Pharmacy and NCNPR welcome 280 conference attendees

Attendees at the 18th annual International Conference on the Science of Botanicals had more than 75 presentations from which to choose, on topics ranging from the history of cannabis as medicine to dietary supplements’ effect on the liver. UM photo by Whitney Tarpy

OXFORD, Miss. – Scientists and visitors from around the globe gathered in Oxford this week (April 9-12) for the 18th annual International Conference on the Science of Botanicals.

Organized and hosted by the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, the conference welcomed 280 registrants from universities, government and business institutions who explored the topic of synergy between natural products and human health. Participants discussed current research topics related to natural products research, development, safety, quality and regulations.

“With the NCNPR being internationally known for its botanical products expertise, the conference is a great opportunity to bring natural products experts to Oxford,” said Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR director. “ICSB continues to be instrumental in facilitating conversation related to botanicals among scientists and industry leaders.”

Steven Tave, director of the Office of Dietary Supplement Programs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, served as a special guest speaker at the conference’s opening session. John Finley, the national program leader for human nutrition at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, followed Tave with the keynote address.

Numerous internationally recognized experts and researchers in the field of botanicals presented at the conference, including attendees from Australia, Central America and Africa, as well as representatives from U.S. Pharmacopeia, Procter & Gamble, DuPont and Waters Corp.

“Over the past 18 years, this conference has really evolved into a symposium on basic medical research and botanicals,” said Joseph Betz, director of the Dietary Supplements Methods and Reference Materials Program at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements. “The scope has increased, the quality of presentations from international researchers has increased, the distance people are willing to travel has increased, so it’s just gotten better every year.”

Steven Tave, director of the FDA Office of Dietary Supplement Programs, speaks during the conference’s opening session. UM photo by Whitney Tarpy

Attendees had a chance to socialize and explore the Ole Miss campus and Oxford community. Events included dinner each evening with different local and international cuisines, an afternoon picnic with competitive field games and tours of NCNPR facilities and the School of Pharmacy’s medicinal plant garden.

“This is my favorite conference,” said Wendy Applequist from the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. “It has a diverse attendance that keeps it interesting, but it’s small enough that you can see most of the talks that interest you and meet most of the people you’d like to meet. It’s simultaneously international and intimate.”

The National Center for Natural Products Research was founded in 1995 to research, develop and commercialize potentially useful natural products. NCNPR collaborates with academia, government and the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries to create natural products that can be used to improve human health and agriculture as crops, pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements and agrochemicals.

For more information on programs at NCNPR, visit

Pharmacy School Introduces Application Option for Rising Sophomores

Advanced Standing Program offers qualified students seat in professional program

Ole Miss pharmacy students work in a skills lab on the Oxford campus. UM photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy is providing university freshmen a new way to secure their spot in its professional pharmacy program with the Sophomore Advanced Standing Program.

The program allows qualified UM freshmen to earn a guaranteed seat in the School of Pharmacy’s professional program, thereby avoiding the competitive selection process for regular entry admission that normally occurs during a pre-pharmacy major’s junior year. Upon completion of three years of pre-pharmacy courses and one year of professional courses, students also will receive a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Upon earning the B.S.P.S., student pharmacists then complete three additional years of the professional program before earning a Doctor of Pharmacy, or Pharm.D., and sitting for the national licensure exam to practice pharmacy.

Chelsea Bennett, the school’s assistant dean for student services in Oxford, said that the Sophomore Advanced Standing Program is an excellent opportunity for Ole Miss freshmen to enter the professional program and take advantage of other benefits the school offers.

“We have some exciting plans in place for our new Sophomore Advanced Standing students,” Bennett said. “They’ll have opportunities to take part in site visits, shadow pharmacists and be involved in our pharmacy student body events and professional organizations.”

This program is ideal for freshmen interested in pharmacy who did not enroll in the Early Entry program before they began their first year at Ole Miss.

“We are thrilled to offer another opportunity for aspiring pharmacists to join our program,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “These high-achieving students will benefit from our amazing faculty and facilities as they prepare for this diverse profession.”

The deadline to apply is May 1.

Eligible UM freshmen must be enrolled in a minimum of 14 hours per semester during their freshman year, have completed freshman science courses for the B.S.P.S. degree requirements by the end of July and hold a 3.25 GPA or better in their attempted courses. A minimum composite ACT of 25 is also preferred.

To apply or for more information, visit

Pharmacy Student Elected Speaker of National Professional Society

Third-year student pharmacist Regan Tyler named to Phi Lambda Sigma's Executive Committee

Regan Tyler

OXFORD, Miss. – Regan Tyler, a third-year student at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, was elected as Phi Lambda Sigma’s speaker of the house during the organization’s national meeting, held in conjunction with the American Pharmacists Association annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.

Phi Lambda Sigma is a pharmacy leadership society that aims to develop leadership qualities among student pharmacists to strengthen the future of the pharmacy profession.

In Tyler’s new role on the Executive Committee, she will control the annual PLS House of Delegates meeting, serve as a voice for student pharmacists on the committee during monthly conferences and attend the annual Executive Committee retreat in June to discuss its mission for the upcoming year.

