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Sunday , November 18 2018
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UTEP Pharmacy Students Hit the Road

From visiting recovering women addicts at a treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee, to standing on the Cliffs of Moher on the western coast of Ireland, UTEP School of Pharmacy (SOP) students have traveled outside their comfort zone this summer to expand their cultural and intellectual horizons.

Since March, dozens of students from the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program’s inaugural class at The University of Texas at El Paso have traveled across the country and overseas to engage in unique learning experiences designed to prepare future pharmacists to better serve diverse communities and cultures.

Among them is Krista Ramirez, the first in her family to travel to Europe. The student, 12 of her classmates and Pharmacy Clinical Assistant Professor Denise I. Pinal, Pharm.D., spent two weeks in Ireland from May 27 to June 11, 2018.

“Seeing the Cliffs of Moher was such a breathtaking experience,” Ramirez said about the stunning view that stretches five miles along the Atlantic Ocean. “We didn’t even get to finish touring the cliffs because they are so long and there is so much more to see.”

According to school officials, UTEP’s pharmacy school is the only program of its kind in the United States that requires students to participate in short-term study abroad or study away experiences.

These activities create opportunities for student engagement, professional preparation, and to understanding what it means to be a health care provider in a global setting, said Pinal, the SOP’s study away AIM (Aligned, Integrated, and Meaningful) coordinator.

“Students will be exposed to the many social determinants of health and seek to understand how their actions affect both local and global communities,” she said. “On a larger scale, we hope that the experience will allow our students to become increasingly informed, open-minded, responsible individuals who are attentive to diversity across a spectrum of cultures and communities.”

Learning Outside the Classroom

For one to six weeks, SOP students engage in service learning while immersing themselves in cultures and communities outside of their own. Students received SOP scholarships to help pay for part of the trips. The Office of Study Abroad also provided additional support for students completing international experiences.

Apart from Ireland and Nashville, students and faculty have traveled to four other locations this summer. They have volunteered in local health centers and schools in Presidio, Texas; traveled to the University of Kansas’ School of Pharmacy in Wichita, Kansas; built houses with Habitat for Humanity in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and discussed health care and pharmacy issues with U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke in Washington, D.C.

“A lot of students in our community have never left El Paso,” said Clinical Assistant Professor Sweta Andrews, Pharm.D. She traveled in March with the first group of study away students to Nashville. “With health care becoming so diverse and global, we want them to experience what culture outside El Paso may look like and prepare them to practice anywhere in the country and beyond.”

Students participate in a variety of activities. In Ireland, they toured the campus of Trinity College Dublin, attended lectures on pharmacy, and analyzed Irish poetry.

Ramirez said the poetry lecture enhanced their critical thinking skills.

“This type of mindset or way of thinking relates to pharmacy in the sense that a pharmacist must be an analyzer and a critical thinker when caring for and treating patients,” she said. “This experience will make me a better pharmacist because it has taught me to learn how to think with colors and not to think in black and white.”

Students also toured the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where they attended a lecture on polypharmacy and the harm caused by overmedicating older adults. That lecture prepared them for their visit to Our Lady’s Hospice, which is Ireland’s largest hospice, located in Dublin.

Students such as Julieta Esmeralda Rodriguez helped to feed and talk to patients in the hospice’s palliative care unit. The experience reaffirmed her decision to practice geriatric pharmacy after she graduates in 2021.

“The residents in this unit couldn’t speak,” Rodriguez recalled. “But you have to find a way to make them feel comfortable. I told them where I was from, why I was there and about my culture. I made one of the residents laugh a lot. It was a good lesson in compassion and empathy.”

Staying Close to Home

In

Nashville’s Renewal House, Erica Boakye listened to residents talk about their addiction to drugs and alcohol. Their personal stories gave her a better perspective of substance abuse. The experience inspired her to become a more empathetic health care provider.

“Listening to them, you’re able to understand where they’re coming from,” Boakye said. “In order to provide the best health care for your patient, you have to let them be the center of the conversation. You have to be able to understand what is making them do that. And if they’re not getting better, what is it that’s stopping them from getting better?”

Boakye was part of the first group of pharmacy students to participate in the SOP’s study away program. They traveled with Sweta Andrews to Nashville for nine days in March.

Students spent a week at the Renewal House’s Family Residential Treatment Program, which provides services for women going through treatment and recovery and their children.

Based on the residents’ feedback, students developed presentations on nutrition, cooked 30-minute meal recipes and answered questions about the proper way to take a child’s temperature.

