UM Dean Becomes National Pharmacy Association President

David D. Allen assumes leadership of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

David D. Allen, dean of the UM School of Pharmacy, takes over this week as the new president of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Photo by by James Patterson

OXFORD, Miss. – David D. Allen, dean of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, will be inducted as the president of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy on Wednesday (July 25) at the organization’s annual meeting.

“From the moment I joined the organization, I had opportunities to learn, develop, grow and make contacts, and then later, opportunities to serve and give back,” said Allen, who has been involved with AACP for more than 20 years, serving as chair of the Council of Deans, Advocacy Committee, Costs of Experiential Education Task Force, Biological Sciences Section and Student Services Special Interest Group, as well as a member of several other committees.

“The opportunity to continue to give back with this role was really the driving force in wanting to be considered, and I was very humbled to be elected.”

AACP is the national organization representing pharmacy education and includes the country’s accredited pharmacy schools and colleges.

“The primary focus of my presidency is going to be on leadership,” Allen said. “I’d like to focus not only on enabling people in schools of pharmacy to become leaders with titles and administrative roles but also for faculty to lead from within their roles.”

Many faculty members don’t necessarily want an administrative title or role but want to have an impact. Allen said he likes to call such people “faculty champions.”

“They are key individuals who make meaningful contributions in very important processes but don’t necessarily have an administrative role or title,” he said. “Pharmacy is a rapidly changing field, and I am excited to continue to find ways for pharmacy educators to contribute to the progress of the profession.”

Allen’s election is well-deserved, said Lucinda L. Maine, executive vice president and CEO of AACP.

“David is passionate about quality pharmacy education at all levels, and his focus is on the leadership contributions across the academy,” she said. “He knows that moving forward in these important arenas requires advanced preparation.

“I’ve now worked with almost 20 incoming presidents (including former UM pharmacy Dean Barbara Wells). They have all been fantastic, but David’s preparation for the year has no rivals.”

As president, Allen said some of his most important responsibilities are advocating for pharmacy education and the pharmacy profession and continuing to strive to make sure the academy and individual schools and colleges are training people to have a strong impact on the health and well-being of people across the country. He also said he’ll promote his home university every chance he gets.

“I’m going to be traveling a lot as president of AACP, and each time I’m in front of another school, college or organization as president, the University of Mississippi and its School of Pharmacy will be named, which can provide positive and beneficial exposure,” Allen said. “It also gives me an opportunity, if prompted, to talk about what a great place the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy is and what extraordinary people we have here.”

Allen has served as dean of the UM pharmacy school since January 2012. He is also executive director and research professor of UM’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and a professor of pharmacology. He received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Kentucky.

Founded in 1900, AACP is the national organization representing the interests of pharmacy education. It comprises 139 accredited colleges and schools with pharmacy degree programs. For more information, visit https://www.aacp.org.

Pharmacy School Welcomes Tougaloo College to Preferred Admission Program

Third state institution joins program to benefit future pharmacists

Jinghe Mao (left), dean of the Tougaloo College Division of Natural Science; Richard McGinnis, chemistry professor at Tougaloo College; Kris Harrell, associate dean of academic affairs for the UM School of Pharmacy; and pharmacy Dean David D. Allen meet to finalize the Preferred Admission Program agreement between the two institutions. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – In an effort to expand access to pharmacy education within the state, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has completed its third admission agreement in a year with a Mississippi college.

Tougaloo College and the pharmacy school have partnered in a Preferred Admission Program that offers admission for Tougaloo freshmen who excel in pre-pharmacy classes and demonstrate a passion for service activities.

This initiative of the School of Pharmacy is meant to encourage more students to apply to pharmacy school who may prefer to complete pre-pharmacy courses at institutions that are closer to home or that offer more affordable tuition.

“The Preferred Admission Program will allow us to reach some of the best and brightest future pharmacists enrolled in Mississippi’s other college and university partners,” said Kris Harrell, the pharmacy school’s associate dean for academic affairs. “It’s a win-win-win for the students, the partner institutions and the School of Pharmacy.”

