Record Number of UM Pharmacy Students Matched with Residencies

New graduates will help improve patient care throughout Mississippi and across the country

Kandis Backus, a 2017 UM pharmacy graduate, is congratulated at Commencement by Buddy Ogletree, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice. Backus is completing a community pharmacy residency at Walgreens in Jackson. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s 2017 graduating class included 31 graduates who will go on to complete a pharmacy residency – the largest number in school history.

Of those who applied for residencies, 72.5 percent were matched, compared to the national average of 69 percent, as reported by National Matching Service Inc.

Thirteen of the 31 matched students will work at rotation sites within the state, mostly in Jackson or surrounding cities, with others in Oxford, Southaven and Tupelo. Out-of-state matches included 12 states, ranging as far as Colorado and Maine.

“I’m excited for what the future has in store for our Class of 2017 and am proud of our residency placement,” said Katie McClendon, assistant dean for student services at the pharmacy school’s Jackson campus. “Our graduates will have an impact in Mississippi and across the U.S. in institutional, community and administration residencies.

“Residency training will prepare them for a job in the ever-evolving health care field, where they will improve care for individual patients and populations.”

Much like medical students, pharmacy students go through a residency matching process in their fourth and final year of the professional pharmacy program, ranking their top choices and interviewing with potential residencies in a variety of settings.

McClendon helps students apply for these residencies, which typically last a year, during which pharmacy graduates receive general training. Some pharmacy residents elect to complete a second year to pursue more specific interests and specializations.

Leslie Davis

Kandis Backus, a 2017 pharmacy graduate from Chicago, matched to a community pharmacy residency at Walgreens in Jackson. This residency includes a rotation at Open Arms Healthcare Center, a clinic that specializes in HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment.

“I am excited to do this residency because it combines three things that I love: HIV treatment and prevention, research and retail pharmacy,” Backus said.

Backus has been working with the clinic for over two years. She said she was happy to find out that she matched with them and looks forward to being an “actual pharmacist” at this clinic.

Patients also benefit from residencies, as they receive care from highly educated new professionals.

Leslie Davis, a recently graduated pharmacist from St. Louis, matched with the UM Medical Center. Davis said her many great experiences at UMMC as a pharmacy student made her excited to move forward as a resident there.

She is particularly interested in pediatrics and looks forward to rotations at Batson Children’s Hospital.

“I love working with kids,” Davis said. “They are so resilient and always want to get better as fast as possible. I love being able to talk with them and go through the whole process with them and their parents.”

Jordan Kelley

Jordan Kelley, from Charleston, matched with University of Kentucky HealthCare in Lexington. The process of applying was strenuous, but Kelley said she enjoyed traveling to the sites she was considering.

Kentucky was her first choice, and she was “overjoyed” when she found out she matched there.

“I’m primarily interested in infectious diseases, but what I love about Kentucky is that they have every aspect of pharmacy you could want to explore,” Kelley said. “I can research infectious diseases while also interacting with oncology and HIV patients. All of those opportunities will be afforded to me while I’m there.”

Pharmacy School Remembers Associate Dean Emeritus Charlie Hufford

Professor, researcher and administrator influenced many over 43-year Ole Miss career

Charlie Hufford

OXFORD, Miss. – Charles D. Hufford, associate dean emeritus for research and graduate programs and professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, died Monday (May 15) at the age of 72. His career at Ole Miss spanned 1972 to 2015.

Faculty and alumni remember him as an encouraging and effective leader who quietly supported the careers of many throughout his 43 years at the school. Colleagues called him trustworthy, competitive and energetic.

“Charlie was an incredibly talented, yet humble individual,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He was the example of servant leadership, mentoring others so they could succeed while never seeking recognition for himself. He dedicated himself to serving the students and the school, and was responsible for many of the school’s achievements.”

Originally from Sycamore, Ohio, Hufford earned his pharmacy degree and Ph.D. from Ohio State University and served as a pharmacist in the Air Force Reserve before joining the UM faculty as an assistant professor of pharmacognosy in 1972.

He became chair of the Department of Pharmacognosy in 1987 and the school’s first associate dean for research and graduate programs in 1995. He retired Feb. 1, 2015, but still made time to visit with students and faculty.

