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Mariava Phillips
April 24, 2023

Jessica Willey, Pharm.D. candidate, presenting her RASP research poster.

Third year Pharm.D. students in the Research and Scholarship in Pharmacy (RASP) pathway presented their research findings to peers, faculty and staff members of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy on April 19. 

RASP is a longitudinal, selective pathway within the Doctor of Pharmacy elective curriculum built around a mentored, in-depth, scholarly project. Each student frames an answerable question with a faculty mentor, generates and interprets relevant data and communicates their findings. 

“RASP was one of the reasons why I applied to the Eshelman School of Pharmacy,” said Paula Paseiro, Pharm.D. candidate class of 2024 and student senate vice president. “I had numerous rewarding research experiences in undergrad, and I wanted to continue that path. Through my RASP project, I have continued exploring my interest and discovered a passion for pharmacy education—a path I plan to pursue after graduation.” 

Paseiro’s research explores the relationship between the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)-optional admission policy and the number of total applicants and historically underrepresented applicants to the Pharm.D. program. 

Students in the RASP pathway enroll in three elective courses during their second and third year of pharmacy school where they learn about the research process, gain skills through self-directed learning and integrate into the world-class research programs of School faculty.  

“The RASP experience is unique in that we are provided resources and advice from stellar experts within the school of pharmacy,” said Tom Diaz, Pharm.D. candidate class of 2024 and student senate president. 

Diaz’s research, “Pharmacological Predictions for Mitigating Risks Associated with Space Radiation Induced Degeneration”, is associated with a research lab at Duke University and is funded by NASA. Because of RASP, Diaz will have the opportunity to present his research this summer at the Aerospace Medical Association conference.  

For many students, the faculty mentorship they gain through RASP is invaluable. “One of my favorite aspects of the RASP pathway is the meaningful relationship I developed with my research mentor, Dr. Cipriani,” said Jessica Willey, Pharm.D. candidate class of 2024. 

Willey’s research, “Treatment-emergent Macrocytosis as a Biomarker of Tumor Response to Lenvatinib”, is focused on identifying if cancer patients who responded to treatment with an oral chemotherapeutic showed a certain lab value (macrocytosis) in the first 16 weeks of treatment.  

The poster presentation simulated what students would experience at a professional meeting and served as an opportunity for students to share their project results and develop their presentation skills. 

“I love being able to see the student success stories—from them being able to engage with faculty members to having a product at the end that they can be really proud of,” said Kathryn Morbitzer, Pharm.D., M.S., RASP program director and assistant professor in the Division of Practice Advancement and Clinical Education. 

Most students continue with their project during their fourth year and, after successfully submitting their research thesis, graduate with honors at commencement. 

“I can’t wait to see the impact that we make on the patient care experience to ultimately advance medicine for life,” said Diaz. 

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