The Preferred Admission Program contributes to the university’s mission of making a positive impact on the lives of Mississippians, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“As Mississippi’s flagship institution, UM’s top priority is to use its resources to transform lives and communities,” Vitter said. “The School of Pharmacy’s Preferred Admission Program simultaneously increases educational opportunities across the state and contributes to the future of health care in Mississippi and beyond.”

Students admitted via the Preferred Admission Program will assume a traditional graduation track to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Alcorn State University and Jackson State University also are part of the program.

Beverly Wade Hogan, president of Tougaloo College, said she is pleased that her institution is participating in the program.

“Traditionally, a significant percentage of our graduates enter graduate and professional schools to study medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and other fields of health care immediately after receiving their undergraduate degrees,” Hogan said. “This is an opportunity for more of our graduates who are interested in pharmacy to study and stay in Mississippi, retaining the talents and skills so critically important to strengthening Mississippi and positioning it for heightened competitiveness.”

David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy, also stressed the benefits the Preferred Admission Program could have on patients.

“The goal of this partnership is to educate the very best future pharmacists who will contribute to and innovate within health care for the benefit of their patients,” Allen said. “Providing more opportunities for students interested in pharmacy can positively impact our profession for years to come.”

For more information on the Preferred Admission Program, contact  Harrell at kharrell@olemiss.edu.

Jackson Heart Study Vanguard Center at Oxford Debuts New Leadership

School of Applied Sciences commits to building research capacity in early-stage researchers

Paul Loprinzi (center), associate professor of health, exercise science and recreation management, celebrates his appointment as primary investigator and administrator for the Jackson Heart Study Vanguard Center at Oxford alongside Tossi Ikuta (left), assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders, who will continue to serve as data curator and Vokay Addoh (right), assistant professor of health, exercise science and recreation management, who will serve as the new director of research engagement. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Oxford-based Jackson Heart Study Vanguard Center that serves as a secondary data repository for the largest single-site, prospective, epidemiologic investigation of cardiovascular disease among African-Americans ever undertaken is under new leadership from the School of Applied Sciences at the University of Mississippi.

Paul Loprinzi, associate professor of health, exercise science and recreation management, has accepted the appointment as primary investigator and administrator. Tossi Ikuta, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders, will continue to serve as data curator, and Ovuokerie Addoh, assistant professor of health, exercise science and recreation management, will serve as director of research engagement.

“The purpose of JHS is to engage and mentor faculty and graduate students in collaborative research, analysis and ancillary study requests,” said Teresa Carithers, interim dean of applied sciences. “Part of mentorship and capacity-building is to recognize unique potential in early stage investigators.

“Each of these faculty have unique skills and can bring novel approaches to this population-based longitudinal study.”

Teresa Carithers

Carithers was invited in as an investigator with the original JHS exam and wrote the initial diet assessment protocols while serving as co-primary investigator for the diet and physical activity sub-study. The sub-study resulted in the validation and calibration of two culturally sensitive food frequency questionnaires in a successful collaboration with USDA researchers.

Carithers, along with Ben Banahan from the UM School of Pharmacy, submitted the IHL request for the Vanguard Center in Oxford and served as the initial co-primary investigators. Banahan will continue as primary investigator for the School of Pharmacy, and Carithers will continue as an investigator and mentor.

The School of Applied Sciences has been intentional about capacity building among faculty researchers, as current research requires more robust and novel conceptual design, Carithers said.

“I expect great success from the new applied sciences leadership based upon their ability to design and execute innovative research with interdisciplinary collaboration and support of minority investigators, both key elements to the overall Jackson Heart Study’s mission,” she said.

“Dr. Loprinzi is a prolific publisher and highly respected mentor with deep familiarity of the data needed to examine health and physical activity. Dr. Addoh, a new assistant professor, came to UM with a medical background before earning his Ph.D. with us, which will lend a new area of expertise to our team. Dr. Ikuta is a neuroscientist who manages monumental amounts of neuroimaging data in his own research, so he brings both technical skill and unique research interest to this study.”

Ben Banahan

Funded by the National Institute of Health, JHS is a community-based cohort study of risk factors for cardiovascular disease among adult African-American men and women living in the Jackson metropolitan area.

A collaboration among three Jackson-area academic institutions, JHS operates a field center and a coordinating center with the University of Mississippi Medical Center; a community outreach center and graduate training/education center with Jackson State University; and an undergraduate training and education center with Tougaloo College.

