Melanie A. Felmlee, PhD Receives AACP New Investigator Award

deans-letter-felmlee-labPharmaceutics and parenting inspired Melanie A. Felmlee, PhD, assistant professor of pharmaceutics and medicinal chemistry, to pursue a grant for research of monocarboxylate transporters. Dr. Felmlee was awarded the 2017 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy New Investigator Award (NIA) for her proposal entitled “Maturation and spatial expression of intestinal MCT1 in obesity.”

Dr. Felmlee has been studying transporters for the past nine years. This research builds on her previous research of monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1). In her previous research studies, Dr. Felmlee has investigated the behavior of this transporter in the kidney and liver. She shares, “The pediatric part honestly came from my kids,” said Dr. Femlee. “As parents, we want to figure out how kids work.”

“The overall objective of this study is to investigate the maturation and spatial expression of intestinal MCT1 in obesity to improve our understanding of its developmental regulation,” Dr. Felmlee said. She will use the $10,000 in funding from the award to investigate how MCT1 behaves in different regions of the intestine. Throughout the research process she will be assisted by Michael Ng ’20.

She explains that the International Transporter Consortium identified the need for additional research on MCT1. “Monocarboxylate transporters are involved in intestinal drug absorption, yet maturation and spatial expression data are lacking in the literature,” Dr. Felmlee said.

In addition to a patient’s age, obesity could affect drug pharmacokinetics and toxicity. She elaborates, “Alterations in drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination (ADME) due to physiological changes resulting from childhood obesity can influence drug exposure leading to lack of efficacy or toxicity. Physiological alterations in obesity include changes in the expression of drug transporter and metabolic enzymes leading to altered liver function, kidney function and intestinal absorption.”

“The prevalence of childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, with 42 million children worldwide under the age of five considered overweight,” Dr. Felmlee explains. “Obese children are more likely to require pharmacotherapy, so it is crucial to optimize therapeutic interventions to avoid lack of efficacy or toxicity.”

The goal of this study is to contribute to the understanding of MCT1 so that health care providers can optimize therapeutic strategies in obese pediatric patients by accounting for variations in drug absorption. In addition, a greater understanding of transporters can pave the way for personalized treatment plans for both normal weight and obese pediatric patients. Dr. Felmlee believes that understanding MCT1 “is one small piece” in the development of personalized medicine. “Give them an optimized therapy, the right treatment at the right time,” Dr. Felmlee said.

This grant holds special significance as this is the first external funding Dr. Felmlee has received. The AACP New Investigator Award is tailored to pharmacy faculty who are at the start of their career as researchers. She shares what receiving this grant means to her personally: “It’s a confidence booster. Putting together a grant proposal is difficult and time consuming.” Being awarded the NIA is “validation that someone believes in the research you are doing and believes in you as a researcher.”

Since joining the Pacific faculty in 2015, Dr. Felmlee has found the atmosphere of the School to be supportive and encouraging. She appreciates the friendly, collaborative environment, as well as their balanced approach to teaching and research. She elaborates, “We are really well balanced. I feel supported to teach and given the time and resources to pursue research.” She shares a memory of an interaction with Dean Phillip Oppenheimer, PharmD, where he acknowledged one of her recent accomplishments. “Dean Oppenheimer saw me washing out my coffee mug and congratulated me,” Dr. Felmlee said. “I love those little things.”

 

Grant Creates Opportunities for Mental Health Outreach

Robert Halliwell
Robert F. Halliwell

Mental health is a key aspect of healthcare and Pacific pharmacy students now have an exciting new opportunity to gain hands-on experience in this area through a community outreach program. The School has been awarded a grant of $15,000 by San Joaquin County Behavioral Health Services to develop a program of educational activities in mental health within the County.

The project entitled “Partnering Pharmacists and those with Lived Experience of Mental Illness to Enhance Recognition, Early Intervention and Care Capacity in the Wellness Center of San Joaquin” will be coordinated by Robert F. Halliwell, PhD Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology. He has been assisted in the process of securing this grant by Edward L. Rogan, PharmD, BCACP Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, who has been a key contributor to the project.

Dr. Halliwell shares the focus of the project, “Our program builds on evidence-based practice that educational activities reduce stigma, improve linkage in healthcare, enhance early recognition and facilitate early intervention in mental illness. Educational activities also improve understanding, confidence, insight and ability to cope in those with mental illness.” In addition, “Interaction between community pharmacists and mental health consumers reduces stigma.”