During his time at the School of Pharmacy, Hufford was credited with transforming the school’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research, patenting compounds and helping to bring in more than $7.4 million in grants to the university.

He was instrumental in helping the school acquire eight nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy machines that identified complex natural products. This boosted the school’s drug and agrichemical discovery, which helped build the infrastructure necessary to make the school a leader in natural products research.

Charlie Hufford is remembered by colleagues as a dedicated teacher, administrator and researcher, who helped transform the UM School of Pharmacy’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

One of Hufford’s signature initiatives was research aimed at removing side-effects of the antimalarial drug primaquine. Faculty and scientists at the school have continued this research, resulting in the school’s first-ever clinical trial on May 18, 2017, testing primaquine in human volunteers.

Another of Hufford’s accomplishments was updating the pharmacy curriculum to include information on dietary supplements several years before Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 to regulate the supplement market. The National Center for Natural Products Research at the School of Pharmacy works closely with the FDA to determine the safety and legitimacy of dietary supplements.

Hufford also contributed countless hours to the renovation of the school’s Faser Hall facility. In 1999, then-dean Ken Roberts entrusted Hufford to oversee the project, and Hufford spent the next 14 years securing funds, working with builders and keeping records of the construction, all while maintaining his responsibilities as associate dean.

“He was by far one of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals I’ve ever been associated with,” Roberts said. “I have no doubt the School of Pharmacy rose in stature because of the untiring devotion of Dr. Charles Hufford and those who were influenced by his strong character and leadership.”

Hufford was an avid bowler who recorded more than 30 perfect games over his career.

Hufford was awarded for his accomplishments throughout his career, winning the 1994 School of Pharmacy Faculty Research Award and the 1995 Jack Beal Award for most distinguished graduate of the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy graduate program. He held leadership positions within the American Society of Pharmacognosy and was a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

“It was such a pleasure and honor for me to work with Dr. Charles Hufford for 10 years,” said Barbara Wells, dean emeritus of the pharmacy school. “In all matters, his counsel was always informed and on-target, and his judgement was excellent.

“He worked hard to advance the School of Pharmacy, and he was just as committed to the mission and vision of the university. Unlike most leaders who step away from their teaching as they assume greater and greater responsibilities, he never gave up his teaching because he loved working with bright young minds.”

At the end of his career, he was even able to present a student award named for him. The Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Award is given each year to a graduate student who excels in pharmacognosy.

Hufford was a favorite with students, offering his signature combination of humor and patience as he mentored and encouraged those who came through his doors. He spent most of his early years teaching graduate students, saying it was “rewarding to … get them accustomed to thinking on their own and seeing (their) joy from the gratification of solving whatever problem we were working on.”

“Dr. Hufford as a teacher had a tremendous influence on me in my care of patients,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs. “I was uniquely blessed to have the unexpected opportunity to return to UM and work with our offices side-by-side.

“He used practical and common sense in his leadership, and even maintained his sense of humor and mentorship when he asked me to be on his bowling team. I thought I had arrived, but we both knew it was for my very high handicap.”

Hufford was a competitive bowler who approached the sport as he did everything else – with commitment to constant improvement. He held 10 championship tournament titles with the Senior All Star Bowling Association, logged more than 30 perfect games and was a member of both the SASBA Hall of Fame and the Mississippi State Bowling Association Hall of Fame.

Upon his retirement in 2015, he planned to spend even more time at the lanes, as well as with his family, including children Gary and Jennifer, grandchildren Ryan and Andy and his wife of 32 years, Alice Clark.

Marvin Wilson, associate dean emeritus of academic and student affairs, spent nearly 40 years working alongside Hufford in the pharmacy school, both progressing from assistant professors to associate deans.

“Even though he was committed to the school, it paled in comparison to his dedication to Alice, his children and his grandchildren,” Wilson said. “He and Alice probably spent years in gyms, at ballfields or traveling to and from such activities to be with and support their family.”

Wilson added, “I would implore you when you hear thunder, to think of Charlie rolling another strike in heaven.”

Services are set for 2 p.m. Friday (May 19) at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford. Visitation begins at noon. Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to the Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Fellowship Endowment at the University of Mississippi Foundation.