JHS is supported by contracts from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, part of the National Institutes of Health.

For more information about Jackson Heart Study or the work done at Vanguard Centers such as the one at UM’s Oxford campus, visit http://www.jacksonheartstudy.org.

University Joins Pharmaceutical Research Collective

Ole Miss becomes 18th member of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology & Education

The Hands-On Course in Tablet Technology at the School of Pharmacy is one of the university’s research initiatives that complements the mission of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology & Education. UM photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is the newest member of an elite group of 18 universities that make up the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology & Education.

NIPTE is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the design, development and manufacturing processes of pharmaceutical products by connecting members of the pharmaceutical industry with top-ranked pharmaceutical educational programs.

“The University of Mississippi was selected to join NIPTE due to our exemplary faculty, facilities and reputation in key pharmaceutical areas that complement and strengthen the NIPTE mission,” said Mike Repka, chair of the School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery.

The university’s, and specifically the School of Pharmacy‘s, research infrastructure, pharmaceutical manufacturing expertise and related graduate programs fit well within NIPTE’s goal of improving the way pharmaceutical products are manufactured, said Walt Chambliss, UM interim associate vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs and professor of pharmaceutics.

“We believe being a member of NIPTE will enhance our ability to secure research funding to make significant advancements in pharmaceutical development and manufacturing,” Chambliss said.

NIPTE also offers membership to faculty and researchers from member universities who work in related fields, making it easier to collaborate on multidisciplinary projects. Ole Miss is the third SEC institution to join NIPTE, following the University of Kentucky and Texas A&M University.

Chambliss also noted that the National Center for Natural Products Research, which is housed within the school, stands to benefit from the university’s NIPTE membership, as NCNPR scientists can offer their specialized expertise in natural products pharmaceutical development.

“Being part of a network of pharmaceutical scientists and engineers with interests in pharmaceutical development and manufacturing is a key benefit of NIPTE membership,” he said.

This membership complements several initiatives within the School of Pharmacy meant to advance pharmaceutical development, including the Hands-On Course in Tablet Technology, the Natural Products Training Laboratory and the new industrial pharmacy master’s degree track.

As part of the membership, pharmacy Dean David D. Allen will serve as a member of the NIPTE board of directors, helping oversee its financial matters and ensure the success of ongoing projects. 

“The School of Pharmacy is thrilled to represent the University of Mississippi by offering its broad pharmaceutical research expertise to help solve challenges within the pharmaceutical industry,” Allen said.

UM Team Places Third in Pharmacy Quality Alliance Challenge

Students devised business proposal to reduce opioid abuse

Siddhi Korgaonkar

OXFORD, Miss. – A team from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy placed third out of 22 teams in the Pharmacy Quality Alliance’s Healthcare Quality Innovation Challenge last month in Baltimore.

The four-student group consisted of third-year student pharmacists Mariah Cole, of Meridian; and Anna Crider, of Brentwood, Tennessee; as well as pharmacy administration graduate students Sushmitha Inguva, of Hyderabad, India; and Siddhi Korgaonkar, of Mumbai, India.

“I was very proud of our group and thought they did a superb job of presenting their proposal and answering questions from the judges,” said Ben Banahan, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management and professor of pharmacy administration. “Though we might be slightly biased, the UM faculty in attendance truly thought our team would get first place.

“They provided a great practical approach for improving access without developing a costly competitive system that was based on electronic health record systems.”

The team was tasked with submitting a business summary around the prompt “Addressing Potentially Unsafe Opioid Use.” The students’ goal was to develop a plan that alleviated the time-consuming effort for health care professionals to manually track and monitor a patient’s history of prescription opioid use.

Anna Crider

The result was “Interactive Coordination in Healthcare Promoting Safe and Effective Prescription Drug Use” or “iCHOOSE Rx.” The proposed computer/phone application would give providers an easier and more useful method to understand a patient’s history and manage their pain effectively.

“Addiction is a serious issue in the United States, which is costly to our health system,” Cole said. “As a future pharmacist, I feel compelled to monitor for potential medication abuse.