Pharmacy students who are members of Pacific’s Mental Health Committee will be participating in this outreach program. Dr. Halliwell believes this program is beneficial for students preparing for a career in pharmacy. He said, “It gives them the invaluable, first-hand experience of seeing some of the most complex and common disorders they must help to manage in their careers. It will also reduce the stigma many people, including pharmacy students and practitioners, have of mental illness.”

For Dr. Halliwell this grant recognizes the community outreach already in motion. He explains, “This project builds on some of the educational activities I have developed with the Mental Health Committee to provide educational training for members of the Wellness Center here in Stockton. The Wellness Center is a free, drop-in facility that provides peer-run support for those with mental illnesses.” Those the Center serves are “frequently without health insurance or regular income.” He adds, “We are privileged to help this Center develop its resources.”

The Mental Health Awareness Committee hosts events throughout the year to bring awareness to mental health issues.
The Mental Health Awareness Committee hosts events throughout the year to bring awareness to mental health issues.

Mental health is a prevalent issue in California. Dr. Halliwell notes, “According to the U.S. Government approximately one in five adults in the U.S., 43.8 million or 18.5 percent of the population, experiences mental illness in a given year. California reports nearly 1.8 million individuals with a mental health-related issue.” In response, programs such as the one made possible by this grant provide resources and support for those dealing with mental illness. According to Dr. Halliwell, “The World Health Organization recognizes the importance of including consumers in the development of mental health education. Evidence-based practice shows that incorporating those with lived experience of mental illness as educators in training programs for pharmacy, nursing and medical students can elevate the status of the consumer and impart a greater sense of equality in the health decision-making process.”

A portion of the grant will go toward training consumables, including blood glucose and cholesterol tests, which will be administered by the students. Dr. Halliwell explains the reason these tests are an integral part of the program: “Many [prescription] drugs used in psychiatry, especially those for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, change blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Routine testing of these parameters help reduce the risk of developing diabetes, obesity, stroke and cardiovascular disease. We are also running mental health screenings for depression, anxiety and insomnia.”

Dr. Halliwell sees this program as one way in which the School is continuing the tradition of community involvement. He expresses, “Healthcare professionals are an integral and important part of our community, so our involvement is essential and has always been a part of the activities of faculty, staff and students.”

 

 

Celebrating 60 Years of Excellence

As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, we’re reminded of all we have accomplished over the years. In the past year –– our faculty, students and alumni were once again recognized for their excellence with scholarships, grants and so much more. See for yourself, just click below…

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School Lauches High Fidelity Simulation Pilot Program

A multidisciplinary initiative is underway involving the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the College of the Pacific, and the Arthur Dugoni School of Dentistry. Earlier this year, the School received the University’s Strategic Educational Excellence Development (SEED) Grant that will allow several departments (physical therapy, pharmacy, speech-language pathology, athletic training, and physician assistant) to start a pilot program using high fidelity patient simulation. The simulation uses mannequins that are integrated with computer software to mimic real patient responses such as resting and responsive vital signs, sweating, bleeding, vomiting, and reactions to medication. Cathy Peterson, PT, EdD, professor of physical therapy and co-author of the grant explains that “adult mannequins weigh approximately 120lbs and verbal responses can be preprogrammed or created in real time from a staff member who is observing remotely. Each mannequin and the supporting technical equipment and software range in cost from about $20,000 to over $150,000 for the most sophisticated devices used for simulating catastrophic trauma.”patient simulation

Having access to a simulation lab will allow health care faculty to train future health care professionals for real life situations. By working in an interactive environment, students will gain hands-on experience and feedback in dealing with a crisis or medical emergency. “We expect that bringing this state-of-the-art technology for Pacific students will allow them to learn new clinical techniques and to apply didactic knowledge in a low-risk simulated clinical environment,” said Dr. Peterson.

Dr. Peterson shares the team’s vision for a $2 million Pacific Health Sciences High Fidelity Simulation Center and how it can impact partnering disciplines, including the athletic training and physician assistant programs. The center will help “create opportunities for interprofessional education at Pacific, better prepare students for clinical experiences in acute and long-term care, foster more significant bonds among students from different clinical programs, enhance alumni and donor relations, and attract and retain faculty to teach and conduct research using state-of-the-art teaching technology,” said Peterson.

