PHARMACY UNITED ON THE FRONT LINE
In light of an unprecedented health crisis, pharmacy alumni, faculty and staff have stepped up to the challenge, pooling their talents and resources to help battle the onset of COVID-19.
In the last few months, the heightened urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us to take actions that might have seemed implausible at the beginning of the year. In the wake of this crisis, our SOP family has remained united, stepping up to quickly address these new challenges in thoughtful, creative and productive ways. “It’s been inspiring to witness how our colleagues, partners, alumni and donors have responded during this time of unprecedented challenges and demands,” said Sean D. Sullivan. “I can’t imagine a more resilient, talented and compassionate group of friends to help unite our community.”
Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of us, our phenomenal students have faced particularly daunting hurdles due to the loss of employment and internships. To help mitigate these hardships, our Husky Pharmacy family came together to support the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Students, providing more than $51,000 in emergency aid to 136 students, helping to keep them safe, healthy and supported in their time of need. “It’s our duty as mentors and members of this community to support our students,” said Sullivan. “The response has been phenomenal. We know resources are already tight for so many, and to see how our alumni and donors have showed up to contribute has been really special.”
While some echoed that sentiment by donating their money, other colleagues and community leaders donated their time. The preceptors and practitioners who mentor our students in our health care systems and ambulatory pharmacies made tremendous efforts to continue to provide training in the face of seemingly insurmountable public health and clinical obstacles. Without their steadfast commitment, many of our 4th year students would have been delayed in graduating this year.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
As the pandemic’s hold began to strengthen in early March, SOP faculty, staff and alumni unified their efforts to deliver much-needed supplies to the UW Medical Center, including lab coats, gloves, masks and gowns. The Bracken Learning Center also donated an abundance of items from our hands-on student training facility. In turn, UW Medicine distributed all surplus items to local hospitals in the Puget Sound area.
SERVING OUR COMMUNITIES
Another essential component to navigating through this crisis is supporting patients housed in alternative care facilities and isolation quarantine sites. Department of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Cathy Yeung works as a volunteer pharmacist in the Public Health Reserve Corps, supporting – via telepharmacy – alternative care settings and isolation and quarantine sites set up by Public Health-Seattle & King County (PHSKC). PHSKC’s chief pharmacy officer, Cindy Lee, is a graduate of the School’s PharmD program and has done a terrific job setting up and running pharmacy services for these sites.
“Our university – and our School of Pharmacy in particular – we’re unique, we’re leaders, and we lean forward.”
– Andy Stergachis
SOP alum Jenny Arnold of WSPA is leading an effort to gain a better understanding of how we can equip our pharmacies and health departments to practice testing. She leads much of the pharmacy community’s efforts at interfacing with DOH and others in emergency preparedness & response. Being at the forefront of responsiveness as we engage these challenges isn’t surprising to Andy Stergachis, who notes that having a program equipped with the full scope of discovery-to-implementation science puts us in a very good position to make a difference.
“Not just in respect to COVID-19, but also beyond and looking forward,” he added. “We’re in every community, we’re well trained, we’re leading the science.”
LEADING THE NATION
The School also made news in the global research arena for its ceaseless efforts to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic
Anirban Basu, Stergachis Family Endowed Director of The CHOICE Institute at the UW School of Pharmacy, released a study chronicling his development of one of the first models that can estimate the COVID-19 Infection Fatality Rate among symptomatic cases (IFR-S). The Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) is a critical parameter in understanding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kelly Lee and Mike Guttman are working on the deployment of an effective vaccine to control and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Gaurav Bhardwaj is collaborating with the Institute for Protein Design at UW to create inhibitors of the COVID-19 protease. This strategy is analogous to the strategy used in anti-AIDS drugs, which target a protease of the human immunodeficiency (HIV) protease.
Rodney Ho spoke with such major media outlets as USA Today, Salon, and Geekwire to discuss remdesivir, lopinavir, and hydrocholoroquinine as potential treatments for COVID-19.
DEPARTMENT OF PHARMACY
Jennifer Bacci received an award from the UW Population Health Initiative for a project to ready Washington State pharmacies for COVID testing and vaccination.
ALUMNI IN ACTION
In addition to providing monetary support to help relieve students’ financial burdens during the onset of COVID-19, alumni nationwide also rolled up their sleeves and showcased exemplary leadership and innovation at both local and government levels.