Pharmacy School Recognizes Students with Honors Banquet

Event honored students' scholastic and leadership achievements

Newly initiated members of the Rho Ci Society take the Rho Chi pledge during a ceremony hosted by the UM School of Pharmacy. UM photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi chapters of pharmacy honors societies co-hosted a banquet last weekend to initiate new members into both societies and recognize the outstanding academics and leadership of existing society members.

The UM chapter of the Rho Chi Society, which honors pharmacy academic achievement, inducted 22 second-year pharmacy students, 15 graduate students and two faculty members. Pharmacy students must be in the top 20 percent of their class academically to be considered for Rho Chi.

“Being inducted into Rho Chi provides opportunities for pharmacy students to serve their colleagues, communities and patients,” said Erin Holmes, associate professor of pharmacy administration and the Rho Chi faculty treasurer. “We’re so proud to see our very deserving students and colleagues inducted into both of these prestigious societies.”

Phi Lambda Sigma honors those who demonstrate leadership in pharmacy, and the Ole Miss chapter inducted 27 students and a faculty member. Student inductees into Phi Lambda Sigma must be nominated by their peers who are members of the organization.

Five students – Lauren Daigle, Allie Michelle Funderburk, Jenn Miller, Mary O’Keefe and Meghan Elise Wagner – were inducted into both Phi Lambda Sigma and Rho Chi.

“Both of these societies represent the vast amount of talent, dedication and heart the School of Pharmacy has to offer,” Wagner said. “I hope to not only learn from my peers and their experiences, but to help both societies continue to grow the profession of pharmacy and pharmacists’ roles as health care professionals.”

Leadership development is an important facet of membership in these honor societies, said Lauren Bloodworth, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice and a Phi Lambda Sigma faculty adviser. 

“My favorite part of being involved with Phi Lambda Sigma is watching the students’ leadership skills evolve over time,” Bloodworth said. “They begin their journey with limited experience and gradually develop skills that help them flourish by the end of their professional school tenure.”

Students inducted into the Rho Chi Society were:

Christopher Bishop, a second-year student, from Rienzi; Alix Cawthon, second-year, from Abita Springs, Louisiana; Cody Craven, second-year, from St. Charles, Missouri; Lauren Daigle, second-year, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jerrica Eaton, second-year, from Athens, Alabama; Sarah Eldred, second-year, from Slidell, Louisiana; Allie Michelle Funderburk, second-year, from Olive Branch; Taylor Gish, second-year, from Jupiter, Florida; Megan Harlow, second-year, from Okolona; Hinton Havens, second-year, from Bolton; Madeline Hudson, second-year, from Norcross, Georgia; Rachel Larry, second-year, from Mobile, Alabama; Emily Lewis, second-year, from Valley Park, Missouri; Jenn Miller, second-year, from High Ridge, Missouri; Erin Moore, second-year, from Des Moines, Iowa; Mary O’Keefe and Meghan Elise Wagner, both second-year, from Oxford; Neel Patel, second-year, from Meridian; Lauren Pohl, second-year, from St. Louis; Shassidy Ramshur, second-year, from Columbia; Kelsey Raymer, second-year, from Lexington, Tennessee; and Cain Young, second-year, from Eupora.

Graduate students inducted into the Rho Chi Society were: Mohamed Albadry, a student in biomolecular sciences, from Giza, Egypt; Dennis Carty, in biomolecular sciences, from Royse City, Texas; Michael Cunningham, in biomolecular sciences, Jagrati Jain, in biomolecular sciences, and Jiaxiang Zhang, in pharmaceutics, all from Oxford; Karthik Yadav Janga, in pharmaceutics, from Warangal, India; Venkata Raman Kallakunta, in pharmaceutics from Secunderabad, India; Prit Lakhani, in pharmaceutics from Mumbai, India; Apoorva Panda, in pharmaceutics, from New Delhi, India; Abidah Parveen, in biomolecular sciences, from Rawalpindi, Pakistan; Anitha Police, in pharmaceutics, from Kurnool Dist, India; Vijay Kumar Shankar, graduate student in pharmaceutics, from Bangalore, India; Munia Sowaileh, graduate student in biomolecular sciences, from Horn Lake; and Xingyou Ye, in pharmaceutics, from Jiangyin, China.

