Meetings Galore and DAP

Hello everyone!

After the last few blogs, you might be thinking that all pharmacy students do is travel to warm places, have fun (though I don’t know if Justin’s description of a marathon can be called fun), and win national competitions. However, the first years have been hard at work studying and taking exams last week! After last week, I was prepared for a week of no tests, and only 2 assignments.

Instead, it seems that instead of spending all my time studying, this week is being spent in meetings instead.  As the end of the school year is less than a month away, many of the organizations I am in are holding elections, transition meetings (so those of us heading up the organization next year know what we are doing), end of year celebrations, etc. Needless to say I have found myself double and triple booked several times this week and it is only Wednesday!  One of the meetings I attended was not actually for a school organization.  Our very own Dr. Palombi and Dr. Brown were speaking at the Duluth Area Pharmacists meeting last night.  They were speaking on pharmacogenomics and its’ role in public health.  Since we have been learning a lot about pharmacogenomics this year, it was great to take a step back and hear about the bigger picture of pharmacogenomics (versus focusing on the details of how CYP2C19 results in different outcomes for patients).  The meeting is also a great opportunity for students to interact with pharmacists from the Duluth area and with our professors outside of class.


St. Patrick’s Day in Minnesota

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!


I hope everyone had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day!  While the celebrations in MN are certainly not on the same scale as celebrations in Chicago or Boston; there is still lots of fun to be had!  In Duluth, one of the traditions is a fundraiser Ceili for the Loaves and Fishes community.  I was finally able to go this year and it was a blast!  Having learned a few basics when I studied abroad in Ireland, it was exciting to learn a few more things and be able to help others master some of the basics.  And as always, it was nice to take a break from homework for a few hours!


Walking on Ice

First things first, as a Minnesotan, I would like to discuss the weather with you! This is the forecast for this weekend:

weather report

It’s hard to believe that less than 2 weeks ago, the temperature was below freezing, with the windchill hovering below zero degrees!

In fact, the weather was cold enough to create 13+ inches of ice on Lake Superior, which meant that the Apostle Island Sea/Ice Caves were able to open! This year, there was a lack of snow on the ice, so we decided to strap on ice skates for the mile long journey from the shore to caves.  While this made the trip out to the caves a lot faster, it also meant lots of bruises, as I had forgotten how hard it is to skate on lake ice (cracks, bumps, and broken ice piles to add to the normal challenge of keeping your balance).

So decieving...

So decieving…

Some of the obstacles we faced on the way to the ice caves (this is a close up).

Some of the obstacles we faced on the way to the ice caves (this is a close up).

All the tumbles were worth it though…the ice caves were spectacular!

We loved that this ice formation looked like vertebra!

We loved that this ice formation looked like vertebra!


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While out on the lake, we could also hear the ice popping, which was a completely new experience for me!  For those of you who did not know before that ice could “pop,” check out this youtube video to hear it for yourselves.

Taking the Plunge

Hello readers! Sorry for the long time between posts.  The last month (where did the time go?) has been busy with the daily grind of class, homework/studying, work, applications for summer internships, etc.  As such, I haven’t been up to anything too exciting. However, my classmate, Sara, had the bravery to take a plunge into Lake Superior, and was willing to write about the experience for the blog.  So if you’ve ever wondered why so many of us in the northern regions of the U.S. feel the desire to hold Polar Plunges….

The water may look freezing, but it has been warmed by the hearts of hundreds. On February 21st the city of Duluth turned up to see people all do something crazy…. Jumping into a frozen Lake Superior. Over 1000 people plunged into a rectangle cut out of the ice in Lake Superior. Why were they jumping you ask? Were they crazy? Dared to? No, the participants were jumping to raise money for the Special Olympics. The participants raised over $160,000 for such a special cause. Teams from colleges, businesses, fraternities and groups of friends dressed up into costumes and plunged into the lake. Pharmacy students participated in teams made up two of the fraternities.

The excitement that is felt around the event is one that is contagious. Spectators lined up on the ice to cheer the participants on. Participants started the exciting event getting ready to jump. The atmosphere in the participant tent was one of excitement, nervous energy and craziness. Participants were funneled out of the tent to the hole in the ice. Group costumes ranged from princesses and princes to The Lone Rider and High Ho silver to dominos. The water was a beautiful temperature and the volunteers got participants into a warming house right away. After the event participants proudly supported event t-shirts and sweatshirts. All around the town there was support for the Special Olympics. The Polar Plunge is an excellent way to get involved in a cause that will help many people.


Sweep Sweep, Study Study

This weekend was the annual Duluth Pharmacy Bonspiel put on by our lab professor Dr. Bastianelli!

For those of us who have never curled before (including me) it was a fun weekend of learning how to curl, hanging out and just having some good old-fashioned fun!  This year’s theme was “Rockin’ to the 80’s” so Friday afternoon after class, my team could be found frantically searching Target, Savers, and Party America to complete our costumes for our characters from The Princess Bride!

Our costumes turned out fairly well-even landing us a spot in the finals for the best costume!

DSC_0270In the end, we did not win any of our games, but we all had a ton of fun learning how to ‘throw’ and Sweep! I quickly learned that sweeping is way harder than it always looks on TV!



