College of Pharmacy News Fall/Winter 2017

Pharmacy Student Wins National Award for Opioid Research

Alex Heinz (PharmD, ’18)

A Roosevelt pharmacy student received a 2017 U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Excellence in Public Pharmacy Award.

Alex Heinz, 25, now in his final year of Roosevelt’s three-year College of Pharmacy (COP) program, was selected for the competitive national award because of his patient-care activism in Chicago’s northwest suburbs and his striking research on the opioid painkiller oxycodone.

“The USPHS Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Award is highly competitive and this is a very significant honor for our student and our program,” said Melissa Hogan, dean of COP.

A Roosevelt pharmacy professor initially urged Heinz to apply for the award in part because of a research paper he wrote with two COP students for an elective public health course on the safety and effectiveness of opioids containing ingredients intended to deter abuse.

“I saw a news article that suggested more people are abusing opioids than are abusing heroin, and it got me thinking that I needed to do something to understand how we can best prevent prescription drug abuse,” Heinz said.

Heinz and fellow students Gerry Cavanagh and Julia Gilbert initially reviewed information about more than 20 brands of oxycodone before zeroing in on three types that manufacturers claim can deter abuse.

They looked closely at: oxycodone containing naloxone or naltrexone, which counteracts the opioid when it is injected; formulation-technology oxycodone, which automatically gels up and renders the drug unusable when it is crushed or dissolved; and oxycodone containing niacin, an ingredient that causes unpleasant side effects when ingested.

In their paper, “The efficacy and safety of various abuse deterrent formulations on the prevention of inappropriate use of oxycodone: A systematic review,” the Roosevelt students concluded that all three formulations were effective in deterring abuse. Of the three, formulation-technology oxycodone — such as DETERx — was determined to be the safest, most efficient and versatile.

“I asked my students to research something in public health that they felt strongly about, and what they came back with was above and beyond typical student research,” said Abby Kahaleh, associate professor of pharmacy administration.

In fact, the research spawned a poster presentation to more than 20,000 pharmacists from around the world at a meeting of the American Society of Health System Pharmacists. In addition, Heinz has engaged with northwest suburban residents on a number of public-health issues. He talked with children at a Schaumburg day care center about the importance of healthy eating and exercise,  administered vaccinations as a volunteer with Walgreens in Des Plaines, contributed to community food drives and did fundraising for children’s hospitals, and performed cholesterol screenings at an American Diabetes Association exposition.

“Alex not only excels as a researcher, but also has proven to be a strong public health advocate and community leader.”

Lawrence Potempa, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Immunology

“Alex not only excels as a researcher, but also has proven to be a strong public health advocate and community leader,” said Lawrence Potempa, the associate professor of biochemistry and immunology who encouraged Heinz to apply for the national award.

After completing a rotation this fall at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Heinz hopes to land a competitive post-doctorate residency in public health pharmacy. He will graduate in May 2018.

“I am grateful for this award,” Heinz said, “which I hope will boost my chances for obtaining a residency.”

Roosevelt Professor Named Top Pharmacist in State

Cara Brock, assistant professor of clinical sciences and Illinois Pharmacist of the Year.

A professor who helped found Roosevelt’s College of Pharmacy (COP)is the 2017 Illinois Pharmacist of the Year.

Cara Brock, who started as a clinical instructor when COP opened its doors in 2011, and today is the college’s chair of academic and teaching excellence, received the award from the Illinois Pharmacists Association (IPhA) in September.

Given annually since 1950 to a pharmacist exhibiting the highest level of professionalism and engagement, the Pharmacist of the Year award is IPhA’s most established and extraordinary recognition.

“Cara’s work at Roosevelt, with our organization and in her specialty field of palliative care, has been amazing. She is certainly deserving of this award,” said Garth Reynolds, executive director of the IPhA.

Brock was recognized as “an emerging leader in pharmacy and as an educator on topics of pain and palliative care” by an award nominator, Reynolds said.

Palliative care, Brock’s area of expertise, is a relatively new area of practice for pharmacists, and is concerned with helping patients with life-limiting conditions manage pain and symptoms at the end of their lives while in hospice care.

Among contributions in this area, Brock held a faculty placement as a clinical pharmacist for a hospice program at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, where she resides. She recently published several articles about the effectiveness of culinary grief therapy and treatment of symptoms at the end of life. Offered at the College of DuPage, this therapy uses cooking as a means to help people cope with loss of loved ones.