Faculty members inducted into the Rho Chi Society were: Surendra Jain, a senior research and development biologist; and Meagan Rosenthal, an assistant professor of pharmacy administration.

Students inducted into Phi Lambda Sigma were:

Carly Baker, a second-year student from Pope; Jesse Bowen, second-year, from Starkville; Anna Blair Brown, fourth-year, from Madison; Samuel Isaac Breite, second-year, from Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Lauren Daigle, second-year, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana; T’Keyah Davis, second-year, from Walls; Victoria Frame, third-year, from Winter Park, Florida; Allie Michelle Funderburk, second-year, from Olive Branch; Alexander Gochenauer, second-year, from Republic, Missouri; Sage Brooke Greenlee, second-year, from Kilmichael; Michelle My Ha, second-year, from Moss Point; Mallory Beatrice Harris, fourth-year, and Austin Russell Morrison, third-year, both from Ridgeland; Hayden Anthony Hendrix, third-year, from Maben; Ashley Renee Hill, second-year, from Saucier; Ashley Erin Lock, third-year, and Regan Nicole Tyler, second-year, both from Collierville, Tennessee; May Ly, third-year, from Gautier; Andrew Ardis Mays, fourth-year, from Southaven; Jenn Miller, second-year, from High Ridge, Missouri; Laura Nerren, Mary O’Keefe and Meghan Elise Wagner, all second-year students, from Oxford; Brandon Plaisance, third-year, from Magnolia; Lindsay Thomas, fourth-year, and Jenny Nguyen Tran, second-year, both of Hattiesburg; Dylan B. Ware, second-year, from Pickens; and Payton Alexa Winghart, second-year, from Huntsville, Alabama.

Anastasia B. Jenkins, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, also was inducted into Phi Lambda Sigma.

UM School of Pharmacy Named Smart Financial Value

Graduates enjoy lower debt, comparable salaries as national averages

The UM School of Pharmacy has been ranked 12th nationwide for financial value, based on average salaries and student load debt for graduates. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has been named one of the best financial values in the country among pharmacy programs, based on a study by personal finance and loan refinancing company SoFi.

The School of Pharmacy ranked 12th nationwide and best in the Southeastern Conference, based on the ratio of its graduates’ average salaries to their average student loan debt.

The study used data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy on first-year tuition and fees and student loan debt from more than 60 programs around the country, as well as from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on median salaries of 2016 graduates.

“Our focus as a school continues to be on value, which we measure by cost and quality,” said David Gregory, associate dean for student affairs at the School of Pharmacy. “We are grateful for this recognition and will continue to work to advance on the value scale for pharmacy education.”

The average salary for an Ole Miss pharmacy graduate is $120,269, which is just under the national median pharmacist salary of $121,500. However, UM pharmacy graduates have an average of $98,051 in student loan debt, almost 40 percent lower than the national average of $157,425 for pharmacy students.

This 1.2-to-1 ratio of salary to debt accounts for the program’s high rank in the SoFi study.

Starting salaries for UM pharmacy graduates are on the rise, which may be due to the shortage of health care professionals in Mississippi, especially in more rural areas. In 2015, the Mississippi Legislature addressed this issue by expediting licensure for rural practitioners.

Mississippi is ranked fifth nationwide in demand for pharmacists, according to the Pharmacist Demand Indicator.

“In order to continue to recruit student pharmacists to take on public health issues, we must be competitive in all areas,” said David D. Allen, pharmacy dean. “Being a good value in addition to being an outstanding program enhances our ability to attract the top students.”

UM Pharmacy Students to Present at Veterinary Conference

Both are leaders in campus Rebel Vets

Alexandria Gochenauer. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Two UM School of Pharmacy students are to speak this weekend at the Annual Veterinary Pharmacy Conference in Memphis, Tennessee, hosted by the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists.

Second-year pharmacy students Robert Ross and Alexandria Gochenauer, who are both interested in veterinary pharmacy, were recommended to speak at the April 20-22 conference by Erin Holmes, associate professor of pharmacy administration.

“Alex and Robert are very passionate about the practice of veterinary pharmacy and have developed a great relationship with ACVP,” Holmes said. “They’ve already written several articles designed for veterinarians, veterinary pharmacists and pet owners as part of the ACVP’s quarterly newsletter.”