Mariah Cole

“In addition, pharmacists play a great role in dealing with the current opioid crisis, so I was intrigued to improve prescription monitoring for all health care professionals.”

With their proposal submitted, the team prepared a presentation for judges at the PQA annual convention. Inguva said the team felt comfortable onstage.

“We were nervous about answering the judges’ questions since we did not know what to expect,” she said. “In order to prepare for it, the team conducted mock sessions where members would speculate potential questions, and then everyone would discuss how to tackle them.”

Sushmitha Inguva

The team originated from collaboration between the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy and International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research student chapters. The challenge provided an opportunity to learn from each other and spread awareness about each professional organization.

“Working with a team this size was a wonderful learning experience,” Crider said. “Being from different educational backgrounds, we each brought an aspect of creativity and knowledge to the proposal to make it thorough and applicable in the real world.

“This experience taught me how critical it is for each person working in a group to have different interests and education because it helps broaden the scope of conversation and interaction.”

Pharmacy Students Receive Gateway to Research Scholarships

American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education award encourages students to pursue careers in research

Mary Paige Thrash

OXFORD, Miss. – Austin Fitts and Mary Paige Thrash, both rising second-year professional students at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, have been named recipients of the Gateway to Research Scholarship by the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education.

The award provides students an opportunity to work on faculty-mentored research projects while improving their knowledge of clinical skills.

“I was extremely excited because this fellowship, quite literally, will be used as my gateway to research the topics which I am interested in, such as oncology,” said Fitts, a native of Myrtle.

Fitts has worked with Chalet Tan, UM associate professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery, exploring the delivery of microRNA via exosomes to treat a variety of cancers. His interest in this area came after studying the isolation and characterization of exosomes at Jackson State University in summer 2016.

Fitts hopes this award will assist in his plan of earning a doctorate in biochemistry, cancer biology or medicinal chemistry.

“I am very proud of Austin for receiving this scholarship,” Tan said. “Austin has an inquisitive mind and unusually strong interest in cancer biology and drug delivery. His undergraduate research training was exceptional, which is the key impetus for the current project.”

Austin Fitts

Originally from Columbus, Thrash is studying new ways to target and defeat cancer cells along with forming new therapies. She said she believes this award will allow her to develop new laboratory skills.

“When I heard the good news, I was very excited,” Thrash said. “I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of the research community that is making strides to advance the field of medicine. I am honored to be given this chance to learn and work alongside faculty who have inspired and supported me throughout my research experience.”

Thrash recently helped design and create new molecules that could have potential therapeutic benefits for diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s and based her Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College thesis on the research. She is a member of the research team of John Rimoldi, UM professor of medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology, who called Thrash’s commitment to research “extraordinary.”

“I was thrilled to learn that Mary Paige was awarded this highly competitive AFPE scholarship,” Rimoldi said. “She is most deserving of this award, and I am confident she will make significant and impactful contributions towards her proposed research in drug discovery and development.”

UM Pharmacy and Alcorn State Partner in Admission Program

ASU becomes second state institution to join Preferred Admission Program

Alcorn State University has agreed to join the Preferred Admission Program for the UM School of Pharmacy, which will offer admission to qualified Alcorn State students. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has signed an agreement with Alcorn State University to offer admission to qualified Alcorn State students who excel in freshman pre-pharmacy courses and participate in service activities.

This partnership, called the Preferred Admission Program, is part of both the School of Pharmacy’s and Alcorn State’s more-than-century-old traditions of dedication to the health of the state and its communities.

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter praised the agreement, saying that it demonstrated a commitment to the university’s mission of contributing to the well-being of Mississippians.

“Facilitating broader access to education is one of the University of Mississippi’s foundational priorities,” Vitter said. “The School of Pharmacy’s Preferred Admission Program will benefit not only the students involved, but the overall pharmacy profession as well.”

Alcorn State is the second of three Mississippi institutions, along with Jackson State University and Tougaloo College, that are part of the Preferred Admission Program.

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

“Alcorn is incredibly excited to be launching this unique collaboration with Mississippi’s premier pharmacy school,” said Alfred Rankins Jr., Alcorn State president. “This engaging partnership will greatly benefit our high-achieving student scholars by providing direct access to post-graduate opportunities in a critically important health care profession.”