“They were all new moms and they wanted to know more about over-the-counter medications and Tylenol for the babies,” SOP student Marisol Blanco said. “We talked about dosing recommendations and prenatal vitamins.”

Although they remained in the U.S., Nashville felt like a different world to Yvette Olivas.

“I’ve never been outside of Texas so everything was different,” Olivas said. “It was very eye opening for me.”

The trip also was an opportunity for students to attend the American Pharmacists Association annual meeting in Nashville.

“At first I wasn’t sure why I had to go on study away,” said Boakye, a native of Ghana in West Africa who moved with her family to El Paso six years ago. “But after this trip, I understand that it’s important that you learn from different communities to be able to understand the different populations and give the best health care possible.”

Author: Laura L. Acosta – UTEP Communications

3-D Printing Expands to School of Pharmacy

Albert Nava’s interest in pharmacy started in middle school when his grandfather suffered a bad reaction to an ingredient in a prescription medication he took.

Fortunately, the effects weren’t harmful long-term. But the experience showed Nava how important it is for pharmacists to ensure patients receive medications that are safe, effective and properly formulated to exclude problematic ingredients.

“I learned that a pharmacist is responsible for more than counting pills and putting them in a bottle,” recalled Nava, a pharmacy student at The University of Texas at El Paso. “A pharmacist should be aware of those types of problems. It opened my eyes that I can help people feel better but also save lives.”

While medications can be used to treat particular conditions, individuals may respond to the same drugs in different ways.

That is why Nava is excited about a new collaboration between UTEP’s School of Pharmacy and the College of Engineering that will introduce pharmacy students to additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing. The technology has the potential to enable future pharmacists to custom-print drugs tailored to specific patients.

The collaboration also is strengthening interdisciplinary research and education by engaging faculty and students from pharmacy and engineering in projects pertaining to 3-D printed food and drug delivery systems.

“We’re taking a compounding lab this semester, so we’re learning to create different dosage forms, whether it’s creams, tablets or capsules,” Nava explained. “To be doing that in the lab and to hear about the possibilities of what we can do with a 3-D printer in our lab is just exciting.”

In January 2018, Jongwha Chang, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacy, and Namsoo Peter Kim, Ph.D., associate professor of metallurgical, materials and biomedical engineering (MMBME), established the Center for Advanced Food Printing and Pharmacy Training (CAFÉ-PPT) in the School of Pharmacy.

Researchers will use 3-D printing technology to create edible food products and design new drug delivery systems that control when and how much of a drug is delivered to the body. The CAFÉ-PPT also will engage pharmacy students in hands-on learning opportunities.

“The adaptation of novel 3-D printing techniques may one day make it possible for pharmacists to utilize this technology to produce personalized drug delivery systems and dosage forms,” said School of Pharmacy Dean José O. Rivera, Pharm.D. “Pharmacists will be able to print a tailored dose of a liquid suspension for a pediatric patient or develop food products for patients with diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol to improve their conditions. Our collaboration with engineering will create opportunities for our pharmacy students to gain experience working with 3-D printing and potentially expand their scope of practice.”

New 3-D Printing Applications

In the CAFÉ-PPT, Jonghyun Lee, a graduate from the MMBME dual bachelor’s degree program between UTEP and South Korea’s Seokyeong University, is working with students from engineering’s Printing Nano Engineering (PNE) Lab to build 200 3-D printers. They are using technology Kim designed as part of a cooperative agreement with Seokyeong University.

Kim expanded the PNE program in 2016 with a grant he received from the National Research Council of Science and Technology. Since then, UTEP PNE researchers and students have been working with 3-D printing technology and biotechnology to 3-D print biomaterials.

Chang and Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Jwala Renukuntla, Ph.D., will use the PNE technology to print a microneedles-based nicotine patch. They will be working with Rina Koyani, an MMBME research fellow, on the fabrication of the non-invasive transdermal drug delivery device, which is made up of microscopic needles that painlessly penetrate the skin to deliver precise amounts of a nicotine.

“I believe a lot of our students are interested in research related to using 3-D printing,” said Chang, who plans to incorporate 3-D printing into the School of Pharmacy’s curriculum in the near future. “The study of drug delivery systems is an important part of the pharmacy program, and students who are interested will be able to take part in this innovative research.”

Personalized 3-D Printed Food

PNE students learned how to design and modify 3-D printers, including a food printer that can print high viscosity material, such as pizza dough, explained Diana Cho, a research assistant in the PNE lab and a graduate from the MMBME dual bachelor’s degree program.

The CAFÉ-PPT will use the technology to conduct research on printing customized food for people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, or for people with food allergies or food sensitivities.