Ross, a native of Homer Glen, Illinois, helped create the university’s student chapter of ACVP, called Rebel Vets, and is the organization’s president-elect. He will present at the conference on the treatment and prevention of diabetes in cats and dogs.

“I’m fascinated by the complexity of diabetes and how prevalent it is in our country,” Ross said. “I was interested to see that it’s very common in pets, just as it is in humans.”

Robert Ross. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Ross is weighing his career options but is interested in the possibility of working in a veterinary hospital.

“I see this conference as a great opportunity to be able to meet people with similar interests from around the country,” Ross said.

Gochenauer, of Republic, Missouri, also played a key a role in establishing Rebel Vets and has served as its secretary for two years.

“I was lucky to be offered this opportunity, and I am very excited to break into the world of veterinary pharmacy,” Gochenauer said.

She will present on cancer therapeutics in cats and dogs, focusing on available drugs and treatments for the disease in these animals. Upon graduation, Gochenauer hopes to complete a veterinary pharmacy residency and eventually work in a veterinary teaching hospital.

“These students’ working knowledge of veterinary pharmacy sets them apart as speakers for the upcoming conference,” Holmes said. “As a new organization in the School of Pharmacy, I’m very excited for the opportunities that are emerging for the Ole Miss Rebel Vets, and I could not be prouder of all they have accomplished.”

Pharmacy Professor Wins Prestigious Elsie M. Hood Teaching Award

Students call John Rimoldi 'enthusiastic' and 'altruistic'

John Rimoldi lectures to a group of UM pharmacy students. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – John Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, is the winner of the 2017 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award.

This award recognizes one Ole Miss professor each year who embodies teaching excellence and exceptional student engagement. Students and faculty submit letters of nomination, and honorees are usually nominated many times over before winning.

“I am deeply humbled to be in the company of past Elsie M. Hood award recipients, many of whom I know and consider to be teaching champions in their field,” said Rimoldi, who accepted the award April 7 at the university’s annual Honors Day Convocation. “It’s heartwarming to know that many students over the years took time out of their demanding schedules to write a letter of nomination.”

Third-year pharmacy student Meredith Oliver, one of Rimoldi’s nominators, praised his “infectious” enthusiasm and his ability to connect lectures with real-world health issues.

“The entire biomolecular sciences department exudes a childlike spirit of discovery and innovation that I believe is a direct result of his leadership and innovative pharmaceutical research,” Oliver said. “His passion for medicinal chemistry engenders respect and instills a fierce curiosity in his students.

“In thinking about pursuing a career in academia myself, ​Dr. Rimoldi’s teaching certainly​ serves as a model for me.”

Rimoldi has taught in the pharmacy school since 1995. His previous teaching honors include the UM Faculty Achievement Award for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship, the UM Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring, three Pharmaceutical Sciences PY1 Teacher of Year awards and two consecutive three-year terms as a Distinguished Teaching Scholar in the School of Pharmacy.

“John is one of the very best educators that we have at the university and is highly deserving of this award,” said Kristie Willett, chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences, which houses the division of medicinal chemistry. “His commitment to student learning is really unparalleled.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (right) presents the 2017 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award to John Rimoldi during the Honors Day ceremony at the Ford Center. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

In presenting the award, Chancellor Jeff Vitter called Rimoldi a “standout among other professors.”

“(He) is known as a professor who not only engages his students with the curriculum he teaches, but also leaves a lasting impact, which steers students towards lifelong learning,” Vitter said. “He is the standard we all should aspire to for teaching excellence and student engagement.”

Rimoldi is vice president and co-founder of Paradox Pharmaceuticals Inc., which develops new drugs for treating cancer and heart disease in humans and animals. He has published close to 70 research and teaching publications on synthetic, medicinal and environmental chemistry.

“John’s passion for teaching is contagious and his dedication to connecting with students contributes to the unique, close-knit environment of our school,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “He’s one of the most exceptional educators I’ve had the pleasure to work with.”

