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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Critical Thinking + Communication Skills = Championship!

Matthew and Katie embody everything we look for in prospective students -- the ability to think critically, outstanding communication skills, a passion for helping people, and a calm presence (especially in the midst of pressure!) If all that wasn't enough, these two have terrific personalities -- friendly, helpful, funny, and compassionate. And then you add the "smarty-pants" factor and you end up with the total package. I'm grateful these two chose to come to UCSF.

Q&A with UCSF student pharmacist winners of national clinical skills competition

Matthew Chang and Katie Alvarez, UCSF School of Pharmacy student pharmacists, are the winners of the 2012 Clinical Skills Competition held during the national meeting of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) in in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The clinical competition is performed in teams of two where each team is given a patient case to evaluate, provide appropriate assessment, recommend an effective drug therapy regimen, and conduct appropriate counseling.

Judges of the competition were all pharmacists, including: representatives of Kroger (the competition’s sponsor), the HIV pharmacist who wrote the case, and other SNPhA board members.

Here’s what Chang and Alvarez had to say about their experience:

What case did you present?
Our patient case was a 32-year-old treatment-naive [not taking antiretrovirals] HIV-positive woman complaining of shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, chest pains, and a non-productive cough. Her past medical history included asthma. She had been managing her symptoms with increased use of her albuterol inhaler prior to her hospital admission. After evaluating several symptoms, tests, and lab values, we prioritized her problems to include Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, esophageal candidiasis, disease progression, lack of vaccination, and smoking cessation.

Describe the competition process and what happened in each round.
Preliminary Round—all teams participate in the written plan: Teams are given the patient case (about three pages long) and have two hours to analyze it and complete the written pharmaceutical care plan. At the end of two hours, we turned in our written plan to be evaluated by the judges.

Final Round—includes the top three teams based on the written plan. The three teams were announced about 30 minutes prior to the final round, which was broken into two parts.
  1. Case Presentation: We had five minutes to present our case to the panel of judges. The presentation ideally included a summary of the patient, including health problems and detailed recommendations for the patient’s most urgent problems. We then had a five-minute question-and-answer session with a panel of six judges, where drug therapy choices were challenged.
  2. Patient Counseling Session: After the case presentation, we had five minutes to conduct a patient counseling session on the recommended medication regimen. The patient was just like any real patient—she asked questions and needed to have everything explained to her in lay language.
What prepared you for the competition?
Because of the scope of the competition, it is hard to do any last-minute preparations. We really just went back to what we learned from our distinguished UCSF faculty. At UCSF, we are trained in evidence-based, patient-centered medicine. From this training, we recommended drug therapies that best fit the patient’s needs and addressed possible pitfalls before they could occur.

What was the greatest challenge of the competition?
The greatest challenge was the complexity of the case. There were many symptoms that suggested different disease states. We tried to pay attention to the fine details that helped us narrow down the appropriate treatment. With the patient’s immunocompromised state and her need to initiate antiretroviral therapy, this meant we had to be aggressive in treatment but avoid unnecessary drug exposure.

Did all competitors share the same case?
Yes, all teams have the exact same case.

How many teams from across the United States participated initially?
There were 48 teams from pharmacy schools across the nation that competed this year. This was up from 33 teams who competed last year.

How did you feel when you won?
Surprised, to say the least! We were so excited when our names were called as the first place team, we both could not keep the smiles off of our faces. A record number of teams competed in this year’s competition, and all of the finalists were very knowledgeable. We are very humbled to receive this award and honored to bring the championship title to UCSF.

First-Generation Students Find Support at UCSF

Things are getting out of hand at UCSF -- in a good way! This is such a huge initiative -- especially for the School of Pharmacy. So many of our admitted students are first-generation college students. The support at the graduate-level (as the student continues their education) is so critical and necessary for success. I'm super excited that this has gotten off the ground, knowing our students get the support they need beyond our immediate office. With a campus-wide initiative, pharmacy students are able to connect with other students -- medical, dentistry, nursing, etc. -- with similar experiences.     
First-Generation College Students Find Support at UCSF

New Initiative Expands Services to Help Growing Community Adjust to Graduate-Level Study

When Tania Pacheco first arrived at UCSF, she was struck by the feeling that she had more in common with the campus restaurant workers and janitors than many of her fellow doctoral students.