Once admitted, students in the Preferred Admission Program will be on the pharmacy school’s traditional graduation track to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

“This partnership is an integral part of our school’s commitment to educating pharmacists who will provide the best possible care for patients,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “We recognize that providing more opportunities for motivated students ensures the continued quality of pharmacy’s essential contributions to health care.”

For more information on the Preferred Admission Program, contact Kris Harrell, the School of Pharmacy’s associate dean for academic affairs, at kharrell@olemiss.edu.

Alice Clark Retiring as UM Vice Chancellor for University Relations

Clark leaves nearly 40-year legacy of shaping the university as a researcher, mentor and leader

Alice Clark and late husband Charlie Hufford enjoy some downtime during a professional conference they attended as colleagues. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Alice Clark, a senior University of Mississippi administrator whose nearly four decades of visionary leadership have driven major advancements, is retiring at the end of June. Clark is an F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor of Pharmacognosy and the university’s vice chancellor for university relations.

Clark earned both her master’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacognosy at UM and joined the university as a research associate and faculty member in 1979. She later served as the first director of the university’s National Center for Natural Products Research.

As a result of her strategic efforts, the center grew from a small unit to one of the world’s preeminent research centers for natural products drug discovery. The success of NCNPR has led to longstanding collaborative partnerships with industry and federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“It was my privilege to work for 35 years with Alice in various capacities – as a collaborator when she was professor in pharmacognosy, as associate director during her time as director of the NCNPR and as a researcher under her leadership in the administration,” said Larry Walker, who became the center’s director following Clark’s tenure. “She has been a great pillar in this university, with vision, boundless energy and drive to excel. But on top of all that, she’s a mentor to me and to so many, and a cherished friend.” 

In 2001, Clark became the university’s first vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. In this role, she championed the university’s research enterprise while overseeing its growth with strategic vision.

The results of these efforts helped the university attain “R1: Highest Research Activity” designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutes of Higher Education, the definitive honor for doctoral research universities in the United States, representing only 2.5 percent of universities nationwide.

“The first time I met Alice Clark, she was a young faculty member in the School of Pharmacy,” Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat said. “The gleam in her eyes told me that she was very bright. As I followed her career, I learned about her acclaimed reputation as a scientist.

“It was an easy decision to invite her to join our dynamic team as vice chancellor for research. Our research programs prospered during her leadership years. The designation as a Carnegie R1 research institute is a tribute to her life’s work.”

As vice chancellor, Clark sought and secured support for several new research centers and institutes on campus. She was instrumental in securing more than $23 million in funding for the establishment of the university’s research park, Insight Park, and the Innovation Hub at Insight Park.

She built a Division of Technology Management (now Office of Technology Commercialization) to assist university researchers in bringing their discoveries to the marketplace.

In 2016, at the request of Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter, Clark assumed the role of vice chancellor for university relations, where she continued to oversee the university’s economic development and federal relations efforts. She also became the chief administrator for development, public events and communications, and served as a key figure in implementing recent universitywide strategic initiatives.

“Alice is well-known for her steadfast commitment, visionary leadership and immense institutional knowledge,” Vitter said. “She has had a tremendous role shaping so many of the university’s successes during her decades at Ole Miss.

“As the longest-serving member of the university’s leadership team, the impact of her retirement will most certainly be felt at the leadership level and across so many different facets of our university.”

Alice Clark

A renowned pharmaceutical scientist, Clark has published extensively on the discovery of novel biologically active natural products and pharmaceuticals, authoring and co-authoring more than 100 original research articles, reviews and book chapters. As a principal investigator, she received continuous peer-reviewed NIH funding from 1984 to 2014 to conduct research related to the discovery and development of new drugs for opportunistic infections. The grant, one of the longest continually funded antifungal research programs in NIH history, led to the identification of many new natural products.

Her late husband, Charles D. Hufford, associate dean emeritus for research and graduate programs and professor emeritus of pharmacognosy, was a longtime collaborator. In total, Clark secured more than $20 million in research support.

Clark’s scientific expertise has informed public policy at the federal and state levels. She has testified to Congress on issues related to antimicrobial resistance and the safety and quality of dietary supplements.