Besides being a professor of medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology, Rimoldi has served as a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College faculty since 2013. He is a research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, director of research and graduate affairs in the Department of BioMolecular Sciences and director of the Chemistry and DM/PK Core Laboratory associated with the university’s NIH-COBRE program grant.

“Dr. Rimoldi’s altruistic approach is welcoming in an increasingly competitive academic environment,” said Dennis Carty, a doctoral candidate in pharmaceutical sciences. “He always finds time for those in need of academic or life guidance. I’m honored to have been mentored by such a great intellect and friend.”

The late Ron Borne, professor of medicinal chemistry and winner of the 1972 Elsie M. Hood award, mentored Rimoldi, who said he wished Borne could share this moment with him.

“I sincerely believe I am the beneficiary of each classroom experience or lecture,” Rimoldi said. “It’s easy to be passionate about the things you enjoy and love to do.”

School of Pharmacy Begins Clinical Study of Antimalarial Drug

Volunteers sought to help researchers improve safety, efficacy of essential medication

Abbas Ali, a principal scientist in the UM National Center for Natural Products Research, works to develop insect repellents from natural products, part of the School of Pharmacy’s efforts to fight malaria. UM photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy Research Clinic is looking for students and residents in the Oxford and Lafayette County area to participate in a clinical study for the antimalarial drug primaquine.

The World Health Organization lists primaquine as one of the safest and most essential medications in the world. The study begins later this month and will coincide with WHO’s World Malaria Day observance April 25, which highlights the need for continued commitment to malaria control and prevention worldwide.

“We are eager to begin this research in hopes of getting closer to the very real possibility of one day eradicating malaria worldwide,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

Researchers in the school are continuing research on primaquine that has been ongoing there for 25 years in hopes of improving the drug and broadening its use. Preventative research such as this is crucial in making further advancements toward a final cure for malaria, said Larry Walker, director emeritus of the university’s National Center for Natural Products Research.

“In the long run, these studies will help us to better understand the safety and metabolism of this class of drugs, and perhaps make it more useful in the fight against malaria,” Walker said. “It may also allow us to apply the findings to newer drugs in this class.”

Malaria kills more than 1 million people per year and affects anywhere from 300 million to 600 million people annually, according to data compiled by UNICEF. Children under 5 are most susceptible to dying from malaria, and more than 40 percent of the world’s population lives in malaria-prone regions.

Primaquine is an inexpensive drug that is very effective against the liver stages of malaria parasites, Walker said. However, its use is limited because people with a genetic deficiency in a specific enzyme (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, or G6PD) have negative reactions to the drug that can cause severe damage to their red blood cells.

The UM School of Pharmacy is recruiting volunteers for a study of improved antimalarial drugs. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“This deficiency is very common around the world and in regions where malaria is prevalent, so many public health programs are reluctant to use primaquine,” Walker said. “If we could find a way to stop that reaction, the drug would be safer and could be used more widely.”

Primaquine is composed of two chemicals, or forms, that are difficult to separate, yet separating them is what Ole Miss researchers hope will help them discover how to make primaquine safer.

“Researchers have studied primaquine-type drugs for many years and developed methods for the separation and preparation of the two forms,” Walker said. “We’ve shown that both forms work in animal studies, but they are metabolized differently, and one has fewer side effects than the other.

“Ultimately, we want to determine whether the two forms of the drug are metabolized differently in humans, and whether one of them is safer.”

The clinical trials will begin by studying the metabolism of the two forms of primaquine in normal human volunteers without the G6PD enzyme deficiency. The drugs are being prepared by an Oxford company, ElSohly Laboratories Inc.

The pharmacy school is collaborating with the UM Medical Center on the project.

Ole Miss students in the pharmacy program are very interested to see what new advancements come out of this trial, said Alix Cawthon, a second-year pharmacy student from Abita Springs, Louisiana.

“Everyone is very excited to see the school participate in a human study,” Cawthon said.

Participants in the study must be healthy adults between 18 and 60 years old. The study requires participants to visit the research clinic several times over a four-week period. Monetary compensation is also available for those who participate.

This research is supported by the Defense Health Program under Award No. W81XWH-15-1-0704. For more information or to volunteer for the study, contact Kerri Harrison at 662-915-2103.