“We have developed our own strategy and our own technology to 3-D print our own materials,” Cho said. “And we have invested so much time to make it applicable for everyday use like to 3-D print foods using healthy ingredients. This is very good because you can customize everything. For pharmacy, you can customize it to print medications in different flavors and sizes.”

Cho’s colleague Ji Hye Kim demonstrated how the printer uses a 1.66 millimeter needle to print the UTEP logo out of caramel on top of a cup of coffee.

“One of the things we can control is the exact amount of ingredients we use with this 3-D printer,” said Kim. The Journal of Food Engineering recently published a paper on 3-D printed food techniques written by Kim, MMBME research fellow Jae-Seok Eo, and Cho. “So for somebody who is diabetic or has a chronic disease, we can control how many grams of carbohydrates we inject into the food they eat.”

While the center’s 3-D food printing research is still in the preclinical stage, Chang hopes to one day collaborate with UTEP’s Department of Public Health Sciences on the nutritional value of meals.

“UTEP is trying to focus on interdisciplinary education, and this collaboration between pharmacy and engineering is a great example of that,” Chang said.

For more information about the School of Pharmacy click here. To learn more about Metallurgical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering at UTEP, click here.

By Laura L. Acosta – UTEP Communications

UTEP Grant to Assist with Implementation of Smoke-Free Public Housing Statewide

The UTEP School of Pharmacy has been awarded a $180,000 grant from the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) to assist Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) in Texas to develop, implement and enforce smoke-free policies.

Nora Y. Hernandez, a program coordinator/manager at UTEP, will lead the project as principal investigator with co-principal investigator and School of Pharmacy Founding Dean José 0. Rivera, Pharm.D. UTEP alumna Kristen E. Ortega will assist with the project.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires PHAs nationwide to implement a policy that prohibits the use of all lit tobacco products inside all dwelling units, indoor common areas, and PHA administrative office buildings by July 31, 2018. The policy must also extend to 25 feet from all housing and administrative buildings.

PHAs also have the discretion to strengthen the policy to include extending the 25-foot rule and/or establish additional smoke-free areas, such as playgrounds.

“Smoke-free policies have been shown to reduce property maintenance costs, unit turnover time, and risk of fires,” said Hernandez, who received a Master of Business Administration from UTEP. “They are also beneficial for the overall health of residents, staff and guests, as there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. The focus of this project is to promote health and wellness among public housing communities and create an air of respect throughout Texas communities.”

Hernandez will work with PHA executive directors, property managers and resident council chairs to provide technical assistance on smoke-free housing policies and education on tobacco treatment resources, and to develop a comprehensive database of public housing policies in Texas.

UTEP is part of the Texas Smoke-Free Public Housing Task Force, which includes TDSHS, MD Anderson, Austin Public Health, Wichita Falls Housing Authority, Foundation Communities, and the American Cancer Society.

The task force aims to improve the health and well-being of Texas residents through promotion and implementation of smoke-free public housing

UTEP School of Pharmacy Receives Support for PharmD Program

The Paso del Norte Health Foundation recently awarded $1 million to The University of Texas (UTEP) at El Paso School of Pharmacy (SOP) to support the growth and accreditation of their Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program.

“We are grateful to the Paso del Norte Health Foundation for supporting this endeavor,” says Jose O. Rivera, PharmD, Founding Dean, University of Texas, School of Pharmacy. “Building our program and developing qualified pharmacists to work in our region is one of our main goals.”

The School of Pharmacy has since been involved in developing a fully-accredited PharmD program in El Paso and enrolled the first class of 40 students in the fall of 2017, with 60 more students expected in the fall of 2018.

According to PdNHF Officials, the Health Foundation’s award will support “SOP’s efforts to achieve full-accreditation, develop a local supply of future pharmacists and contribute to the overall economic growth and health of the region.”

UTEP’s School of Pharmacy has been an active member and grantee of the Health Foundation’s A Smoke Free Paso del Norte Initiative, providing expertise and support to regional partners and coalitions who work to eliminate tobacco smoking in the region. They have integrated tobacco cessation into their curriculum, developed promotional materials aimed at preventing smoking among youth, promoted quit lines and smoking cessation efforts, and are conducting research on e-cigarettes and thirdhand smoke.

The initiative’s work with UTEP’s participation, has resulted in measurable declines in smoking rates (from 24% in 2002 to 13.8% today) and a correlating reduction in the incidence of lung cancer.

To learn more about the PharmD program, click here, contact pharmacy@utep.edu or call (915)747-8519.