“Honestly, I was in shock,” Tyler said of being elected. “It really did not hit me that I had been elected until the current speaker of the house asked me to return to the podium to dismiss the House of Delegates as my first ‘act of duty.'”

A native of Collierville, Tennessee, and president of the Ole Miss pharmacy student body, Tyler knew she wanted to serve PLS at the national level after the organization provided her with many opportunities to grow as a leader. She noted that attending the organization’s retreats helped her fine-tune her public speaking and learn more about her leadership style.

As she approaches her final year of pharmacy school, Tyler plans to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry as a medical science liaison or the medical information field. She believes her role as speaker will help her achieve her professional goals as she meets other leaders in the pharmacy profession.

“Regan is very deserving of this national recognition and responsibility,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “She does a wonderful job leading as student body president, and I’m excited to see how she will impact the future of pharmacy.”

Ole Miss is actively involved in PLS. Fourth-year student pharmacist Kathy Lee Barrack serves as president of the local chapter, making her a House of Delegates member, and School of Pharmacy alumna Jillian Foster is the organization’s parliamentarian.

The school’s chapter also initiates between 20 and 30 students and several faculty members each spring.

Student Pharmacists Present Research at National Conference

Five UM students showcase their work at APhA annual meeting

The UM School of Pharmacy. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Five University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy students each presented their own research at the recent American Pharmacists Association annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.

The students are Anna Crider, Erin Hoevelmann, Yiran Rong, Victoria Miller and Kelsey Raymer.

“This was an excellent opportunity for these students to share their work at a national level,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “To have five of our students presenting at the APhA annual meeting is a testament to our student body’s dedication to making a positive impact on patients and the profession.”

Crider, a second-year student from Brentwood, Tennessee, presented her analysis of whether pharmacists need more education regarding the treatment and care of children with ADHD. She plans to work as a clinical inpatient pharmacist after graduation and hopes that her research will improve the care of children with ADHD.

“Presenting at this conference helped to further my knowledge of opportunities within the profession,” Crider said.

A second-year student from St. Louis, Hoevelmann presented her survey results of pharmacists’ willingness to offer rapid diagnostic testing in the community pharmacy setting. She first presented this project in March 2017 as her thesis for the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“I was very excited to be able to present this work to a national audience,” Hoevelmann said. “This my first experience with research, and it has offered me so many opportunities, even a year later.”

Pharmacy administration graduate student Yiran Rong presented a research poster that examined community pharmacists’ perceptions on implementing a weight management program in their practice settings.

“It was really helpful for me to practice explaining a study in a short amount of time,” Rong said. “I met pharmacists, faculty and researchers who shared their ideas about real-world practice from different angles, which were very valuable and illuminating.”

Second-year student Miller’s work identified a lack of medication knowledge among many incoming college students and how pharmacists can provide education about medicines and health management to that age group. The Hartselle, Alabama, native hopes to pursue a residency and a career in hospital pharmacy upon obtaining her Pharm.D.

“Presenting at the APhA annual meeting allowed me to network with other professionals and show them my passion for patient care,” Miller said. “Completing this project has helped me develop research skills, which will be extremely valuable in a residency program and in my future career.”

Raymer, a third-year student from Hendersonville, Tennessee, presented on the differences in how pharmacy managers and pharmacy staff members impact and manage their own work environments.

“I am absolutely honored that my research was chosen for a podium presentation at the APhA annual meeting,” Raymer said. “This presentation helped me to build connections with pharmacists who have similar interests and big ideas for the future of pharmacy.”

Pharmacy Graduate Student Wins Scholarship for Alzheimer’s Research

Award allows Purnendu Sharma to present results to experts in the field

Purnendu Sharma (left), a UM graduate student in pharmaceutics, discusses his research with S. Narasimha Murthy, his adviser. UM photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – Purnendu Sharma, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery, received an Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation Young Investigator Scholarship for his research on the natural product resiniferatoxin, or RTX.

Sharma’s project, titled “Effect of Resiniferatoxin, a TrpV1 Receptor Agonist on Neuronal Cells and evaluating it In vitro Neurotrophic Activity for Neurodegenerative Disorders,” showed the potential of RTX to help in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

ADDF is one of the most prominent nonprofit organizations in the world that provides funding to scientists conducting innovative Alzheimer’s disease drug research. The scholarship allowed Sharma, originally from Hyderabad, India, to attend ADDF’s 12th annual Drug Discovery for Neurodegeneration Conference in Washington, D.C., in February and present his research poster.

“This award is a great recognition,” Sharma said. “Being able to present to and interact with experts on this subject and receive feedback will have a great impact on this research and my career.”

Sharma works under the supervision of S. Narasimha Murthy, professor of pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy. He also had collaborative support from Babu L. Tekwani, principal scientist in the National Center for Natural Products Research, as RTX is a chemical found in a cactus-like plant in Morocco and Nigeria.