- Pharmacy owners provided assistance in addressing Seattle’s hand sanitizer shortage, partnering with a local distillery to produce enough ethanol to serve organizations beyond UW Medicine.
- The School had a national presence in the political arena as SOP alum and CHOICE affiliate professor Blythe Adamson completed 40 days of volunteer service with the White House Coronvirus Task Force, which coordinated and oversaw the Administration’s efforts to monitor, prevent, contain, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
- Pharmacy alumni working on remdesivir development at Gilead Sciences launched the first clinical trial in the U.S. to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19.
BUILDING A CULTURE OF COMPASSION
Ryan Oftebro and his team at Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group have taken a uniquely compassionate approach to servicing impoverished communities during the COVID pandemic.
As we all attempt to navigate the challenges of this new era ushered in by the COVID pandemic, we sometimes forget that many of those on the margins of society without the luxury of family support or financial resources are having a particularly difficult time getting the healthcare-related services they need. Thankfully, many alumni, such as Ryan Oftebro and his team at Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group, are embracing a uniquely compassionate approach to healthcare. Where the traditional pharmacy model involves patrons bringing in prescriptions to get filled, Ryan and his colleagues are literally taking their services to where the need is. “If we’re asked to help with a scenario that involves delivering medicine to someone who has recently been released from jail, and their insurance has lapsed, or someone who is homeless or unsheltered, we’re happy to do it,” he said. “These circumstances are common, and we just figure out how to get it done and reroute our logistics to get a delivery to where we need to be.”
Ryan’s team includes an internal crew of drivers who are often called to serve disparate parts of King County at a moment’s notice. “They’re the real heroes in all this,” Ryan says. “I’ve got some great pharmacists and support staff, and particularly during this pandemic, it’s been our drivers and pharmacy assistants who have been out in the thick of it, and actually going to all these places to make sure people get their medications.”
This devotion to servicing the community and “meeting people where they are” is an essential ingredient of the work culture Ryan’s father (and original Kelley-Ross owner) John Oftebro forged years ago, and it’s based on six simple words: “It’s the right thing to do.”
In the 1980s, during the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Seattle, John was intensively involved in helping deliver drugs to patients afflicted with the disease. “There were no drugs at the time for treating HIV, and there was a lot of stigma in healthcare and the general public,” said Ryan, “but my dad would go make deliveries to these adult family homes, where nurses who worked there couldn’t get anyone to talk to them, much less make a delivery.”
“We try to support patients and their needs in a non-judgmental way. It’s part of our culture.
– Ryan Oftebro
John Oftebro’s legacy during that panic-stricken era helped define and transcend the true role of a pharmacy and its potential impact on communities. “That philosophy has certainly rubbed off on me and others I work with,” said Ryan. “It’s just a part of our culture. We try to support patients and their needs in a non-judgmental way. Our focus is to understand what that person needs in that particular moment, and figure out how to provide that care in the way they need, not what’s convenient for us. It’s really rewarding.”
The SOP alum discusses her role at the Institute for Disease Modeling, the impact of COVID-19 on her work, and how the School prepared her for her career journey.
As an economist at the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM), Marita Zimmerman (’16) models the health and economic impacts of global health interventions and policies, helping inform decision makers on how to get the most bang for their healthcare buck. Though IDM has traditionally focused on infectious disease modeling – primarily malaria – Marita says the organization has broadened its scope and evolved, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that took hold earlier this year.
According to Marita, IDM’s work on COVID-19 began with a partnership with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who had begun supporting malaria research and became particularly impressed with IDM’s more effective approach to treating the disease. “Our founder had contacted Bill Gates, saying we may have found a better way to eradicate malaria using computer modeling,” she said. “Now, following that success, we’ve begun a collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the model has grown and expanded to other disease areas, including malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, polio, measles – and now – COVID-19.”
“It’s great to be able to talk about my work in a way that relates to people’s lives.”
– Marita Zimmerman
Understandably, COVID modeling has become a major component to Marita’s work this year, and though the pandemic has wreaked havoc in many countries and communities worldwide, she says the opportunity to use her expertise and see a tangible impact is deeply rewarding. “It’s great to be able to talk about my work in a way that relates to people’s lives,” she said, noting that one of the biggest takeaways from the pandemic is the emphasis on how important science communication is. “Most of my work focuses on the economic side
of the modeling, so when we’re working with the governor, or the mayor, we have to make the information useful for them for when they make decisions regarding policy. We have to craft something that’s a short, easily digestible message – like the phrase ‘flatten the curve.’”
