Pharmacy School Recognizes Faculty for Research, Innovation and Service

Autism and psychoactive drugs among research topics recognized

Cutline for group shot: Rahul Khanna (left), Michael Warren and Robert Doerksen were recognized at the fall faculty retreat for their research, innovation and service. UM photo by Erin Garrett.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has recognized four faculty members for excellence in research, instructional innovation and service.

The awards, announced during the school’s recent annual fall faculty retreat, went to Jordan Zjawiony, professor of pharmacognosy and research professor in the university’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences; Rahul Khanna, assistant professor of pharmacy administration and research assistant professor in RIPS; Robert Doerksen, associate professor of medicinal chemistry; and Michael Warren, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice.

The Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc. Research Award was presented to Zjawiony, who has focused his research efforts on the semisynthesis of potential drug candidates from psychoactive plants (e.g., Salvia divinorum, the most potent natural hallucinogen) and fungi, and the interaction of their secondary metabolites with central nervous system receptors.

His research is funded with two grants from the National Institutes of Health, and he is the author of 90 peer-reviewed journal articles, 34 patents and 33 invited lectures. He was twice a visiting professor at his alma mater in Poland and received an invitation this fall from the Technical University of Bialystok, Poland, to help explore the idea of building a natural products research center there.

“Dr. Zjawiony’s esteem in national and international research communities is evidenced by his ability to garner competitive NIH funding, to publish his work in top-tier international journals and by the invitations he receives to present his work at premier research conferences,” said Daneel Ferreira, chair of pharmacognosy. “He is well deserving of our Cumberland research award.”

Khanna received the New Investigator Award for his pharmaceutical outcomes research.

This spring, Khanna was among 18 recipients of New Investigator Awards announced by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. The AACP NIA program provides seed money for new faculty, so they can establish their first independent pilot research project.

Khanna is using his award to study the relationship between the health and well-being of caregivers of autistic children and the emotional and physical stress they experience. He has already published some of his work in peer-reviewed journals, and it has been cited in such publications as the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“I am proud of Dr. Khanna for his research achievements,” said Donna West-Strum, chair of pharmacy administration. “He is deserving of this award, and I am confident that he will continue to conduct research aimed at improving the quality of care for cancer patients and for children with autism.”

Jordan Zjawiony, currently a visiting professor in Poland, received the Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc. Research Award. UM photo by Kevin Bain.

Doerksen received the Faculty Instructional Innovation Award. He implemented an active learning exercise for students in his Medicinal Chemistry of Therapeutic Agents I (MEDC 416) course. The exercise provides bonus points to students who attend the department’s research seminar series and write reports about what they learned from the speakers, who are industry or academic leaders.

The exercise motivates pharmacy students to attend the seminars and to pay attention to see how professionals are applying the principles of medicinal chemistry to design, develop and evaluate new chemical entities and drugs. The exercise has been so successful that it has been adopted in MEDC 417 and was shared at a roundtable discussion at an AACP meeting.

“Robert has done a marvelous job in developing his teaching skills,” said Stephen Cutler, chair of medicinal chemistry. “His idea to create opportunities for students to be exposed to the variety of career paths can be seen in his seminar program. Additionally, it provides students with the opportunity to gain a better insight into the discovery and development of medications they will be dispensing as health care practitioners.”

Warren received the pharmacy school’s Faculty Service Award. He advises more than 100 pre-pharmacy students and spends untold hours helping advisees choose appropriate classes during summer, spring and fall orientation sessions. He interviews students during the school’s applicant days, advises professional students on their Pathways projects and fourth-year professional students on their seminar presentations, and is co-adviser of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists student chapter.

Warren has served as his department’s representative on Student-Faculty Relations and External Transitions committees and served on the university’s Health Works Committee. He also raises money for the Tommy Tosh Scholarship and manages the Student Health Center’s Travel Medicine Clinic, which ensures the health and safety of Ole Miss students preparing to study abroad.

“Dr. Warren’s service to our students, as well as those of the entire university, demonstrates his commitment to helping students,” said Marvin C. Wilson, associate dean for academic and student affairs. “He is making a big difference in their health and well-being, and personal and academic success.”