Alan McKay Named UM Pharmacy Alumnus of the Year

Honoree is dean emeritus of Shenandoah University School of Pharmacy

Dean David D. Allen (left) presents Alan McKay with the UM School of Pharmacy’s 2017 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award at the Alumni Weekend banquet. UM photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – Alan McKay, founding dean emeritus of the Shenandoah University Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy, has been named the 2017 University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.

McKay accepted the award April 8 at the annual School of Pharmacy Alumni Weekend banquet.

McKay completed his master’s and Ph.D. in health care administration, now called pharmacy administration, at UM in 1980 under the guidance of Mickey Smith, then chair of the Department of Health Care Administration.

“Everybody at Ole Miss was like family and it took away the fear,” McKay said. “Mississippi has a way of accepting people and letting them feel comfortable with who they are.”

After completing his master’s degree, McKay, feeling overwhelmed with school, work and family, decided to tell Smith that he wouldn’t be pursuing his Ph.D.

“And Mickey looked at me and he said, ‘McKay, I see smart people come and I see smart people go. The ones that make a difference are the ones who don’t give up,'” McKay recounted. “Everybody has to have somebody who believes in them.”

McKay received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Mercer University in 1975. After receiving his doctorate from UM, he became an assistant professor at Mercer University College of Pharmacy. He joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in 1983 before moving to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice in 1990.

He began his penultimate position as founding dean of Shenandoah’s School of Pharmacy in 1995 and retired in August 2016.

“Starting a new school of pharmacy 22 years ago was a big challenge,” McKay said. “You can’t just tell people what you want done and what you think is important. Sometimes you have to demonstrate.”

Since retiring, he has continued to use his experience as the director of Shenandoah University’s Design Innovation Center and as a member of a task force charged with creating a new medical school in northern Virginia.

During the planning of the medical school, McKay wrote a curriculum proposal that focused on team-based education, known as a fusion curriculum. As part of his proposal, students from all health care disciplines would take a three-week break from their specialized curricula every semester and work together to solve health care problems using information technology and genomics, a practice called precision medicine.

“We are trying to intentionally incorporate into the next generation of health professionals an understanding and appreciation of two things: one, that technology is changing under your feet, and two, you’re not going to solve all the problems yourself,” McKay said.

Besides his visionary approach to health care education, McKay’s colleagues know him as a caring educator who is deeply interested in the well-being of his students. John Bentley, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Administration at UM, referred to McKay’s “transformative effect” on others.

“Part of it is role modeling,” Bentley said. “We see in Alan someone who has strong values, has a vision for where he wants to go and can see things beyond where a lot of people can see; but it’s also just taking an interest in people.

“Alan sees qualities in people and is able to help develop them.”

The winner of this award is chosen based on character, leadership and contributions to the pharmacy profession, said David D. Allen, dean of the UM School of Pharmacy.

“Alan McKay is one of the most insightful and forward-thinking pharmacy educators I’ve met, and an exceptional representative of the School of Pharmacy,” Allen said. “I’m very pleased we can honor him in this way.”

Pharmacy Student Wins Kappa Epsilon Foundation Scholarship

Alix Cawthon hopes to specialize in infectious disease pharmacy

Alix Cawthon

OXFORD, Miss. – Alix Cawthon, a second-year pharmacy student at the University of Mississippi, is the winner of a Kappa Epsilon Zada M. Cooper Scholarship.

A professional pharmacy fraternity founded in 1921 with the mission to serve women pharmacists, Kappa Epsilon champions women’s health issues. The fraternity’s foundation promotes scholastic and professional advancement among its members with awards, fellowships and scholarships such as the Zada M. Cooper Scholarship, a $750 award given to five students each year.

Cawthon became a member of the UM chapter of Kappa Epsilon as a sophomore in the early-entry pharmacy program. After a year, she became the organization’s secretary and this year serves as the Kappa Epsilon president.

“While Alix has demonstrated she can excel within the academic rigor of a challenging pharmacy curriculum, perhaps one of her most outstanding characteristics is the ability to accomplish so much academically with a humble and quiet approach, coupled with her service to others,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Pharmacy. “She is well respected by the faculty, her fellow students and certainly by our administration.”

After completing her Pharm.D., Cawthon, an Abita Springs, Louisiana native, plans to complete at least one year in a hospital residency program, where she hopes to specialize in infectious diseases.

