In addition to the academic lessons needed to become a pharmacist, hands-on research experience can help students acquire essential practices and skills to be an effective, patient-centered healthcare professional.
My dream of becoming a pharmacist came true when I received my acceptance letter from California Northstate University. After receiving this letter, I reached out to Ashim Malhotra, PhD, MS, PharmBS, FAPE, my educational advisor and mentor for the 2021 Walmart Scholar Award, to explore the different experiences that a first year pharmacy student could be involved in. , and he invited me to his research team that focused on targeting mitochondria for new drug discovery in pancreatic cancer.
Through this research experience, I learned how to lead pharmaceutical sanitation best practices, how to connect disparate scientific concepts that form the foundation of patient-centered care, how to write and communicate scientific literature, and how to manage my time while working in a very stressful environment.
Research is important both for the advancement of medicine and for effective, patient-centered pharmaceutical practice. It is important that pharmacists pay attention to every detail when checking prescriptions and ensure that good pharmacy practice includes providing patients with their medications to the highest possible standard of care.
Proper disinfection and cleaning of the counter, pill count trays and devices, combined with proper personal disinfection techniques, provide patients with clean, uncontaminated medications, which have become more important than ever after the emergence of COVID-19. During my time with the research team, I learned many of these sanitation skills, including aseptic technique, continuous mammalian culture, experimental design, and quality assurance testing.
Carrying out the different dosages allowed me to better understand the impact of pharmacological products on biological mechanisms. For example, the Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) assay is an experiment that determines the effect of oxidative stress on various intracellular pathways through the measurement of ROS, which are natural byproducts that can affect cells in the cell. several ways. Since ROS can also trigger apoptosis, it is used as a target in the treatment of tumor patients and is a predictor of the effectiveness of anticancer drugs.
Completing this test helped me relate the concepts of cell biology to drug therapy treatment, which gave me a better understanding of why we learn these concepts in pharmacy school and why it is important to have a solid background in basic science.
In addition to working with a research team, I had the chance to improve my scientific writing and communication skills, both essential in pharmacy. Scientific writing and communicating with other healthcare professionals can be intimidating, but the collaboration and coordination of innovative ideas and treatments are necessary to help advance medicine.
Fortunately, the research team I was a part of actively exposed me to the world of scientific literature and how to properly communicate data through the creation of posters, book chapters, manuscripts, and presentations. By giving presentations at conferences, such as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Mid-Year Meeting and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Annual Meeting, I learned to put my skills into practice. presentation skills in front of other healthcare professionals, thus boosting my professional confidence and competence.
Finally, time management is an important skill for any future pharmacist. Without this, I would not have been able to reconcile school, work and research. On top of that, effective time management gave me more time to focus on my well-being during the school year and decreased my overall stress.
While performance under stress is not a skill taught in school, it is a valuable skill to have for any professional career in pharmacy. During laboratory meetings, we are focused on
the place and asked to explain our experiences and their significance. Being ready to answer unexpected questions is stressful, but it’s similar to being on rotation and being asked questions by a tutor.
Meeting a deadline and being on site in the lab also helped me prepare for my advanced pharmacy experience placements and will continue to help me throughout my career thereafter. Acquiring the skills of time and stress management coupled with the ability to integrate basic sciences with experiential learning is a challenge, but it is heartwarming to remember that these experiences are universal. Not only pharmacy students, but many students from other professional backgrounds also face similar challenges.
As an academic goal, the desire to improve human life (i.e. drug discovery research) is a noble goal in itself. Yet, more specifically, the ultimate goal
of the pharmaceutical profession is to improve the quality of life of patients and reduce the burden of disease and associated morbidity and mortality. Being a part of Malhotra’s lab helped me understand this specific goal with greater clarity, gain the skills I needed to perform at my highest level on rotations, and develop my professional personality as a future. practicing pharmacist.
However, the lessons I have learned from my research experience extend beyond the professional sphere, which is largely due to the efforts of my mentor over the past 3 years. For current and future pharmacy students, I would highly recommend finding a faculty member who conducts research of professional interest. In addition to hands-on experience, a mentor-mentee relationship in pharmacy school can provide guidance to help achieve personal, academic, and professional goals. My experiences have helped me to contextualize the universality and importance of scientific discovery and scholarship based on hypothesis and evidence, as well as the need to practice effective and targeted communication as a pharmacist.
James lugtu his PharmD Candidate at California Northstate University College of Pharmacy.