She served on the charter advisory council for the NIH Center for Scientific Review and is a member of the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Integrative Health for NIH. She has also served on many expert review panels for NIH, chairing panels on AIDS and related research and drug discovery and antimicrobial resistance.

In 2010, she received the Marcy Speer Outstanding Reviewer Award, the highest honor for commitment to peer review given by the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Scientific Review. She was the 1996 Rho Chi National Lecturer and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

Clark has also served in several leadership positions in national and international professional associations, including chair of the Pharmaceutical Sciences Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and president of the American Society of Pharmacognosy.

In 2017, Clark was named recipient of the UM Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award. This annual award, which was instituted during Clark’s time as vice chancellor for research, recognizes an Ole Miss faculty member who has shown outstanding accomplishment in research, scholarship and creative activity. 

Clark’s impact extends beyond research and leadership roles to service and mentorship. She was a founding member of the Ole Miss Women’s Council, a group of philanthropic women committed to developing UM students through leadership, scholarship and mentorship.

She has served on the board of the CREATE Foundation and also served as a mentor to dozens of undergraduate and graduate students.

“Alice Clark is the reason I went into science,” said Melissa Flagg, U.S. Army Research Laboratory Northeast lead and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for research. “She ensured I was never apologetic for having questions, encouraged me to think beyond the traditional career pathways and reminded me that we can be both excellent and kind as leaders. 

“She set me on a career with a foundation of personal responsibility – that I’m responsible for my impacts on those around me, but also responsible for setting my own bar and being true to myself, cultivating excellence in myself and others.”

After 38-plus years of service, multitudes of new programs and initiatives, millions of research and philanthropy dollars raised, and hundreds of educational and career paths shaped in her role as a mentor, Clark is looking forward to a slower pace and spending lots of time on her new back porch that is under construction. She also expects to burn up the roads to Huntsville, Jackson and Nashville to spend time with her beloved family.

“I am deeply grateful for the wonderful opportunities given to me to serve the University of Mississippi in many ways over 38-plus years and for the rich and fulfilling life I’ve enjoyed as a result of being part of this extraordinary community,” Clark said. “Coming to Ole Miss as a graduate student changed the course of my life.

“It has been a privilege and honor to work with some of the finest, most dedicated people anywhere who are committed to providing such opportunities to others. I want to especially thank the countless friends and colleagues who have been so helpful to me throughout my professional life – you all have made the years fly by!”

Vazzana’s Generosity Helps Strengthen Health Care

Major gifts to support UM pharmacy scholarships, Manning Fund

Anthony S. Vazzana (seated) enjoys a recent visit with (from left) David Allen, dean of the UM School of Pharmacy; Port Kaigler, the school’s development director; and his cousins Gayton C. Cascio and Michael Casavechia. UM photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – A mortar and pestle; a balance; a graduated cylinder; species jars; faience or majolica drug jars; eye-wash cups; Bowls of Hygeia fashioned into ornate candelabra; pill bottles labeled opium, poison and heroin; and various show globes that once contained elixirs, tonics, powders and other medicines.

These pharmaceutical artifacts line the shelves at the entrance to the dean’s office in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. They were a gift from UM alumnus Anthony S. Vazzana, of Leland, and are on permanent display as treasures of an era past.

Meanwhile, an additional gift points to the future: Vazzana has designated to the university two Charitable Remainder Annuity Trusts. Given by Vazzana as a memorial in honor of his parents, Sam and Mary G. Vazzana, the gifts will provide scholarships for pharmacy students and support the Manning Family Fund for a Healthier Mississippi at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a fund that underwrites disease treatment and prevention in the areas of childhood obesity, caregiver training, African-American men’s health and Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Vazzana was unavailable for comment, but his cousin Gayton C. Cascio of Greenville, said, “He wants to help prepare students for the field of pharmacy. That was always the love of his life: pharmacy and the study of pharmaceutical chemistry. He really wants to see future generations benefit from his generosity.”

Vazzana received a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from Ole Miss in 1956 and soon after had an opportunity to buy into Turner’s Pharmacy, the largest drugstore by volume in Greenville, where he worked until his retirement in 1982. He also served as a pharmacist in the U.S. Air Force Reserve at the Greenville Air Force Base and was briefly stationed in Colorado.