Deepti Vyas, PharmD, BCPS, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and co-author of the grant, has worked with simulators at other institutions prior to coming to Pacific and has published research on the benefits for students. A recent survey of pharmacy schools indicated that a majority of schools are using high fidelity simulators to create real world learning environments. We are excited that Pacific is able to provide this same opportunity for our students. We anticipate that this simulation lab will allow us to develop educational activities which center on topics such as measuring reduction of medication errors, determining efficacy in providing interprofessional education (IPE) opportunities and evaluating improvement in clinical knowledge and skills.

The simulation lab will not only provide opportunities for collaboration between colleges and programs at Pacific but also with the community. “We also expect to develop some relationships with stakeholders in the community including nearby hospitals, clinics and health care programs,” said Dr. Peterson.

Grant Builds Bridge Between Physical Therapists at Pacific and in Malawi

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Elisa Carey ‘14, and Kristen Damazio ‘14 with Malawian children

A unique aspect about programs at Pacific, specifically the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is that students have access to experiential learning opportunities that help shape practice-ready professionals. Student physical therapists are building their skills by applying them in international settings, providing physical therapy to patients and assisting in training Malawi community volunteers in providing proper care.

In December, Dr. Casey Nesbit, Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education, along with Carolyn Coghlan ‘14Elisa Carey ‘14, and Kristen Damazio ‘14 traveled to Malawi where they were able to participate in service learning, teaching and research. The trip was partially supported by the Rupley-Church for International Relations Grant.

As part of the service learning component, the students participated in an elective course taught by Dr. Nesbit which helped them plan and prepare for the trip. In Malawi, the students spent the majority of their time at St. Gabriel’s Hospital in a palliative care ward caring for patients who suffered from a physical disability.

“I’m so thankful to Dr. Nesbit for welcoming us into her Malawi family, for her commitment to St. Gabriel’s and her efforts to improving the quality of care in Malawi. When I reflect on my Pacific experience, I know that I made the right choice. I love that Pacific values international and local relationships and partnerships, and I love that they are hiring professors, like Dr. Nesbit, who can tangibly bring that mission statement to life,” said Coghlan.

Carolyn Coghlan ‘14, Elisa Carey ‘14, Kristen Damazio ‘14, and Dr. Casey Nesbit with Malawi community workers

St. Gabriel’s is home to 300 community health workers who dedicate their spare time to the community assisting patients who need additional care at home or those who live in rural areas. Due to the lack of physical therapists and home care resources in Malawi the workers are the only resource for these patients. As part of a new program, Dr. Nesbit and the students coordinated a three day training session for 20 community health workers. The training consisted of lectures, practical teaching and application during a home visit. Participants were provided with a manual of 22 newly learned skills such as range of motion, how to properly roll someone in bed and how to use a cane. Once the skills were taught, the workers were tested on how well they learned each skill. Dr. Nesbit and the students also shadowed the volunteers on home visits to see how well each skill was applied in a real life setting.

“Our hope was to teach skills that were devised for carryover. I saw the effectiveness of our service through the knowledge assessment, the skills competencies and the observation,” said Dr. Nesbit. “I believe our students made a big impact in that they created a huge bridge between Pacific and Malawi. Hospital staff and patients were impressed because once the students returned home they kept asking where the students went,” she added.

The manual that was distributed during the training received high praise from the director of the National Palliative Care Association of Malawi and, as a result, will be be distributed as part of the national guideline for their respective training. Dr. Nesbit will be continuing this collaboration with St. Gabriel’s to graduate 20 individuals from her training each year.The students were also grateful for this unique opportunity. Coghlan explains “When I witnessed the enthusiasm that the community health workers had in learning basic physical therapy techniques and the excitement they had while applying this new knowledge in their community, I realized it’s these moments that make me proud to be a physical therapist and honored to share my knowledge.”

In addition to the training, Dr. Nesbit taught two courses to two classes at the University of Malawi in the School of Physiology. Each class was made up of 40 students and these students represented the first ever student physical therapists in Malawi. She also conducted research focused on physical therapy ethics in a global context.

When asked about the personal impact of this trip Carey replied “The biggest personal impact was working with a people that experienced so many daily hardships yet exuded joy like no one I have ever met. They were an amazingly welcoming community, always excited to share their culture, all the while eager to learn from us too.”

Dr. Nesbit has a long standing relationship with St. Gabriel’s Hospital in Malawi which allowed for a smooth transition. For the past eight years she has been spending two months out of the year practicing physical therapy there.