Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fourteen gifted high schoolers from across Iowa practiced the art and science of compounding at the College of Pharmacy this week.

The students were among more than 150 of the state’s top high school math and science students participating in this year’s Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. The pharmacy lab tour was one of many such tours across campus, designed to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related research and careers.

Pharmacy students and staff led the students through stations as they made their own lip balm. They mixed sunflower oil and beeswax beads, melted it in a microwave, added flavoring and color, and waited for it to solidify.

Compounding pharmacists don’t often make lip balm, but they do create medicines tailored to specific individuals’ unique needs. Historically, most prescription drugs were made via compounding. Modern-day pharmacists practice compounding when they adding a flavoring to a bitter medicine; or make a uniquely-tailored cream, intravenous therapy solution, or capsule containing several prescription medicines.

Attending students had an interest in pharmacy. Other symposium participants attended similar UI labs in biology, chemistry, hydroscience and engineering, the UI Natural History Museum, nursing, physics, UI Health Care, computer science, and psychology.

Although the lip balm the students left with is perfect for such bitterly cold weather, they gained more than just their unique concoctions. They also carried new knowledge about the variety of pathways a pharmacy career can take.

Second-year pharmacy students Jake Meyer and Elisha Andreas, and third-year student Sharde Hameed shared what led them to seek a pharmacy degree. All were motivated by helping people understand their medications.

“It seems like you can take a pill for just about anything these days,” said Meyer. “We put antibiotics and other drugs into the hands of patients who might not know how to use them, and so it is our job to make sure they know how to take them properly. That way, (for example), we can help prevent things like MRSA and ORSA and all those other really nasty bacterial infections that arise from not using antibiotics appropriately.”

The symposium is hosted by the University of Iowa College of Education's Belin-Blank Center and funded by the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force.

For more information about the symposium, visit the Belin-Blank Center's website or 2014 Iowa Regional Program.