Though Marita’s passion for the multidisciplinary aspect of her work is something she developed while earning her Master’s in Public Health from Brown University, she knew that to become fully equipped to succeed in her chosen professional arena, finding the right PhD program was essential.
Enter the UW School of Pharmacy.
“My work focuses on global health and economics, so when I sought out PhD programs, I looked for somewhere I could learn really strong health economics methods, but in combination with having a strong global health program, too,” she said. “UW School of Pharmacy is the best program in the country for having both of those strengths – the CHOICE program for health economics, along with the Global Health department. “I can’t imagine having had a better experience “anywhere else. I graduated well-equipped to pursue the career I wanted, with tremendous support every step of the way.”
125 YEARS OF WOMEN IN PHARMACY
From the very beginning, since the UW School of Pharmacy made its debut 125 years ago in 1894, women have played an integral role in the School’s development, success and status as a globally renown education and research program. Such pioneers as Professor emeritus Joy Plein (’51, ’71), who joined the faculty as a lecturer in 1966 and evolved research in geriatrics, helped champion gender equality on campus and establish the School’s world-class reputation, which endures to this day.
At this year’s Katterman Lecture, held in February, we honored the achievements of Alumni Legends who continue to enrich the legacy created by Joy and so many others, including Dana Hurley (’97, ‘00), Bev Schaeffer (’70), Deborah Atherly (’89,’09) and Vandana Slatter (’90). During the program, each extraordinary panelist shared with attendees how they discovered their passion, developed the necessary skills to excel in their field, and how they disseminate their skills and their knowledge to our community.
ON THE FUTURE OF PHARMACY
Bev Schaeffer, owner of Katterman’s Pharmacy in Seattle, believes having vision beyond the confines of pharmacy’s traditional roles is essential to success moving forward. “Patient care, patient care, patient care, “ she said. “Moving forward, we need more hands-on patient care, and in ways that we haven’t even thought of yet. There are so many ways that we could help people improve their lives that aren’t necessarily related to dispensing. I think that’s where we need to be focusing –outside-the-box thinking and improved outcomes that don’t necessarily rely on drugs. “
ON MENTORING OTHERS
Deb Atherly, Global Head of Policy, Access and Introduction for PATH’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, believes encouraging open communication between mentors and students is a necessary ingredient to student success and moving the program forward. “What I have tried to do is take what I learnedfrom my experience as both a student and mentor, and apply it to my own career,” she said. “I try to be as open and transparent as possible and let people know that they can come and talk to me. I’ve also started having one-on-ones with some of the younger staff in our organization. Nothing formal – just have coffee and talk about how things are going for them.”
When graduates struggle with determining which field to explore upon entering the program, Vandana Slatter, pharmacist and Washington State Representative, believes passion is the most important key to understanding. “I would say, first of all, what is your interest – what area do you love?” she encouraged. “Follow that passion, talk to people, and eventually you will find the right path for yourself. “And always remember – you’re smart, you’re capable and you can do this.”
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
On the eve of graduation, the School’s inaugural PharmD-MBA cohort looks back on an extraordinary shared experience.
Though 2020 graduates Gilbert Ko, Christian Michelet and Michael Sporck all hail from different corners of the country, these representatives of the PharmD-MBA program’s first cohort shared a common reason for packing their bags for the Pacific Northwest: The School’s peerless reputation for providing students world-class access to learn and train with their peers.
“Our PharmD-MBA Concurrent Degree Program prepares students for leadership positions in a wide variety of organizations,” said Andy Stergachis, Associate Dean and School of Pharmacy faculty lead for the program. “The partnership of UWSOP and the UW-Bothell creates a transformative educational opportunity for our PharmD students to earn their MBA with just one additional year of study.”
“Professionally, the program has been extremely rewarding in helping me to find success in my career and in expanding my breadth of knowledge.”
– Gilbert Ko
Gilbert Ko, a native of Cincinnati, OH, says students may choose a Leadership or Technology track for their MBA. Though he has long held an interest in the business aspect of pharmacy, he felt like the opportunity to participate in a hybrid program was too exciting to pass up. “I believe in opening as many doors as possible, and the dual-degree seemed like a great way to do so,” he said. “The chance to be in this inaugural, multi-tiered curriculum seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I knew I would benefit greatly from it, and I did.”