A Mexican immigrant whose parents didn’t make it past high school, Pacheco was used to being an academic trailblazer in her family as a first-generation undergraduate student at California State University, Fresno. But that experience didn’t quite prepare her for the professional and social expectations of the graduate-level academic world.

“It was a complete culture shock to go from a place like Fresno State to UCSF,” said Pacheco, who’s pursuing her doctorate in medical sociology. “I realized right away that the demographics were vastly different than in my undergraduate studies – both race and class.”

Tania Pacheco
Students like Pacheco inspired the creation of a support program at UCSF that helps first-generation college students connect with each other as well as mentors who’ve been through similar experiences. It started in 2008 with a small, monthly discussion group and has evolved into the First Generation College Student Initiative, part of Student Academic Affairs’ efforts under UCSF’s strategic plan to attract and support the most talented and diverse trainees in the health sciences.

“Financial, educational, emotional and professional support are crucial to the success of any student – but these are not a given for first-generation college students who are pioneers in the journey through higher education,” says Neesha Patel, PhD, who started the program as a staff psychologist for Student Health Services. This year, Patel was appointed director of the newly formed initiative, which will expand services and resources for first-generation students.
A Model for Graduate Schools

Nearly 30 percent of incoming freshmen in the US are the first generation in their families to attend college, according to a 2005 report by the National Center for Educational Statistics, the most recent data available that suggests the percentage could be even higher today.

While undergraduate schools offer an array of federally funded support programs to help this demographic, there are few resources at the graduate level, making UCSF’s initiative unique.

Patel argues that those resources are needed more than ever in graduate and medical schools, where first-generation college students find themselves even more in the minority.

Pacheco says something clicked for her when she attended the first discussion group during her second year at UCSF.

“It was this affirmation that something was needed, that there was a particular group of people like me that needed to encourage each other beyond just race and ethnicity, that there was really something about being a first-generation student that was different,” she said, noting that many of her friends who pursued graduate degrees at other schools ended up dropping out partly because of the lack of a support system.

A common theme in discussions among first-generation college students is the “imposter syndrome,” a feeling of inadequacy amid the high expectations for competency at a top-flight school like UCSF. Many come from low-income or working-class families who can’t provide any guidance for this new frontier.

“There’s a way in which, at the graduate level, you’re being socialized into a profession. There are cultures and norms. There are ideas of what professionalism means, there are ideas about how you relate to your advisors or faculty members, ideas about how people network in a particular profession,” Patel explained.

“Sometimes there’s pride about being first-generation, sometimes there’s worry,” she said. “There can be this fear of being somebody who doesn’t know, instead of a confidence that it’s OK to not know and that you belong.”

An Invisible Community Emerges
One of Patel’s main challenges when starting the support program was identifying the first-generation college students on campus – and the mentors who could best help them.

She was surprised by the overwhelming response as people from this “invisible community” came out of the woodwork, eager to participate. More than 100 UCSF leaders, faculty and postdocs who were the first generation to attend college answered an initial call to gather and brainstorm ways to reach out to students.

“I don’t think we would have the kind the support programs that we have today, or that we’re going to have, if leaders weren’t committed to supporting issues of diversity at UCSF, and if we didn’t have faculty and staff who weren’t really generous in their support of students and this community,” Patel said.

Mark Ansel, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, was one of the first to sign onto Patel’s list.

Raised by working-class parents in a Pennsylvania farming community, Ansel struggled at times to relate with his family about his academic pursuits. “They’re excited that you’re doing so well, but they want to know when you’re going to get a job,” he recalled.

He found professors during his undergraduate years who helped propel him through his academic career and was inspired to offer that help to UCSF students who reminded him of himself.

“When I’ve made it through something like this with mentors who’ve helped me along, I want to acknowledge those mentors but I also want to reach out and give a hand to the people behind me,” said Ansel, who’s participated in faculty panel discussions and one-on-one mentoring sessions.

Fulfilling UCSF’s Mission for Diversity
Another early fan of Patel’s program was Joseph Castro, PhD, vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs, himself a first-generation college student. Raised by a single mother who came from a long line of farm workers in Mexico, the San Joaquin Valley native described his own first-generation experience as sometimes lonely and he built his own support network by joining student organizations.

When Patel initially approached him about launching a program, Castro says, “it was pretty easy for me to support it.”

“The first-generation-to-college area stuck out for me as needing attention because the number of first-generation students who are making it to universities like ours has increased,” Castro said. “That was a great thing to see, but it also begged the question of whether our support services were well-equipped to help them succeed.”

“We can’t rely upon the strategies that worked five or 10 years ago for any of our students, especially first-generation-to-college students. As Vice Chancellor, I work with my colleagues across the campus to make sure that we are carefully listening to students’ needs, and adjusting and adapting as necessary,” he added.

Under the new initiative, one of Patel’s first orders of business is reaching out to each school to get a better sense of the status of first-generation-to-college students at UCSF. For example, in a preliminary analysis, she found that more than 40 percent of incoming students in the School of Pharmacy are the first in their families to go to college.

Other goals for the initiative include establishing an online presence including a new Facebook community, enhancing visibility, collaborating with other campus units to enhance support programs and creating more opportunities for students and mentors to interact.

Now lecturing at Fresno State while finishing up her doctorate, Pacheco still tries to make it back to San Francisco for the first-generation college student events because of its impact on her UCSF experience.

“The fact that [the program is] established and supported by the university helps me know that the university does value diversity – not just in the glossy brochures, but in the allocation of resources and time into making sure people like first-generation students feel included,” she said.

Check out the First-Generation College Student Initiative
By Louise Chu

The 'Lab of the Future' Has Arrived!

The new UCSF Anatomy Learning Center opened this fall. I wanted to share this article then but was a bit hesitant (as I wanted to wait and see whether the center actually lived up to all the hype.) Well, it does! So I can't keep this a secret any longer... check it out. Wow! Wow! Wow!

New Anatomy Learning Center Prepares Next Generation of Clinicians

UCSF's 'Lab of the Future' Uses Latest Technology to Explore Human Body, Disease, and Treatment

The days of carrying hefty, 1,500-page Gray’s Anatomy textbooks may be long gone, but not much more has changed over the decades in how medical students learn anatomy — until now.

Students at UCSF have just begun studies in a new, state-of-the-art anatomy learning center equipped with interactive iPad textbooks, giant video displays and roving cameras that will allow them to observe, discover and come to understand, in a new way, the complex architecture of the human body.

Few other first-year medical students in the world will learn anatomy in such an interactive and clinically relevant way, said Kimberly Topp, PhD, PT, chair of the UCSF Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science and professor of anatomy.

“The exploration and understanding of human anatomy is one of the most basic elements to becoming a great doctor,” said Sam Hawgood, MBBS, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine and vice chancellor for medical affairs. “The UCSF Anatomy Learning Center will help the next generation of clinicians visualize the body with sophistication and detail.”

With the goal of creating a learning environment where trainees thrive, UCSF is among the nation's premier academic health centers at the forefront of educating health professionals in dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy and the Graduate Division. It consistently ranks among the best universities nationwide and attracts the world's finest students.

The 6,000-square-foot space at the UCSF Parnassus campus will enable some 150 medical, physical therapy and pharmacy students, working with up to 30 cadavers, the opportunity to learn anatomy through dissection, aided by expert faculty and practicing physicians demonstrating clinical procedures.

Students will move from dissecting embalmed cadavers, to practicing medical and surgical procedures in fresh tissue, to interpreting ultrasound imaging and physical examination findings on standardized patient “actors” and each other. Tablet devices loaded with interactive textbooks, detailed graphics, quizzes and videos will facilitate such advanced teaching.

With the aid of six 72-inch, high-definition video monitors lining the walls and wirelessly connected to mobile cameras and the iPads, students will be able to interact with the learning material and observe fellow classmates’ discoveries without leaving their workstation. Teleconferencing in the Anatomy Learning Center will allow them to connect to a number of remote sites such as operating rooms, clinics, classrooms and the UCSF Kanbar Simulation Center to watch procedures and learn technique.

Medical students learning about the human brain in the dissection lab will be able to watch live surgeries with world-renowned neurosurgeons such as Mitchel Berger, MD, chair of the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery. These same students will then be able to work inter-professionally, side by side with nurses and anesthesiologists to prepare their cadaver “patient” for the same surgical approach. Physical therapy students will learn arm anatomy in the dissection lab, and then move to the fresh tissue procedures lab to observe how nerves glide and stretch in response to limb movement.

Creating a Dynamic Learning Experience
“The UCSF Anatomy Learning Center brings together the best teaching methods and technologies under one roof,” said Jeffrey Laitman, PhD, president of the American Association of Anatomists. “While the structure of the human body hasn’t changed much over time, technology has, and UCSF is using these new tools to teach students in what I consider is the anatomy lab of the future.”

To accommodate the streaming of high-definition content, the new center is equipped with more than 25 wireless routers, the first network of its kind at the University.

The teaching elements offered in the new center aren’t all unique to UCSF. Many medical schools around the country have cameras, tablet devices and video displays. But UCSF may be the only one that blends all of these elements to create a dynamic, comprehensive teaching space, said Topp.

“The Anatomy Learning Center will allow students to become experts before they ever reach the clinic,” she said. “Students will be able to learn the anatomy relevant to procedures in several different simulated environments. At the end of the day, it’s really about delivering safe, high-quality care to the patient.”

The new center also will allow students to conduct dissections and common medical procedures on fresh tissue — including limbs and organs — giving them the chance to practice what they’ve learned on more realistic material. The insertion of airway tubes or intravenous lines, for example, requires that students be expert before they reach the higher-stakes environment of patient clinics.

The center is also equipped with ultrasound imaging machines and laparoscopic surgery towers enabling students to understand the relevance of anatomy while learning advanced clinical skills from practicing physicians.

The value is not lost on other medical students. “When I took anatomy just a few years ago, there were overhead vents blocking our view, fixed tables, and almost zero technology,” said Dominique Marie Suarez, a fourth-year UCSF medical student. “This lab is one that I want to spend more time in. I wish I could take anatomy all over again.”

“This lab is about imbuing a sense of wonder, respect and enlightenment in the minds of medical students,” said Hawgood, dean of one of the top-ranked medical schools in the United States. “By opening this one-of-a-kind learning lab, UCSF demonstrates its continued commitment to producing the next generation of health care leaders.”

Building the Lab With High-Tech Tools
Planning for the $7.5 million anatomy lab, supported by public and private funds, began in 2010 after the former space, a 60-year-old lab that had received only minor updates, was closed due to an outdated air supply system.

UCSF brought together students, educators, clinicians, designers and technologists to create a teaching space that would be inviting and adaptable, while also functional for cadaveric material and safe for faculty students. To accommodate such a challenging set of requests, many features had to be built custom for the space, including the air supply system, the cadaver tables and the technology network.

UCSF also incorporated a less practical, but spiritually important element to the design: a special memorial wall was installed where students can honor those who have donated their bodies to research through letters, poems, artwork and other remembrances.

The Anatomy Learning Center is targeted for silver LEED green-building rating and, as such, will be one of the few LEED-certified anatomy labs in the world. It was designed by the architectural firm Harley Ellis Devereaux, the firm that also designed UCSF’s Teaching and Learning Center, which opened in 2011.
By Kevin Eisenmann
Photos by Susan Merrell

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Mission Bay!

Wow! It's been ten years already. Mission Bay has not only transformed UCSF but it's also transformed an entire part of the city of San Francisco....


Mission Bay to Mark Decade of Bioscience Discovery

Ten years ago, UCSF opened the doors of its first research building at Mission Bay, launching a new bioscience community in a once-neglected area of the city.

A decade later, Mission Bay is a vibrant, integrated campus that's home to three Nobel laureates and 2,500 UCSF faculty, clinicians, postdoctoral scholars and students, with another 1,000 in the surrounding area.

With their colleagues at the Parnassus and Mount Zion campuses, these scientists and clinicians are breaking new ground in understanding disease and finding new ways to harness science to save lives.

The UCSF Mission Bay campus also is a growing ecosystem of entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical companies and venture capital firms that have spun out of the University of California or come to Mission Bay to be part of the innovation for which UCSF is increasingly known. Together, they are a vital new asset for the city of San Francisco and the gold standard for bioscience centers worldwide.
~By Kristen Bole 

Inside UCSF -- An Exciting Opportunity!

Can you picture yourself at UCSF?

Inside UCSF is an annual outreach program geared towards students at two- and four-year degree schools who are interested in pursuing careers in health and science. This year’s program will take place April 26-27, 2013.

The two-day program consists of UCSF student panels, interactive workshops and an opportunity to meet with University faculty and staff.

This year the UCSF Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, the Graduate Division and Physical Therapy are reaching out to institutions throughout California and the United States for students who have an expressed interest and talent in the sciences. This exciting and informative program is free, and designed to give students an in-depth introduction to a specific health science career path, a chance to meet current students and become inspired about future career possibilities.
  • Interactive panels of students from the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, life sciences, and physical therapy discussing their path to, and succeeding in, professional and graduate school.
  • Specific introductions to one of the professional schools, the graduate division, or physical therapy, including conversations with faculty, staff and students.
  • Workshops to demystify the preparation for and application to graduate and professional school.
  • A classroom experience to expose you to a typical graduate/professional school academic experience.
  • Tours of the campus and new state-of-the-art facilities

Each year, 100 students are invited from across California and the nation for this highly competitive two-day experience. UCSF covers the cost of meals, materials, and travel for all participants, as well as accommodations for those without BART or CalTrain access.

Interested individuals will need to submit a completed application on the program website: https://gdapply.ucsf.edu/apply/insideucsf. The application window will be open January 14 to March 1, 2013. The Inside UCSF Planning Committee will review completed applications and select 100 students to participate. Selected participants will be notified by the middle of March.

Q & A Time!

It's a very quiet Saturday morning. I was super excited to go to bed last night, knowing I didn't have to interact with the alarm clock this morning. I dreamt I was at a summer barbecue, hosted by Ina Garten. So it appears this 3-day weekend is off to a great start!

I haven't had a chance to respond to many of the questions that are sent through the little box on the sidebar of this blog (look! over there --->) so I thought I'd respond to a few in one long post. As you can imagine, a lot of "stuff" comes through that feature. Many questions are so basic ("What's the minimum GPA requirement?") that I simply don't respond as the information is easily accessible on our website. Other questions ("Have you received my application?" asked Anonymous) are so specific to one applicant and not appropriate for a blog post -- they end up getting deleted. So here goes...

"Once you are chosen for an interview, do you get accepted solely on how well you do on the interview or does the admission team go back and review your entire application before making a decision?"
Final decisions are not based solely on the interview. Although the interview is an important component, all other factors are looked at (entire application packet, reference letters, on-site essay, etc.) following the interview portion of the process.  The entire application packet, along with the interview results and on-site essay, are used in making final decisions.

"Evening Joel! I am one of the lucky ones to get an interview at UCSF. I am on track to publish a few papers and abstracts soon. Is there a way to update the admissions committee of my progress or would these not be under consideration at this point?"
We will not accept or consider additional information or materials once an application is submitted.

"Would a Bachelor of Science obtained from the Allied School of Health Sciences taught through Kaiser Permanente be viewed as a valid bachelors degree by UCSF? And can that be used as an admission requirement?"
First, a bachelor's degree is not an admission requirement. Second, according to the Kaiser website: "Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences (KPSAHS) and its certificate/degree programs are not regionally accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education."  In order for us to recognize the degree, the issuing institution would need to be accredited by one of several regional accrediting agencies recognized by the USDE.

"I want to know how to write essay for my PharmD admission?"
Any readers have any suggestions? (Sometimes when I get questions like this, I'm not even sure where to start.)

"Hey Joel, I was just wondering if UCSF accepts retaking a course at a community college or is it purely our undergrad GPA they're interested in? Thanks and hope the application process is going well!"
That's an oddly-worded question as a community college course is considered "undergraduate" and would be calculated in an undergraduate grade point average. Yes, we will accept community college courses -- including repeated courses.

"Hello Mr. Joel After reading your Humanities & Social Sciences post, I realized that I have several classes that can satisfy my 28 units for that category. So should I email those classes to UCSF admissions committee ASAP or should I wait after Jan. 11?"
These should have been included on your UCSF Supplemental Application where you listed the specific courses that fulfill our prerequisite courses. Once a Supplemental Application has been received, we will not allow updates or edits.   ~Mr. Joel

Is this a trick question? Hmmm, my answer would be: "What is missing in this series: aa, bb, __, dd, ee, ff, etc."

"I recently retook Organic Chemistry at a community college since I had originally received a C+ in it. Would I include the grade from the community college course or include both? Thanks!"
The application instructions are very clear. You must list all prerequisite courses, including repeats, failed grades, withdrawn courses, etc.

"Hi! I had some social science classes that also qualify for speaking intensive. So can I use it for the public speaking or I have to take a class about public speaking only?"
We require a course in public speaking.

"Dear Joel, I am a first year PharmD student at another school and am going to apply to UCSF for Fall 2013. I have heard that some pharmacy schools, including UCSF, prefer not to considering applicants who are already accepted to other schools. Is it true?"
I cannot speak for other schools. If a student met UCSF's minimum requirements, we would review that application -- like all other applications -- to see if that individual was a potential "good fit" for UCSF, regardless of whether they were enrolled in another program. We received many applications this year from students enrolled in other pharmacy schools. Some were invited to interview, others were not. Obviously, we would expect an application to provide a detailed explanation as to why they would leave a particular program (otherwise, we are left to wonder what the circumstances are/were.) Ultimately, I don't think being enrolled in another program is as important as whether or not that applicant is a good fit for UCSF.

"Is it a bad idea if none of the recommendation letters come from a science professor? I have chosen three people that know me really well whereas all my science professors do not know me beyond my grades. What should I do?"
We do not require a letter from a science professor. Why would you consider getting a letter of recommendation from someone that does not know you well?

"Hey Joel, I just started following your blog. Do you not want me to comment on it?"
Hmmm.... Let's discuss this.

"Is it true that UCSF puts a large emphasis on research publications done in undergrad? In other words, do the statistics show that one's chance of getting into UCSF for pharmacy increases if one has research publications?"
Not true. That's a myth.

"Hi I am an undergraduate at Humboldt State University in Arcata CA. What class recommendation would you make to satisfy your human anatomy requirement?"
We do not require anatomy.  Our subject-area requirements are listed on our website. For specific courses at all public California colleges (including the CSU system, the UC system, and all community colleges) can be accessed via the assist.org website.

"Does a committee letter count as more than 1? Can I submit supplemental letters directly to the admissions committee?"
A committee letter would count as one letter. I rarely see committee letters anymore. All letters must be submitted to PharmCAS. We will not accept letters sent directly to our office.

Okay... off to start my day!
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