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First Month-Long PharmAlliance Virtual Meeting Tops 800 Global Participants

November 2, 2020
Eshelman School of Pharmacy
Exterior of brick building with sign: Beard Hall Eshelman School of Pharmacy

Beard Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Photo by Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Every year since 2015, three of the world’s leading schools of pharmacy have come together for an annual meeting of the minds to partner for better healthcare worldwide.

The trio, known as PharmAlliance, is comprised of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and University College London in London, U.K. When COVID-19 interrupted plans for the annual PharmAlliance Week meeting, the partnership adapted and shifted online to host PharmAlliance Month 2020.

PharmAlliance Month 2020, held Sept. 28-Oct. 28, featured 16 sessions and seminars meant to facilitate the spread of ideas, explore areas of synergy, and celebrate the history and future of the partnership. Sessions covered areas of pharmacy education, pharmaceutical science, professional development and pharmacy practice.

Session topics included but were not limited to COVID-19 research, international collaboration, adaptable leadership, intercultural communication, mentorship, core science concepts, and new chemical and synthetic biology technologies for neuroscience drug development.

“It felt like giving up to NOT go forward with our annual conference. Now, more than ever, we need each other to cope, adapt, and continue our work through the pandemic. By shifting online, our annual meeting was so much more accessible to faculty, staff, and students,” said Caroline Sasser, PharmAlliance Postdoctoral Fellow and PharmAlliance Month organizer.

Visions for the Future

The PharmAlliance Month opening session featured each of school’s deans sharing their vision for PharmAlliance’s strategic initiatives for the next five years. Participants also heard from UNC’s Vice Provost for Global Affairs, Barbara Stephenson, who delivered the keynote opening address.

UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Dean Angela Kashuba challenged participants to look ahead as leaders in the industry. “There has never been a better time for us to be in this alliance. Over this month, you will define what our international leadership role will look like,” she said.

Dean of Monash Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Arthur Christopoulos added, “PharmAlliance is not a club, it’s a model, and I for one am very excited about how we are going to evolve it.”

About the future, Duncan Craig, director of the UCL School of Pharmacy, said, “We have all learned a lot from each other, and with this strong foundation, now is the time to be looking forward. That’s what this month is about.”

Stephenson’s keynote focused on the value of different perspectives that come from global partnerships like PharmAlliance. Her talk, titled, “The Importance of Global Partnerships in Higher Education,” highlighted the role global relationships have played in her past work as a diplomat and global ambassador.

“I can quickly get very effusive about PharmAlliance, which, throughout all of its domains, delivers on so much of what I am seeking to achieve as Vice Provost for Global Affairs: strategic partnerships that help all partners reach higher and deliver better research and educational outcomes,” she said.

PharmAlliance Talks COVID-19

With COVID-19 being top-of-mind during this year’s event, PharmAlliance speakers John Jackson, Lizzie Mills, Amira Shaikh, and Delesha Carpenter led discussions centered around the effects of COVID-19 on the pharmacy workforce in the U.K., U.S. and Australia.

John Jackson of Monash presented the “Impact of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on community pharmacy in Victoria, Australia.” The presentation highlighted short-term effects of the pandemic including medication shortages, increased stress and workload, and confusion caused by newly introduced e-prescribing.

Notably, Jackson said long-term impacts included accelerated introduction of electronic prescriptions, continuation of hygiene practice, and increased recognition of pharmacists and the profession.

Lizzie Mills and Amira Shaikh of UCL followed with their presentation, “The impacts of COVID-19 on pharmacy practice in the UK: Case studies.” The duo discussed the effects of the pandemic on pre-registration pharmacy students in the U.K., including rotation changes, increased workplace pressure, and reduced tutor support.

Workflow changes were also discussed for general practice pharmacists including more remote work and telemedicine, improved multi-disciplinary care, and increased focus on high-risk and home care patients. The speakers noted the pandemic held underlying positives for pharmacy practice including innovation, workflow changes to support nursing staff, and expansion of pharmacy services.

The final pandemic presentation, given by Delesha Carpenter of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy was entitled “Rural Community Pharmacies’ Preparedness for and Responses to COVID-19.”

Carpenter’s study found that half of pharmacies surveyed had received conflicting information about COVID-19. Findings from this study indicated that rural pharmacies need disaster preparedness training, assistance adapting their preparedness plans, and regular policy and informational guidance from professional bodies and health organizations.

Intercultural Communication and Collaboration

PharmAlliance provides a community platform for working together on big ideas and solutions that will improve human health around the world.

During the meeting, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Jon Easter, spoke about the importance of intercultural communication for leaders on global teams, big or small. In his talk, Easter encouraged participants to seek out diversity when choosing teammates and emphasized the importance of a “common language” for a successful team.

Throughout PharmAlliance Month, participants also shared their ongoing research and discussed ideas for collaboration on current and future projects.

Areas with high potential for collaboration that emerged included COVID-19 effects on the profession and vaccine-related projects, medication safety and high-risk medications, and pharmacy practice advancement.

“PharmAlliance is not only a partnership, but also a community that will help us come together and address global challenges. We aspire to be a beacon for the profession that will improve healthcare worldwide through new collaborative research, education, and practice models,” said David Steeb, clinical assistant professor and director of global engagement at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Graduate E-Symposium and Student International Case Competition

In addition, PharmAlliance Month featured the second annual Graduate E-Symposium, where doctoral students at participating schools had the opportunity to share their cutting-edge research in lightening style presentations over two days.

This year, 46 students presented on topics that ranged from global health and neuroscience, to cancer. Top presenters included:

Tie for First place:

  • Cassandra Hatzipantelis (Monash), GPR52 agonism reverses schizophrenia-relevant working memory deficits in mice
  • Rylee Wander (UNC-Chapel Hill), Determining the substrate specificity of heparin/heparan sulfate 3-O-sulfotransferase isoform 5

Tie for Second place:

  • Jordan Joiner (UNC-Chapel Hill), Low-intensity focused ultrasound produces immune response in pancreatic tumors
  • Joshua Rennick (Monash), pHLIM: mApple as an intracellular pH sensor using fluorescent lifetime imaging microscopy
  • Si Hang “Anthony” Lei (UCL), NFAT and WNT signaling changes in LRRK2 Parkinson’s disease models

Winners of the annual PharmAlliance International Case Competition were also announced.

During the competition, typically held each March, international teams work together to come up with a creative solution to a provided patient scenario. This year’s winners were teammates Alice Hann (Monash), Alec Martschenko (UNC-Chapel Hill), Haley Mun (UNC-Chapel Hill), and Akina Nana (UNC-Chapel Hill).

Learn more

For additional information about PharmAlliance, or to read weekly recaps from PharmAlliance Month 2020, visit the partnership’s website.

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