“Receiving this national scholarship will hopefully give me a leg up in the residency application process, and, of course, it also helps alleviate the burden of student loans,” Cawthon said.

Cawthon spent an extensive amount of time on the scholarship application, which required several essays about her career goals and how she will contribute to Kappa Epsilon in the future.

“Alix is a very bright young woman with innate abilities,” said Rachel Robinson, pharmacy practice professor and faculty adviser of Kappa Epsilon. “She has an intellectual curiosity that is indicative of her skills and willingness to learn.”

Kappa Epsilon presented the Zada M. Cooper Scholarships at the American Pharmacists Association annual meeting and exposition March 25 in San Francisco.

UM School of Pharmacy Prepares for Busy Weekend

Highlights include alumni golf tournament and awards, student competitions in Pharmacy Olympics

UM pharmacy student Ethan Casey (left), Andrew Smelser, Blake Burcham and Jonathan Doles, all of whom are in their fourth professional year of the program, show off their trophy from the 2014 golf tournament. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy is gearing up for one of its biggest weekends of the year, as both alumni and students gather for a full slate of competition, fellowship and awards.

The school’s annual Alumni Weekend is set for Friday and Saturday (April 7-8), complete with class reunions, a golf tournament, a cookout and an awards banquet. Meanwhile, student teams will be facing off against one another in the annual Pharmacy Olympics, which run through Sunday.

Scott Thompson, assistant director of the Alumni Association, plans the Alumni Weekend each year.

“The best part of putting the Alumni Weekend together is that I get to connect with alumni who are eager to invite their classmates back to campus,” Thompson said. “The brochures and emails we send can only do so much, but a personal phone call, email or social media message from a friend can do so much more.”

Alumni from all graduating classes are invited, and this year’s event includes reunions for the classes of 1957, 1967, 1977, 1987, 1997 and 2007. Attendees form teams to compete in the golf tournament, which raises money for student scholarships.

“We are so grateful to the alumni who work to make the golf tournament and the whole Alumni Weekend a success,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “It’s wonderful to see the Ole Miss pharmacy family come together and our students appreciate being able to meet and seek advice from practicing pharmacists.”

As part of the banquet on Saturday night, the school will present the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award to Alan McKay, founding dean emeritus of Shenandoah University’s Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy. McKay graduated from the Ole Miss pharmacy school in 1980 with a master’s and Ph.D. in health administration, now called pharmacy administration.

For a complete schedule or to sign up, visit

Meanwhile, the Pharmacy Olympics kick off Friday with a talent show at the Thad Cochran Research Center, followed by a trivia night in downtown Oxford. Sport competitions on Saturday include tennis, basketball, ping-pong and volleyball at the Turner Center. The events conclude Sunday at Avent Park with flag football, a water balloon toss, a donut-eating contest and kickball.

Each Pharmacy Olympics team consists of students from the same year, from a team of Early Entry pre-pharmacy students to fourth-year students in their final year of the professional program.

UM pharmacy students compete in a Pharmacy Olympics event. Submitted photo

Student body officers organize the event, which is the culmination of a yearlong effort by each class to earn points through community service and other competitions. Another portion of the Olympics is the Pharmacy Fitness Challenge where students and faculty earn points all semester by logging their workouts.

“The competitiveness between the classes is probably the highest I have seen it since I came to Ole Miss,” said Regan Tyler, a second-year pharmacy student from Collierville, Tenn. and president-elect of the pharmacy student body. “Students from each class have been getting together to practice, and the first- and second-year students already have nearly 8,000 fitness points.”

Faculty members and friends of the school donate snacks, water and Gatorade for the competitions, and students coordinate the entire event, said Chelsea Bennett, the school’s assistant dean of student services.

“Our students work very hard, so it is always great to see them having fun during Pharmacy Olympics,” Bennett said. “I hope the alumni find time to stop by for some fun and reminisce about their own Pharmacy Olympics days.”

Henry Harris, a first-year pharmacy student from Olive Branch, said he is excited to participate in his first Pharmacy Olympics.

“I’ve heard that it gets very competitive, but I’m confident that my class will ultimately win the weekend,” he said.