“Purnendu is a highly-focused and hard-working student,” Murthy said. “He was very deserving of this award for his novel findings on neurotrophic activity of nanoformulations of resiniferatoxin. I am confident that Purnendu will have a successful career as a pharmaceutical scientist.”

Sharma’s work on other projects, including evaluating the microstructure of topical creams, has been recognized by the FDA and American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, Murthy added.

Alumnus Surprises Student Pharmacist by Covering Tuition

Hartman lecturer Blake Thompson gives back to school, profession

UM alumnus Blake Thompson (left) surprises student pharmacist Lee Jennings by covering a semester of his tuition during the School of Pharmacy’s annual Hartman Lecture. Jennings was the only student to take Thompson’s challenge to deliver a brief speech on his career goals. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Blake Thompson, the 2018 Hartman lecturer for the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, surprised a crowd of student pharmacists, faculty, friends and family at the March 9 lecture by offering to cover a semester’s worth of tuition for one student.

Thompson, a UM alumnus who is vice president for government affairs at Ohio State University, delivered a lecture focused on the importance of taking career risks. To demonstrate, he asked any student to come onstage and speak to the nearly-full Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts about his or her own career goals.

“If you would consider the idea of coming up here with me right now and giving an impromptu speech risky, then I want you to get ready,” he said, before inviting someone to step out from the audience and join him on stage.

However, when Lee Jennings, a second-year student from Hattiesburg, volunteered and made his way to the stage, instead of asking Jennings about his career plans, Thompson remarked on the risk Jennings had taken.

“Lee, because you took a risk and volunteered, you now have your spring semester’s tuition covered,” Thompson said, to the audience’s applause. “It’s taken care of. Congratulations!”

Before he finished, Thompson gave Jennings one condition: that he do the same for another student pharmacist someday.

Thompson illustrated the importance of this condition by quoting former Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, saying “You can never pay it back, but you can pay it forward.”

Jennings said he was initially “stunned,” but after registering Thompson’s words, felt extremely grateful, noting that the scholarship will significantly defray his student loan burden.

He also expressed gratitude to Thompson for the lesson he imparted.

“I want to own a pharmacy one day, and I know that buying or building a pharmacy is a major risk,” Jennings said. “This experience taught me that reward doesn’t come without a risk.

“As I move forward in my career and in my life, I hope to keep the idea of taking a risk in mind when faced with tough decisions.”

Jennings hopes to fulfill his promise to Thompson and pay his good fortune forward not only for another student pharmacist in the future, but also in the community where he will someday practice his profession.

“This is an incredible gesture and illustration for our student pharmacists,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “Taking innovative risks is how we as pharmacists can improve health care.

“By ‘paying it forward,’ Blake demonstrated the giving spirit that pharmacists should bring to their work, whether they are giving their resources, their time or their expertise.”

Thompson credited his time at Ole Miss for teaching him the importance of risk-taking that he sought to convey with the lecture.

“Those times when I have done something that was uncomfortable or that I wasn’t quite sure I was ready to do, that is when I have seen my greatest growth,” Thompson said.

For more information on pharmacy education at Ole Miss, go to

Natural Products Center Scientist Honored for Cannabis Research

Suman Chandra wins Outstanding Scientist Award

Suman Chandra received a plaque for his Outstanding Scientist Award, presented by the Society of Tropical Agriculture. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Suman Chandra, a senior research scientist at the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research, was honored with an Outstanding Scientist Award at the International Conference on Recent Advances in Agriculture and Horticulture Sciences in New Delhi.

The Society of Tropical Agriculture gives the annual award to a scientist who has contributed to the study of agriculture and horticulture. Chandra works with the natural products center’s Marijuana Project, housed within the UM School of Pharmacy, studying the propagation of cannabis intended for research purposes.

“I was very pleased to receive this award and am grateful to the Society of Tropical Agriculture for recognizing my contributions to the field,” Chandra said.

As part of the award, Chandra presented a paper at the conference about growing cannabis for the purpose of producing cannabinoids.

During Chandra’s 18 years working with NCNPR’s marijuana facility, he has screened and selected many cannabis varieties, as well as monitored the cultivation, harvest and processing of standardized cannabis biomass for research. He also participates in developing biotechnological tools and procedures for preserving genetic materials.

“Suman is an excellent scientist who has helped us make incredible strides in the study of cannabis propagation and the production of standardized cannabis preparations for research,” said Mahmoud ElSohly, director of the Marijuana Project.

Chandra has contributed to more than 50 publications, including “Cannabis sativa L.: Botany and Biotechnology,” a new book he wrote with ElSohly.

“I am grateful to Dr. ElSohly for giving me the opportunity to work under his guidance and for his constant support and encouragement throughout the years,” Chandra said.

For more information on natural products research at Ole Miss, go to

Celebrating Great UM Women

Inspiring stories reflect observance of Women's History Month

In conclusion of Women’s History Month, celebrate with accomplishments made by great UM women. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

In celebration of Women’s History Month, this selection of stories highlights achievements by great UM women. These are just  few of the wonderful stories about faculty, staff, students and alumni: