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9 posts from May 2014


Recent Grad Says 'Not Even Dialysis' Could Stop Him From Earning MOT Degree

Ahmad and Salar_graduationThis personal essay was written by Ahmad Alsardary MOT'14 (left), who graduated from University of the Sciences on May 21, 2014. His father, Salar (right), is a mathematics professor at the University. They will be featured on WOGL's Philadelphia Agenda on Sunday, June 8, at 6:30 a.m., to share the message below:

Non-traditional students are unique because their stories set them apart from the masses. There are many paths to victory, and some may be easier than others; but the non-traditional students always prefer to blaze their own trails. They realize that it is the journey that forges their character, and they endeavor to leave a mark on the world in an inimitable way. These are the students whose purpose is not to prove to the world, but to alter it with their very existence. Their vision is rooted in a deeper cause, they value life, and they want to make a difference in the world.  Their life is a journey through darkness and demons to attain their lofty goals. 

I was born with a kidney disease, nephrotic syndrome, and doctors did not expect me to live past the age of 2. By following a strict diet, I was able to live a healthy life until the age of 5 when both of my kidneys failed and had to be removed. I was then put on peritoneal dialysis until the age of 8. At 7-years-old, dialysis began to strain my heart, and I had to have open-heart surgery to repair my aortic valve. Fortunately, at age 8, I received a second chance at life – I matched for a kidney transplant.  I lived with this kidney and took immunosuppressants along with many other medications just so that my body would not fight it off. I also had 14 other surgeries within that time and struggled with chronic asthma, ear infections, and sinusitis.

Despite having a hard life growing up, I relied of the tremendous support I received from my parents. They instilled within me the belief that I was capable of anything, that I could leave a significant mark on the world. Although I was in and out of hospitals most of my life, I learned the value of education and schooling.  For them, I was still a “normal kid.”  I went through life attempting to live and interact like any other normal student but deep down inside I knew I was apart from the rest. I was bullied constantly throughout middle and high school, but I could not tell them I was sick because then I would be treated differently. Pity was the last thing I wanted.

I was then accepted into University of the Sciences and entered into the pharmacy program for my first semester. I quickly realized I was not suited for pharmacy; I wanted to go into a program that had more patient interaction. The decision to switch to occupational therapy has altered my life and outlook for the better. As I excelled in this program, I eventually faced a startling setback. At the end of the fall semester of my junior year, three weeks before finals, my kidney failed again. I felt defeated; this would ruin my plans of obtaining my bachelor’s degree and left no hope of pursuing of my master's degree.

As I was put on hemodialysis and I had to get my blood cleaned three times a week, I was entertaining unwelcome thoughts:  If I never found a donor, I could be on dialysis for the rest of my life. This time period in my life was incredibly painful for me, and I was depressed in bed without any hope. However, if it was not for God and family, I would not be where I am right now. My parents motivated me and drove me to have a positive outlook on my life. They told me to keep moving forward despite everything that had happened. My dream was to become an occupational therapist to give back.  My mission was to help others who were less fortunate than I was in regards to their health, and nothing was to stop me, not even dialysis.

Ahmad_hiresThat semester, I sat for and passed all my finals. Throughout my fourth and fifth years, the combination of being on dialysis and going to school simultaneously drained me both mentally and physically. I was going to dialysis for three times a week at night for four hours after my classes in the morning and afternoon. The hardest time for me would be this previous year during my full-time clinicals or level II fieldwork. I would travel close to an hour commute everyday from my site to my home, work eight hour days, and come back to dialysis at night; only to wake up the next morning to repeat this process all over again. That still would not stop my dream and destiny of wanting to help others as an occupational therapist. I was able to complete and pass all of my my graduate-level coursework. I graduated on May 21, and it still feels like a dream to me.

I am a non-traditional student because I followed my dream and accomplished what I sent out to do against all odds. That despite all what was best for me health wise, I still persevered and pursued a higher education. This is why I stayed active and volunteered at many places throughout my years at USciences. I was not supposed to live past the age of 2. Now, at the age of 23, still living on dialysis, I have a master's in occupational therapy from a prestigious university.

My advice is to follow your dreams, and have the courage to face whatever challenged or darkness surrounds you. It is rare people who incite that passion in you, so cherish them. Please, never take your health for granted and always strive to help others; help others see that dreaming is believing and that obstacles are only a test of faith and a test that makes you stronger, wiser and pushes you to fulfill your dreams and ambitions to succeed in your life. 


DrOT Student Named Among 50 National Scholarship Winners

FichterA doctor of occupational therapy student at University of the Sciences was recently named one of more than 50 American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) scholarship recipients from across the United States. Daniel Fichter DrOT’15 was awarded $2,305 through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy Endowed Scholarship.

“Dan's work ethic is among the most rigorous of any student I have seen,” said Michelle E. Cohen, PhD, interim chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy. “One of the qualities that truly convinces me of his motivation and potential for an occupational therapy career is his utter persistence.”

More than 50 highly competitive scholarships, ranging in value from $150 to $5,000, were available to occupational therapy students across the nation through AOTF and its collaboration with state occupational therapy associations. Although some scholarship awards had individual requirements, all recipients were required to be currently enrolled full-time in an accredited occupational therapy educational program.

Scholarships were awarded based on selection criteria that included academic achievement, service, and evidence of leadership through activities and written recommendations. Each school year, the AOTF administers funds for scholarships provided through endowments and partnerships with 22 state occupational therapy associations and the District of Columbia Occupational Therapy Association.

Fichter is involved in several professional and student organizations, including the Student Occupational Therapy Association, Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association, and American Occupational Therapy Association.

Further reading: Occupational Therapy Program Receives Full Seven-Year Accreditation.


Sensory-Friendly Dance Class Deemed a Success, Thanks to OT Students

Sensory friendly 1A unique combination of music and movement stirred not only the bodies, but the minds, of several children with sensory processing disorders, thanks to a dance class designed specifically for them this spring by three occupational therapy students at University of the Sciences.

“As occupational therapy students, we are always looking to provide opportunities for people to have the most meaningful experiences as possible,” said Julie Mathew DrOT’16. “I have been dancing since I was 4, and it is one of my biggest passions; this experience was a great way to merge two huge parts of my life.”

This sensory-friendly class – which was offered twice in April at Philadanco, The Philadelphia Dance Company – was tailored to promote dance skills, while catering to each child’s sensory needs by adapting the environment, teaching styles, and class format to ensure the most rewarding experience possible for each child. The class size was small, with only two to six students ages 5-7 per class; and was arranged to minimize the risk of overstimulation.

“We didn't want our dance class to be completely different from a traditional dance class, but we made certain adjustments that made this class enjoyable for our students,” said Mathew. “Our sensory-friendly approach promoted communication between the brain’s right and left hemispheres, improving behavior, communication, and social skills for children with sensory processing disorders.”

Under the guidance of occupational therapy professor Varleisha Gibbs OTD, OTR/L, Kristina Clark MOT'15 and Alyssa Chico MOT'15 also worked with Mathew to design this sensory-friendly class. The 45-minute class included a warm-up activity, game, dance, and a cool down period. Mats and parachutes were also included into the class, and a visual picture schedule allowed the students to know what move or activity was coming up in class to keep them calm and prepared.

Sensory friendlyStudents in the class enjoyed the sensory input and stimulation they received by performing tumbling moves, bear crawls, and jumps. Parents were also encouraged to participate in the class if their children were more comfortable with them around.

Children with sensory processing disorders have great difficulty figuring out what is going on inside and outside of their bodies, said Dr. Gibbs.

“What may be a simple experience for others, like participating in a traditional dance class, can become sensory overload for a child with special needs, and can result in a day being ruined over something like a loud, unexpected noise in the a room,” she said.

Because of the successful turnout to the two sensory-friendly dance classes, Philadanco is working with the occupational therapy students to continue hosting this class throughout the summer.


PCP Students 'Take a Swing' at Promoting Healthy Hearts Across Philly

Blood pressureA pair of pharmacy students from University of the Sciences put their skills to use as they performed free blood pressure screenings at the American Heart Associations' 17th annual Home Runs for Heart event on May 7-8.

"This was the third, consecutive year that students in our doctorate of pharmacy program participated in this wonderful event," said Grace Earl PharmD, BCPS, assistant professor or pharmacy. "It's a fun way for our students to share their expertise with the community for a good cause."

The two-day home run derby, hosted at Citizens Bank Park, was born out of the sudden death of Hall of Fame outfielder and broadcaster Richie Ashburn. With support from the Phillies, the American Heart Association has raised nearly $2 million over the past 17 years.

Students who participated in the event are members of the University's Operation Heart, a student-group on campus that is associated with the Academy of Student Pharmacists-American Pharmacists Association (APhA-ASP). Scott Cheeseman PharmD'16, patient care coordinator of Operation Heart, said the organization spent the school year promoting the importance of healthy hearts by hosting various blood pressure screenings across the Philadelphia-area, as well as through its second annual Operation Fashion Show event to promote smoking cessation awareness on campus.

FanaticBrielle Carramusa PharmD'16, former patient care coordinator of Operation Heart, said she provided extra special attention to the Phillies' own “Phillie Fanatic," and made sure he had his blood pressure measured. The students were accompanied by Brandon Patterson PharmD, and Dr. Earl, both assistant professors in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administration.

Click here to see photos from the recent Operation Fashion Show.


USciences Athletes Explore Common Shoulder Injuries in Pitchers


Shoulder injuries are common among baseball pitchers, but are they introduced by chronic overuse or predisposing factors? University of the Sciences athletes, Jay Andrews ESWM’14 and John McConville ESWM’16, teamed up off the field to investigate the link between flexibility imbalances and shoulder and back injuries among eight pitchers on the USciences baseball team.

“This study was designed to help establish the predisposing factors to injury,” said Andrews. “By identifying those factors, athletes will be able to enjoy participating in sports for as long as they wish, and minimize their risk for injury.”

As members of the USciences’ Devils baseball team, Andrews and McConville are not far removed from the devastating effects of sports-related injuries. In fact, in his first year at USciences, McConville experienced a severe tear in his shoulder joint, as well as partial tears in the surrounding muscles. His own sports injury experience, paired with his academic interests, inspired him and his teammate to closely explore shoulder injuries in ball players.

Using a goniometer – an instrument that measures an angle and allows an object to be rotated to a precise angular position – Andrews and McConville performed shoulder flexibility tests on each participant in early February, and continued to monitor the players’ shoulders throughout their season. This data provided insight on the rotation differences of the pitchers’ dominant and non-dominant arms, which helped pinpoint the cause of common injuries seen in other players.

Here’s how their study worked: Participants provided their personal backgrounds outlining past injuries and pitching experiences, and continued to update the statuses of their injuries and levels of soreness through frequent surveys. At the end of the season, participants were given a final flexibility test to provide a standard database for internal and external range of motion in baseball pitchers.


“Our goal was to find the physiological reason behind these types of sports-related shoulder injuries and use that information to help baseball pitchers at all levels avoid injury,” said McConville. “Our hope is that trainers use our evidence to put pitchers on programs designed to achieve similar flexibility in the non-dominant arm, and work to maintain that balance as a method of injury prevention.”

Combining health promotion, scientific research and business education, the University's Exercise Science and Wellness Management Program gives students the skills to help direct people toward healthier lifestyles and to contribute in an enormous variety of settings. Exercise Science is a fast-growing, dynamic discipline. Degree holders have a variety of promising career paths in front of them, as well as several advanced-degree options. 

Click here for more info regarding the University's Exercise Science and Wellness Management Program.


Pharmacy Alumna to Showcase Vibrant, Abstract Paintings on June 6

Alum ladyBy day, pharmacy alumna Stacy Rosemarin P'83 reviews and manages the medication regimens of patients through her role as a consultant pharmacist for Pharma-Care, Inc. Outside of work hours, however, Rosemarin switches gears and channels her inner Picasso as she creates vibrant, abstract paintings.

“At a young age, my parents noticed that I was more interested in my art classes than academic classes,” said Rosemarin. “Ironically enough, I have been a pharmacist for more than 30 years, but I still remain passionate about creating art.”

Rosemarin’s collection, “On the Wall Abstracts: Living Life in Color” will be showcased at an upcoming solo art show held at Idiosyncrazies Gallery, on Friday, June 6. This art show is open to the public, and will kick off with a reception at 6 p.m. The gallery is located at 638 Arnold Ave., in Point Pleasant, NJ.

Throughout the years, Rosemarin’s artwork has been displayed in galleries across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Florida.  In fact, during her teen years, Rosemarin was one of several artists who painted a mural featured in the 1988 film, Running on Empty.

“My travels throughout the world to exotic places have been a big part of my artwork’s inspiration,” said Rosemarin. “I also love using vibrant colors that reflect my happy, fun, and cheerful personality.”

Rosemarin also served as University of the Sciences’ director of alumni relations from 1999 to 2008.


Student Pharmacists Can Help Improve Medication Adherence

All pharmacy personals can take initiative in improving patient’s adherence. Pharmacists and pharmacy students have very unique skills that will help patients better understand their medications and use it appropriately. Student pharmacists can develop skills such as patient communication, disease management and gather resources which will all help patients with adherence to medications.

Barriers and Solutions: Student pharmacists were surveyed to determine some of the barriers to pharmacy involvement in patient’s adherence. Through the survey, student pharmacists said that they felt that pharmacists didn’t have enough time to counsel patients, or conduct follow-up phone calls. Another issue that student pharmacists noticed was that there was no supplementary assistance for both patients and students to improve adherence. Students also claimed that they were not sufficiently trained to manage adherence issues while they were in pharmacy school.

These are some of the issues that student pharmacists can try to resolve while on experiential practice rotations. To address the time factor, it is important to understand the complexity of a pharmacy work flow during a regular day. There might not be enough systems, funding and support in place to allow pharmacists to step out and counsel a patient for 5-10 minutes. However, student pharmacists or interns may have the opportunity to take the initiative and help patients with medications.  Although students are not actively taught the importance of medication adherence, they have the basic knowledge regarding the importance of pharmacy practice. Through their pharmacy school they can practice different techniques of counseling, and under the supervision of their pharmacist can counsel a patient at their local community pharmacy.

Health literacy is still a major barrier in preventing patients from taking their medications on a regular basis. It may cause the patient to question the purpose, adverse effect and effectiveness of the medication if they do not know all the details. As per the interventions of 3rd year pharmacy students conducting visits to multiple independent-living apartments and educating the elderly using multiple techniques there was a lot of benefits. Some of the benefits included patients being satisfied with the program, increased assurance when asking a question to their pharmacist, and more appreciation for the importance of adherence.

Interventions such as student pharmacist education programs and personal visits really allow patients to gain a better understanding of a pharmacist’s role. It will allow them to reach out to their pharmacists more often and take into consideration the value of correctly managing their disease state with medications. Therefore, student pharmacists should be able to step out of their comfort zone and assist pharmacists in reaching out to more patients. Student pharmacists have many skills that they can offer to the community and really emphasize the importance of adherence. 

Sheenu Joseph, PharmD '15

PCP Students Learn the Ins and Outs of Pediatric Pharmacy (Video)

PharmEvent1More than two dozen student pharmacists explored a career in pediatric pharmacy during University of the Sciences’ first pediatric clinical pharmacist round-table event held in the spring semester. This event – hosted by the University’s student chapter of the Pediatric Pharmacy Advocacy Group – allowed students to engage with pediatric pharmacy practitioners as they discussed residency, niche fields within pediatrics, and the pharmacist’s role in treating children.

“This event provided student pharmacists with an opportunity to network and gain a better understanding of what a career in pediatric pharmacy entails,” said Aisha Uddin PharmD'15, president of the student organization. “My peers definitely left the event with a real-life understanding of what these types of pharmacists do on a daily basis.”

Guest speakers represented a variety of local healthcare institutions, including Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Saint Christopher's Hospital for Children, and the Children's Regional Hospital at Cooper University Hospital. Opportunities in pharmaceutical areas such as pediatric intensive care, neonatal intensive care, cardiology, academia, and general pediatric pharmacy practice were also discussed. The event’s discussion topics ranged from the journey into pediatric pharmacy and proper training required, to the typical duties and responsibilities of pediatric pharmacists.

With a keen interest in pediatric medicine, Michael Flacco PharmD’15 spent the spring semester exploring the implications of underdosing acetaminophen in pediatric patients.  He shared his results with the University community during the institution’s 12th Annual Research Day on April 10.

"If children are being underdosed [with acetaminophen], like the majority of pediatric patients were in my research, they are either going to be in pain longer or febrile longer, which could lead to longer hospital stays and increased costs," said Flacco. Watch as he presents his research below:

The purpose of the Pediatric Pharmacy Advocacy Group of the University’s Philadelphia College of Pharmacy is to enhance the education and practice of pediatric pharmacy for student pharmacists, as well as the medication outcomes for pediatric patients. As an expert in pediatric pharmacy, professor Laura L. Bio PharmD, BCPS, serves as the organization’s advisor.


Founder of 'We Feed the Homeless Philly' Speaks to Pharmacy Students

HomelessPrior to the end of the 2013-14 school year at University of the Sciences, pharmacy students enrolled in the elective course, "Pharmacist Role in Promoting Lifestyle Changes to Maintain Cardiovascular Health" had the opportunity to host the founder of a local volunteer organization, “We Feed the Homeless Philly.”

Grace Earl PharmD, BCPS, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy, said this particular course aimed to help students develop skills and materials to create a community health promotion event. That's why it seemed fitting for students to engage with Craig Stroman, executive director and founder of the Philadelphia-based homeless organization.

"Craig spoke about the needs of the homeless in Philadelphia, and we learned that between 750 to 1,200 children spend the night in a Philadelphia shelter," said Dr. Earl. "Through recent, informal surveys, Craig found that more than 95 percent of the local homeless did not complete high school."

Contrary to the common beliefs among society, Stroman stressed that “drugs” and “drug abuse” are not the sole causes of homelessness. He shared several heartfelt stories with the class, including how a widower lost everything he had because he was fully dependent on his late wife, and failed to pay his mortgage or bills after she died.  In another case, Stroman said a homeless family was squatting in a vacant house after the father lost his job. After driving this family to a shelter on a Saturday, Stroman learned that Philadelphia shelters only accept "new" families on Monday through Friday, through an intake process.

"As healthcare professionals, we learned that the homeless community's greatest need is food and shelter," said Dr. Earl. "Healthcare may not be the number one priority in their daily life, and that is important for us to understand in our professions."

Stroman can be seen offering meals to homeless individuals at Love Park and other areas in the city on Saturdays and Tuesdays, and he has been successful in increasing support from 40 to 700 volunteers.  He also works as a housing investigator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Students in the class joined members of the University's Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administration to host a food donation drive to benefit We Feed the Homeless Philly.  For more information regarding Stroman's organization, as well as volunteer opportunities, visit wefeedthehomelessphilly.org.

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