Featured alumni of the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy: Sandra Leal, PharmD, CDE (repost)

I had the great pleasure last week to visit the launchpad of my academic career: the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy.  Recently relocated from the historic 9th & Colorado campus in Denver, the School currently occupies academic and research buildings at the impressive new University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus six miles east in the city of Aurora.

Next year, the UCD School of Pharmacy will be celebrating the centennial of its establishment on the University of Colorado at Boulder main campus. In a discussion with Dana Brandorff, Director of Communications and Alumni Affairs, about potential centennial publicity activities, I suggested that the School feature some of its more noteworthy alumni.

As an example, I wish to offer this repost of an interview with one of my own former students, Sandra Leal, as written on October 10, 2009, for the Diversity in Science blog carnival in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Note: The following post appeared originally at the former ScienceBlogs home of Terra Sigillata on 10 October 2009.


This month, DrugMonkey is hosting the Diversity in Science Blog Carnival, started by DN Lee of Urban Science Adventures! to celebrate the scientific contributions of individuals from underrepresented groups. To celebrate US Hispanic Heritage Month, DM asked for us “to write and submit your posts in honor of scientists whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central or South America.”

One of the greatest rewards of being an academic scientist is watching remarkable people pass through your laboratory and classroom who then go on to do amazing things. Upon reading Drug’s call, my mind turned immediately to a perfect subject for this carnival. Continue reading

Take it to the Bridge: new blog from Sb commenter, namnezia

Altered Alerted by fellow blogger, Drugmonkey, I learned that insightful commenter, namnezia, has launched his own blog, Take it to the Bridge, with this great intro post on the blog and blogname (I like blog names that make you think.)
For those who began reading us for our discussions of underrepesented minority groups in the sciences, namnezia holds forth on the awkwardness of minority status in the university:

[S]oon after starting my job I promptly ended up in a list of “faculty of color”. In fact, I am the only minority in my department, and one of a handful in my entire division. Now, to me “faculty of color” implies having brown or black skin. The problem is that, being Jewish, although I clearly am Mexican and my name is in Spanish, I don’t look Mexican. Which puts me in an awkward situation. Every September I get invited to a luncheon for incoming students of color, and every September I struggle whether to go or not, or whether to sign up to be a mentor for an incoming student of color. On one hand, I can relate as a minority, which I felt much more growing up Jewish in a Catholic country where the antisemitism is real and stereotypes abound. I remember we would occasionally receive pictures of Hitler in the mail, or swastikas would show up on a synagogue or Jewish school wall. Some of my friends would tell me that their parents told them that the Jews killed Jesus. But those were things you got used to and overall I really loved growing up in Mexico. I feel very close to Mexico, and feel very Mexican.

I’m traveling back home today after visiting with PharmMom and PharmStiefvater for my mom’s 70th birthday. As I start my morning in Santa Fe, New Mexico, their very Catholic and very Hispanic-influenced adopted home, I can appreciate the depth of namnezia’s love for the motherland just a few hundred miles south.
But that’s not all. namnezia speaks of coming up for tenure this year, having Tourrette syndrome, and the challenges of changing a shop-vac from dry to wet mode.
Add to this that Take it to the Bridge is presented in an eye-pleasing Georgia font of adequate size and spacing and you’ve got all the makings of a blog that you must put in your RSS reader and blogroll (which reminds me that I have to reconstructed my blogroll here).
Enjoy, readers, and welcome to this side of the tracks in the blogosphere, namnezia!

HBCU medical schools at Morehouse, Meharry, and Howard lead “social mission” metric – Annals of Internal Medicine

ResearchBlogging.orgReuters Health Executive Editor and proprietor of the excellent Embargo Watch blog, Ivan Oransky, was kind to alert me to this topical paper that appeared in Monday’s issue of Annals of Internal Medicine entitled, The Social Mission of Medical Education: Ranking the Schools.
To the credit of the Annals, the full text of the primary article is currently free. An accompanying editorial is behind the subscription wall.
The study was conducted led by Fitzhugh Mullan with Candice Chen, MD, Gretchen Kolsky, and Michael Spagnola from the Department of Health Policy at the George Washington University and Stephen Petterson, PhD from The Robert Graham Center was supported with funding from the Josiah Macy Foundation.
The authors developed a metric called “social mission” to rate US medical schools on their responsiveness to three major issues they cite as facing medical schools and policymakers: “an insufficient number of primary care physicians, geographic maldistribution of physicians, and the lack of a representative number of racial and ethnic minorities in medical schools and in practice.”

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HBCU Symposium discussion of math skills

In continuing our discussion of the Centennial HBCU Symposium held June 3-4 in Research Triangle Park, NC, I wanted to briefly follow up a theme that emerged several times across the diverse talks.

Outside of a high dropout rate, a major challenge to African-American students succeeding in universities is poor preparation in math skills from high schools. Of course, this is not just a problem of this demographic but, sadly, is a major challenge we see everywhere in the US and has been especially evident in our ScienceBlogs annual support of the DonorsChoose project.

This point seems obvious but math skills are far more important than just for success in the STEMM disciplines.

In the June 9th edition of The New York Times, Bob Tedeschi discusses a study (PDF) with senior author Columbia University business professor, Stephan Meier, on the role that poor math skills may be playing in the current mortgage foreclosure epidemic.

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NCCU Centennial HBCU Symposium – Setting the Agenda for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

HBCU Symposium.jpg
On June 3rd and 4th, I had the pleasure of attending a fabulous program on the modern role and future sustainability of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. The HBCU Symposium: Setting the Agenda for Historically Black Colleges and Universities was the culmination of the 100th anniversary of the founding of North Carolina Central University (NCCU).
NCCU is one of five HBCUs in the University of North Carolina system and among 11 such institutions of higher learning in the state (list and links here). I currently serve on the faculty of this institution.
For those unfamiliar, HBCUs were classified by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Higher Education Act of 1965 as institutions established prior to 1964 with the intention of providing higher education to the Black community. There remain 105 such institutions today, primarily in established former slave states following the Civil War.
However, the original HBCUs were founded in the North prior to the Civil War by the generosity of Quaker, Episcopalian, and other abolitionist supporters of the day: what is now Cheyney University (1837) and Lincoln University (1854) in Pennsylvania and Wilberforce University (1856) in Ohio.
Our September 2008 post for National HBCU Week provides more introductory background on these institutions as well as a round-up of commentary around the blogosphere on the continued relevance of these institutions.
It is important to note that the special federal classifications of these institutions was not meant for any preferential treatment of Black students but rather simple parity with historically White institutions. But among public HBCUs, state higher education funding per student averages about 3/5ths that of historically White institutions, a fraction whose irony is not lost on me.

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What does it take to knock off K2 Spice readership?

Just the other day, I wrote about how DrugMonkey and I have experienced unprecedented and sustained blog traffic for posts we wrote in February on K2 Spice, one of a couple of marijuana-like “incense” products still sold legally in the United States.
Every morning, I dial up my SiteMeter blog statistics and take a look at what posts readers first land upon when coming to visit the humble world headquarters of Terra Sigillata.
Last week, 2,700 to 2,800 of the 4,000 most recent hits were landing on our February K2 Spice post. (You will also note below the sad state of my readership in that posts on Stiff Nights erectile dysfunction supplement and Horny Goat Weed products are the next most popular direct hits.)
Finally, one post has knocked it out of the top spot after nearly four months:
Monday’s post about the memorial unveiling of the gravestone for Henrietta Lacks this past weekend.
Henrietta Lacks knocks off K2 Spice.jpg
I have been completely overwhelmed by the interest in this story. This widespread attention would not be possible without the Facebook and blog referrals by author Rebecca Skloot, The New York Times Science page, and the enthusiastic Twitter referrals by other writers who I respect greatly such as David Dobbs, Sara Goforth, Mike Rosenwald, T. DeLene Beeland, Ted Winstead, scribbler50, Eric Ferreri, – as well as the dozens of you sci/med bloggers and folks from other walks of life who found this post worthy of recommending to your friends.
Please accept my apologies if you were not mentioned by name – I don’t have Bora Zivkovic’s flair for aggregating and linking to every referral but you have my gratitude for further popularizing the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family.
And for those of you so inclined, here are images of the memorial program that weren’t included in the last post:

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: NOT just for scientists

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 250px.jpgThis past weekend’s international science communication conference, ScienceOnline2010, also saw the first, final hardback copies of Rebecca Skloot’s long-awaited book make it into the hands of the science and journalism consuming public. Moreover, an excerpt of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has just appeared in the new issue of Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine. And already, those online science communicators who left the conference with Skloot’s book are registering their praise via this Twitter feed that was so active it was a trending topic at the science aggregator, SciencePond.
The story of the rural, Virginia woman who descended from slaves and developed cervical cancer in the early 1950s is notable most obviously for her tumors giving rise to HeLa, the first immortalized human cell line continuously maintained in culture. I have noted previously my enthusiasm for this story as both a long-time admirer of Skloot’s writing and the fact that HeLa played a central role in my PhD thesis work and first papers from my independent laboratory.
But as a historically black college professor at a predominantly liberal arts school, I want to make clear that Skloot’s book is of far broader appeal than just the scientific community. So I was delighted to see some page referral hits from Skloot’s site which told me that my pre-press comments in that regard had been posted in academic publicity of the book.
So here is my “blurb” from the page, “What Professors Are Saying About The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”:

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#scio10 Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Session: Engaging Underrepresented Groups in Online Science Media

Thumbnail image for scienceonline2010logo.jpgNext weekend at ScienceOnline2010, I’ll be co-moderating a session on encouraging scientists and science trainees from underrepresented groups to participate in social media. I will be working with Damond Nollan, a social media specialist and Web Services Manager at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). Damond is the author of the aptly-titled blog, In The Mind of Damond Nollan. The whys and hows are what we hope to discuss in the outline below.
The reason for calling this the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Session stems from the fact that this conference has been held for the last four years over the MLK holiday weekend. It’s a practical time of year, just after the beginning of spring semester but before things get too crazy, the crappy January weather in North Carolina gives us great hotel rates and encourages people to stay inside and engage at the conference, and the Monday holiday allows for greater travel flexibility and cheaper airfares.
But the conference timing may keep some attendees away in their hometowns participating in local MLK activities. Therefore, we are introducing this session to celebrate the principles of Dr King in the context of online science communication: promoting social justice and eliminating racism in areas ranging from healthcare to scientific career paths, giving opportunity to those often left out of the conversation. In my case, that conversation involves increasing the diversity of the biomedical science community.
A longstanding example of the dominant demographic in science communication is the cadre of bloggers in the ScienceBlogs network and the repeatedly missed opportunities to increase diversity in this network. I announced last month my intentions to use this page and my white maleness to give greater voice here to that of underrepresented groups.
MLK_MainSt_close_021660.jpgThe conference is being held in Research Triangle Park, NC, part of the county of Durham, home to Duke University, North Carolina Central University, and Durham Technical Community College. Dr. King had ties to Durham and visited here several times as shown here from a photo shot on February 16, 1960 on West Main Street. On his immediate left is the Rev. Douglas Moore. The civil rights activist Moore, who now lives in Washington, DC, was the leader of the 1957 Royal Ice Cream sit-in where he led six African American students in protest to use the white entrance of a local business and request service at the counter. This event preceded the more famous Greensboro Woolworth sit-ins by two-and-a-half years. I had the rare pleasure of visiting with Rev. Moore a few weeks ago at the dedication of the Royal Ice Cream Sit-In historical landmark that I wrote about here. It was simply amazing to shake hands with him and chat for about five minutes with someone who worked with Dr. King. The source of the photograph, Gary Kuebke of the historic preservation blog, Endangered Durham, has a superb discussion of the Royal Ice Cream Sit-In here.
We plan to take a different angle from the Casting a Wider Net session being led by Anne Jefferson, although we are sure to have overlap – not a bad thing, IMHO.

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Irving Epstein on why we need to cultivate nonwhite students in the sciences

In today’s Los Angeles Times Dr. Irving Epstein, Brandeis University chemistry prof and HHMI investigator, writes in “The science of science education”:

In 2005, more than two-thirds of the American scientific workforce was composed of white males. But by 2050, white males will make up less than one-fourth of the population. If the pipeline fails to produce qualified nonwhite scientists, we will, in effect, be competing against the rest of the world with one hand tied behind our backs.

Let me repeat: By 2050, white males will make up less than one-fourth of the [U.S] population.
There are many science educators around the world who are trying to cultivate into the STEMM disciplines young people who are not of the default demographic.
However, wanting to do so and actually doing it is far more challenging than one might think. Even a scientist as accomplished and educator as experienced as Epstein was challenged. Brandeis already had a program for select minority students, “that utilized team-building and peer support as mechanisms to help students survive and thrive academically”:

The program, run by The Posse Foundation, works with universities to select and coach “posses” of 10 inner-city students who then attend, in a group, some of the country’s top universities. The program is remarkably successful, producing a graduation rate over 90%. But even the Posse Foundation fell short in the sciences. Fewer than 10% of its students graduated in science, even though nearly half started off intending to do so.

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