Brock also developed a COP elective course for Roosevelt students to learn how to help manage pain and care for patients at the end of their lives in hospice settings. She is a founding organizer of the Society of Palliative Care Pharmacists, which today is a national organization representing approximately 150 pharmacists working in the pain management and palliative care field.

“This is a significant honor for Cara that reflects her extensive contributions to our profession and to Roosevelt’s College of Pharmacy,”

Melissa Hogan, Dean of College of Pharmacy

“This is a significant honor for Cara that reflects her extensive contributions to our profession and to Roosevelt’s College of Pharmacy,” said Melissa Hogan, dean of COP.

At Roosevelt, Brock has been involved in nearly “every aspect of the COP program,” Hogan said. “She has been passionate from day one about our students, program, and ensuring that pharmacists give patients quality care.”

A native of Oak Park, Illinois and a licensed pharmacist since 2003, Brock worked in retail and hospital pharmacy before joining COP. Today, she is an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at Roosevelt, chair of the Conference and Education Committee at IPhA, and faculty advisor to COP student members of the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists.

“I’m pleased to be recognized for all of my efforts as an Illinois pharmacist,” she said. “I believe the pharmacist has a significant role to play in all aspects of patient care, including end-of-life care for patients and their families. I hope I can be an example to students and colleagues to become and stay involved in advocating for their professions and passions.”

Pharm Aid: Student takes first step to help in native Ghana

Ishmael Ochir (PharmD, ’19)

Designing a mechanical monkey thumb isn’t the likeliest stepping stone to a pharmacy degree. Nor is starting a non-profit foundation for disadvantaged youth in your spare time, or synthesizing new molecules to make the drug manufacturing process more cost-effective.

However, Roosevelt PharmD student Ishmael Ochir has done all of these things and more — and he’s just getting started.

Ochir’s ultimate goal — and the reason he is attending Roosevelt — is to start a new line of affordable pharmaceuticals for distribution in his native Ghana through a chain of pharmacies that he intends to develop, own and operate.

He hopes profits from that enterprise will help fund the non-profit non-government organization (NGO) that he and several friends started last year: Broadway Universal Foundation (BUF), which is dedicated to helping young people in Ghana pursue educational opportunities and improve their lives and communities.

“In Ghana, where I grew up, people need a lot of help,” Ochir said. “In general, people don’t have access to medications. They can’t afford it. Even if a doctor does treat them, all they get are painkillers.”

Hospitals in Ghana don’t have access to many common drugs, Ochir said, and pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS simply don’t exist.

Ochir wants to change all that. First, he must get his degree, pay back his loans, and connect with world leaders who can help him achieve his goal to do good, improving patients’ lives in Ghana. “It will take some time,” he said. “Maybe my whole life.”

He is off to a good start, in spite of growing up in what he calls a “broken home” that forced him to spend most of his childhood living with friends and surviving on the kindness of others. Those experiences did not crush his ambition. On the contrary, they fueled it.

“Whenever I go back to Ghana I try to help, but it’s not enough. At some point I realized I could do more.”

Ishmael Ochir (PharmD, ’19)

“During my childhood I came into contact with a lot of people who might have had only one shoe for a year or two, or who didn’t own a shirt but were leading a happy life. Sometimes they would get sick, but they had no medical care,” Ochir said. “Whenever I go back to Ghana I try to help, but it’s not enough. At some point I realized I could do more.”

Since then, “Do more” has pretty much been Ochir’s motto.

After graduating from high school in Ghana, he came to the U.S. to attend Chicago’s Olive Harvey College, where he was valedictorian, having developed a monkey-thumb exoskeleton as part of a research internship at the Illinois Institute of Technology. He also received a Jack Kent Cook Foundation Scholarship, which he used to obtain a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago. There, while working on a project to synthesize a better molecule for binding drug chemicals, a professor persuaded him to get a PhD in pharmacology.

In 2016, Ochir enrolled at Roosevelt and is now in his second year at the College of Pharmacy (COP). He expects to graduate in 2019.

“Ishmael models the values of Roosevelt University,” said Melissa Hogan, dean of COP. “Like many in our program, he is living Roosevelt’s social justice mission with a plan of action that I have confidence will one day lead him to make a difference for the better in his homeland.”

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