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So what did we do when we weren’t curling? Being the good pharmacy students that we are, we studied

DSC_0271Between the studying and curling, we did take some time to get some awesome food at The Anchor Bar and Grill.  As always, I got my favorite, the Hawaiian Burger (yes, there is pineapple on it)!  They have amazing hamburgers (and super cheap!)!


Learning to Think Like an MD

I know what you are all thinking right now, “Aren’t you in pharmacy school?” , and you are correct.  However, over the last three days, I had the opportunity to participate in training some of the newer Med School professors on Problem Based Learning (PBL).  Before Thursday, I had no idea what PBL was!  Problem Based Learning is a learning method where students work in groups to figure out what we know (Data), what they don’t know (Learning Issues), and then work together to find the solution to the problem (in our case, a diagnosis!).

As pharmacy students we are told all the time that one of the main differences between an MD and a PharmD is that we can’t diagnose, so it was pretty cool to work through the process of coming up with a diagnosis!  We started out by examining the data and trying to figure out the significance of the date we were given.  Then it was time to come up with hypothesis, which we then researched more information on that night.  The next day we came back and shared our findings.  We were then given more data from a few tests that had been run, which ultimately allowed us to make our diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease!

Overall, I had a blast, and I even got a little bit of a refresher on the physiology of hearing, which will come in handy for our physiology assessment coming up in our Pharmacology class 🙂

A Pharmacy Jingle Bells

Two weeks ago, the Duluth class recorded this gem for our final project in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. So much more enjoyable than taking a final exam!



After a nice long weekend at home that flew by way too fast, I must admit that as much as I love going home, I love coming back to Duluth even more! I can not believe how quickly Duluth has become home for me over the last four years, but it has.  At no time does this become more evident than during the Christmas season.  After four years of attending Bentleyville during December, I realized that it no longer feels like Christmas until I have walked through this year’s light display! This year was extra special, as my Dad finally got to experience the magic of Bentleyville with me!


With only 2 weeks left of classes (where did the semester go?), attending Bentleyville is a great way to remind myself even during the stress of final exams and projects, that Christmas will soon be here as well!









St. Raphael’s Guild

“Hi, are you Pam?, I’m Dan.  Nice to meet you.” Thus began a night of enjoying Mass, dinner and discussion at my first St. Raphael’s Guild meeting!

Even though I have lived in Duluth for four years already, I had not heard about this group until three weeks ago, when an announcement was made at Sunday Mass about a White Mass for all health care professionals being held later in October. Even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to go (it fell on mid-semester break), my curiosity got the better of me and I found myself going on the website listed in the bulletin to find out more, as I had never before heard of a White Mass (What is a White Mass?). Hence, my discovery of St. Raphael’s Guild, a group of Catholic health care professionals from the Duluth area.


Fr. Knobloch

At this meeting, Fr. Tom Knoblach from St. Cloud talked about the process of making ethical decisions with us and discussed a few different case studies with us.  As a first year pharmacy student, it was nice to delve beyond learning chemistry and how to write up case reports for a few hours and discuss situations that health professionals face when it comes to ethical decision making.  My two favorite things that I learned from Fr. Knoblach was two of his many thought processes on how to make a decision where ethics are involved;  the first was asking if the intervention was ordinary vs. extraordinary, the second was using the acronym PREHAB. PREHAB stands for:

P-Patient Preferences-what does the patient want? (healthcare over the last several years has been increasingly moving toward patient autonomy)

R-Risks-what are the risks involved if we intervene?

E-Expenses-while this shouldn’t be an important factor in the decision, it is still a factor.

H-Hope-what do we hope to achieve by intervening.

A-Availability-is the treatment/intervention available at your site/hospital/in your country? (i.e. the option to have a feeding tube is not necessarily an option in poorer countries)

B-Benefit vs. Burden-Is the emotional burden worth it?  How important is the benefit (i.e. in a patient who wants to live to see their grandson’s baptism, the benefit of living those few extra months is greater than a patient who does not have the same goal)




Small World

Since day one of pharmacy school, our professors keep telling us about how  small the world of pharmacy is. However, I had forgotten that Minnesota itself is also a small world until yesterday that is…

Yesterday marked the second to last Health Fair of the semester, held in Braham, MN. The health fair itself was held in their community center; which was a LOT nicer than I was expecting for a town as small as Braham.


While this health fair was not as busy as some of the other ones’ I’ve been to, the slower pace was nice because it really allowed us to take the time to talk to the people coming in.  So much time that as I was talking to one of our preceptors towards the end that we had time to discover that she had just received an invitation from my friend to her grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary! Of course this resulted in a “how is she doing/what is she up to?” conversation. As we continued talking we then discovered that last year one of my classmates from high school had done an internship in Braham and had stayed with them! And just when I thought that was it, I mentioned that my Dad had played here with his band a couple of months ago and it turned out she had actually talked to him that night!

After receiving such a nice reminder of how small the world of MN is, I guess it is time I start taking our professor’s more seriously/actually believe them when they they tell us that Pharmacy is a small world.