“The thing that struck me was that Anthony loved talking about his time at the pharmacy and about the people with whom he interacted as a pharmacist,” said UM pharmacy Dean David Allen, who met with Vazzana in January at the Washington Care Center in Greenville. “You could see a smile on his face when he talked about it.”

Vazzana also loves his alma mater.

“He’ll talk about things at Ole Miss as if they were the other day,” Cascio said. “As a youth, he enjoyed sports, especially football. He made All-Conference as a tackle in the old Delta Valley Conference his senior year at Leland High School, so he talked to the Ole Miss coaches about possibly playing for the Rebels.

“He decided not to because he knew he would have afternoons filled with labs because of chemistry and that sort of thing. But he always enjoyed watching it. He’s a loyal fan.”

Vazzana has led a quiet, unassuming life. For many years, he enjoyed annual trips to Cuba before the embargo and then to Mexico; he tinkered with cars and went twice to the Indianapolis 500 with friends; and he was a collector of many things.

“He had a pharmacy scale and he kept all his old textbooks. He kept a lot of old memorabilia there in the house,” Cascio said. “Even the library in Greenville put pieces of his collection on display in the past. He was proud of that.”

His cousin also enjoyed gardening, Cascio said. “He spent a lot of time growing vegetables and spices.”

Thanks to his generous planned gift, Vazzana will grow young minds for the profession he loves.

“Just from the way he talks and the way he lived his life, I know that’s why he wanted to give back to Ole Miss,” Cascio said.

Planned gifts award donors membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university welcomed its first students. The society recognizes those who thoughtfully provide for the university through bequests and deferred gifts.

“By endowing this scholarship, Mr. Vazzana will help give students the opportunity to make their dreams of a career in pharmacy come true,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “In turn, the students he helps will then go on to help save lives in the healthcare profession. 

“Likewise, his support of the Manning Family Fund will significantly bolster continued research in the areas of disease treatment and prevention within our state. We are extremely grateful for Mr. Vazzana’s generosity.”

The Anthony Vazzana Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., University, MS 38655; or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.

For information on supporting the School of Pharmacy, contact Port Kaigler, development director, at 662-915-2712 or port@olemiss.edu.

UM Pharmacy Student Pens Winning Essay in Writing Competition

Alexandria Gochenauer's article focuses on how compounding pharmacies can stay competitive in the health care market

Alexandria Gochenauer

OXFORD, Miss. – Alexandria Gochenauer, a University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy student, was named one of the winners of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists’ Spring Writing Competition.

Her winning essay also has been accepted for publication in the July-August issue of the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding.

“I felt honored that my essay was selected as a winner of the student writing competition,” Gochenauer said. “Receiving this distinction encourages me to continue pursuing my interest in compounding pharmacy as a career.

“It’s also exciting to know that I’m going to be published in a well-known journal as a pharmacy student. Not many students have the opportunity to be published, so I feel very fortunate.”

Gochenauer wrote her essay based on this question: How can compounding pharmacies remain competitive with increased health care costs and reduced rate of insurance reimbursements? The rising fourth-year professional student focused on the customizable nature of compounded medications and how it can lead to cost savings for patients, pharmacies and the health care system as a whole.

Originally from Republic, Missouri, Gochenauer said her Pharmacy Management and Business Methods class helped her to develop background knowledge for the essay, while Erin Holmes, UM associate professor of pharmacy administration, played a vital role in her search for compounding literature.

“Alex spent a lot of time (researching) the pharmacy compounding literature to develop her essay,” Holmes said. “That, combined with her extensive compounding experience and strong writing skills, resulted in a compelling argument that compounding pharmacies can remain financially viable in a dynamic health care market.”

Gochenauer was inspired to enter the competition by Jim Yawn, an Ole Miss pharmacy alumnus and owner of Uptown Pharmacy in Madison, Mississippi, who actively promotes independent pharmacy practice to students.

“Alex is truly an exceptional pharmacy student and very deserving of the award,” Yawn said. “After getting to know her, I was able to see how self-motivated she is about the pharmacy profession. She showed up to work at the pharmacy poised and ready to do the job, even giving me some helpful compounding tips along the way.”