Gilbert’s classmate, Christian Michele, was surprised how quickly aspects of the program’s training took hold – a testament to the cohort being intensively prepared upon entering their rotations. “Having a business/operations perspective going into my rotations in my last year of the program was most surprising,” he noted. “Even during my clinical rotations, my mind shifted to thinking about the operations behind the delivery of medicine to patients, as well as considering how we communicate when compounding meds. Thanks to my training, I was compelled to think about what I do from different perspectives, and that will only help me in the long run.”
For Los Gatos, CA native Michael Sporck, the career potential for a dual-degree program from the outset was also exciting, but there was another, equally important component he had not expected – friendship. “Our business school cohort had a unique personality and we became very close,” he revealed. “Christian and Gilbert and I, who went through the dual-degree program with me, are very different people. We were not close prior to starting the program, but now I would consider them life-long friends.”
Gilbert and Christian arrived at the same conclusion: the friendships built throughout this program transcended the traditional classroom experience, as successful collaboration transitioned into a personal camaraderie. “Professionally, the program has been extremely rewarding in helping me to find success in my career and in expanding my breadth of knowledge,” said Gilbert, “but on a more personal level, I have made some lifelong friendships that I hold extremely dear – that, to me, has been the most rewarding outcome.”
Though all three students will soon choose separate career paths post-graduation (Gilbert will be a CHOICE/UW-Bayer fellow, and Michael will start a fellowship with Health Outcomes and Market Access at Xcenda, a healthcare consulting organization), they are in agreement that the extraordinary opportunity has provided a broader appreciation of the healthcare business – the financials, marketing, and strategy, in addition to the science and patient care – and how they can apply their talents and skills to make an impact.
“We looked forward to the day when our first cohort graduated with both degrees,” said Stergachis. “Now that day has arrived and we are very proud of the our very first graduates – Christian, Gilbert, and Michael. We wish these and future graduates of this innovative program much success throughout their careers.”
“My training gave me a deeper, richer understanding of what I do, and that will only help me in the long run.”
– Christian Michelet
New Faculty Spotlight
In January, the School was happy to welcome Gaurav Bhardwaj, PhD, to the Faculty as Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry. Gaurav, who earned his doctoral degree in Integrative Biosciences from the Pennsylvania State University, brought to UW his expertise in developing computational methods for not only exploring early stage drug discovery, but also creating previously nonexistent drug alternatives.
“For my interests, computational biology is perfect, because it takes concepts from diverse fields and applies them to biological problems,” he said. “For instance, with peptide-based drugs, instead of going out and discovering them, the goal is to custom-design them, giving us very precise control over their structures. Ultimately, what this means is we can create drugs that are cheaper, more effective and more stable than other alternatives.”
Gaurav admits the draw to UWSOP was the School’s collaborative environment and globally respected reputation for featuring a diverse palate of expertise, from bioanalytical chemistry to drug metabolism, and allowing him to have access throughout the pipeline.
“I’ve been here only a few months now, and we’ve already started on multiple collaborations within the MedChem department, and within the School of Pharmacy,” he said. “This is a critical moment, because computational power is more accessible now. The excitement of the science that is happening now, and the potential of what we can achieve with that. It’s amazing that we can do what we do with such precision. It’s a great time to be in this space.”
EDUCATING OUR SENIORS DURING A PANDEMIC
In an age of social distancing, ensuring our older adults have safe, convenient access to the medications they need is essential. In an effort to help educate seniors on best practices to consider when communicating with their providers and pharmacies, the Plein Center for Geriatric Pharmacy Research, Education and Outreach is developing a new series of senior-specific communications, including a new installment of UWSOP’s Pharmacy Frontline video series.
“We’re exploring new methods for communicating and messaging with older adults,” said Director Shelly Gray. “The challenge in an era when we receive cascades of information from different mediums, is how do we differentiate ourselves and create visibility, and beyond that – impact? It’s essential that we message to our communities in an effective, efficient manner, and we’re excited about the opportunity video affords us.”
Do you have a story or topic to suggest for future Pharmacy Frontline video installments? Email your ideas to email@example.com.
This year’s 125th Anniversary Celebration was both an opportunity to highlight our innovations in research and pharmacy practice and a reminder that the alumni, students, faculty and friends strengthen our School of Pharmacy community. This was ever-apparent as we celebrated our 125 Alumni Legends. We invite you to scroll through the gallery of amazing alumni that represent the best of our community. You can also relive the event by revisiting the Alumni Awards Presentation video.