Pharmacy Perspectives - Graduation 2011 - 7

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Back to the Future
Most of us cannot fathom a world without electricity. But 28-year-old Chao Yan can.
Up until he was six years old, Chao’s village in eastern China had no electricity. But in the last 20 years China has experienced such dramatic change that it is difficult for many to imagine. “The trajectory has been so meteoric that cities change virtually overnight and 300-year-old structures are bulldozed to make way for wider city streets,” says Chao. And because of such rapid development, China has built brand new infrastructure making it one of the most technologically advanced and modern countries in the world. When Chao arrived in Colorado six years ago to pursue his doctor of philosophy degree in toxicology he anticipated a futuristic America where all homes came with robots. Much to his surprise, reality was very different than expectations. “When I walked into my apartment that was built in the 1950s, it felt like I was going back in time,” says Chao. On first blush, America’s antiquated infrastructure was a disappointment. “It was difficult to wrap my head around the fact that my hometown felt more 21st century than Denver.” But with time, Chao realized that looks can be deceiving and what’s new may lack substance. “On the surface everything back home is shiny and new, but systems – the things that run behind the scenes – are still in the infancy stages and take time.” And those systems define the difference between a developing and developed nation. A perfect example of a system that is in early development is a fully formulated scientific research community and structure. “That’s why there are so many international students pursuing PhD’s in America,” says Chao, who was recently recognized as one of China’s best and brightest graduate students when he received the Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Graduate Students Abroad. “Being here is the best training in the world.” Currently, more than 66,000 Chinese nationals are enrolled in graduate programs in the United States. The American system has taken years to develop. Graduate students get the benefit of “learning through mentoring.” They are assigned to a specific scientist and focus on that scientist’s research for several years. During his six years in the PhD program Chao has been working under the tutelage of Dr. David Ross, concentrating on cancer research and small molecular antitumor drug development. “This area of research is fascinating because it has the potential to cure diseases,” says Chao. The next step for Chao after commencement is to find a post doctoral fellow position where he will be able to develop his own research. After which he hopes that a similar system will have started to germinate in China. Then he’ll return to his homeland, set up his own laboratory and continue cancer research. “It will be exciting to help create the research infrastructure back home. You almost have to start from scratch. But that’s what’s exciting,” says Chao, PhD. PhD Graduates Donald Backos Bill Black Jason Fritz Renee Good Neal Gould Chao Yan December 2010 May 2011 May 2011 May 2011 May 2011 May 2011

Thinking Outside of the Box
Most people envision a pharmacist in a clinical setting or working behind the local pharmacy counting by fives. They don’t necessarily picture him developing the medications that are being dispensed. But for Kevin Kerr a PharmD means being on the opposite side of the medication continuum – research, discovery and drug development, not dispensing. Nationally, the majority of PharmD graduates pursue community pharmacy, clinical pharmacy or academia. “Because the pharmaceutical industry is concentrated on the coasts, many of my classmates haven’t thought of this as a career option,” says Kevin.

After obtaining BA degrees in music and kinesiology, followed by a master of science in integrative physiology, and then working as the manager of nutraceuticals for a sports nutrition company, Kevin became hooked on R & D. “I decided that I wanted to work in the pharmaceutical industry and in order to do so, needed more clinical experience and education.” So, he enrolled in pharmacy school. Intent on working for big pharma, he geared his rotations to include clinical, research and government opportunities and even spent a rotation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) where he learned the inner workings of this government agency – essential knowledge for a future in drug development. According to Kevin, “FDA policies will influence my work considerably and I will likely come in contact with the agency in my career.” This rotation provided him with a primer on the function of nearly all FDA

departments, how medications and their claims are reviewed and how the drugs get to market. In addition, Kevin developed professional contacts that “will be helpful while working on the other side of the agency’s door.” Next step for Kevin is a one-year fellowship in clinical research with Allergan – a global, multi-specialty health care company – where he will be focusing on investigating new molecular entities to treat diseases affecting the back of the eye. The fellowship is in collaboration with, and sponsored by, the University of Southern California (USC) School of Pharmacy. As part of this program, Kevin will have the opportunity to engage in scholarly activities at USC, which may include giving guest lectures, publication and taking additional coursework related to clinical research. “This is a great opportunity,” says Kevin.

Spring 2011



Pharmacy Perspectives - Graduation 2011

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