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Pharmathon 2020 highlights importance of medication safety

Eight teams were given 48 hours to conduct research and create a solution for a health care related problem.
Huy Pham ’22, IPhO-Pacific director of communicationsMay 27, 2020

A virtual format did not dampen the creativity and enthusiasm of the teams participating in the third annual Pharmathon, hosted by the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy’s chapter of the Industry Pharmacists Organization (IPhO-Pacific). The eight teams, each consisting of three to four doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) students, turned to online platforms, such as Google Hangouts and Facebook, to collaborate. They were given 48 hours to conduct research and create a solution for a health care related problem using publicly available data. The teams consulted with Sachin A. Shah, PharmD, FAHA, professor of pharmacy practice and regional coordinator for Travis Air Force Base, as well as current second year and third year PharmD students who intend on pursuing careers as industry pharmacists.

The theme of this year’s Pharmathon was pharmacovigilance and medication safety. Pharmacovigilance is the focus on the safety of drugs and medical devices and serves to detect, assess, understand and prevent adverse effects or any other drug related problems. Drug manufacturers are required to conduct post-marketing surveillance studies and report their data to the FDA. Consequently, this process has a direct impact on the lives of patients. The integration of pharmacists in pharmacovigilance is essential, given their expertise in monitoring the safety and efficacy of drugs.

During the public health crisis caused by COVID-19, pharmacovigilance studies are critical to avert adverse events experienced by patients. These are key considerations considered by scientists who are striving to find the safest and most effective treatment for COVID-19.

After 48 hours of critical thinking, problem solving and sleep deprivation, the eight teams presented their research to faculty, students and a panel of three pharmaceutical industry experts on Zoom. Guest judges included Jeremy Lim ’12, PharmD, senior clinical scientist at Genentech, Reema Dirks, PharmD, senior medical science liaison at Amgen, and Mariah Clarisse Mayo ’17, PharmD, senior drug safety associate at Forty Seven Inc. After much deliberation from the judges, team members Dylan Holt ’22, Jeffrey Hwe ’22, Samantha Teshima ’22 and Diana Wong ’22 were deemed the winners for their project “The Influence of Smart Social Media on Medical Safety.”

“Pharmathon tested the limits of our creativity and health care knowledge,” said Teshima. Despite the challenges associated with hosting the event virtually, IPhO-Pacific successfully carried on the tradition of this unique, student-led event. “We are grateful for the technological advances that allowed us to participate in this wonderful Pacific tradition,” Teshima said. “A special thank you to Dean Oppenheimer for listening in, our peers for helping throughout the entire 48 hours, and the wonderful judges for taking time out of their busy schedules to evaluate the creative student presentations.”

Second place went to Derek Cheung ’22, Renee Stutz ’22, Lena Tieu ’22 and Tiffany Vu ’22, who studied the role of Google Trends, a tool that analyzes the popularity of top searches, in pharmacovigilance monitoring. Third place went to Aasim Ahmed ’22, Cristella Ho ’22, Justine Do-Huynh ’22 and Stephanie Zeng ’22, who focused on the impact of virtual reality on pain.

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