Katelyn (Katie) Bull is currently a P-4 student at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. She, along with her fellow student, Nicole (Nikki) Corbin, won the Outstanding Original Paper Award at the 25th Annual PPAG Meeting last year for their research evaluating common medications and risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in very low birth weight infants.
As we gear up for the 2017 Annual Meeting, we sat down with Katie for a wide-ranging conversation about receiving the prestigeous award, her inspiration, her research, and her interest in pediatric pharmacy practice. We hope you enjoy the conversation.
MH: Where were you born?
KB: I was born in Columbus, OH.
MH: Where did you grow up?
KB: I grew up in Mason, OH which is a suburb of Cincinnati. It is about 5 minutes down the road from Kings Island (for all of the Midwesterner’s that know where that is!)
MH: Outside of school and pharmacy, what are your interests?
KB: Gamecock football, trying new restaurants, tubing down the river/walking the Riverwalk in Columbia, SC, and babysitting (if that counts as an interest).
MH: Why did you choose pharmacy school? Are there any stories that shaped that decision?
KB: There isn’t really one story that shaped my decision to choose pharmacy school. My dad has always worked in a healthcare setting and when I would go to work with him on “Take Your Child to Work Day”, I absolutely loved it. So, growing up, I knew I wanted to do something, anything in the healthcare field. Like most people in the profession of pharmacy, I really enjoyed math and chemistry which led me to look into pharmacy as a career. Once I started researching pharmacy as a career option, I realized that pharmacy offers so many various opportunities, and the profession of pharmacy is constantly evolving and growing. All of these reasons combined are what ultimately led me to the decision to choose pharmacy school.
MH: Who are your major “influencers” in your life (professional OR personal), and why?
KB: Personal- my family, cliché I know. They always remind me to work hard and push me to be my best self, in addition to being my biggest supporters and encouragers. Professional- Dr. Christina Cox. Her passion for pediatric pharmacy is so inspiring. When I was a pre-pharmacy student she talked to our pre-pharmacy group about what she did, I think everyone in that room left wanting to be a pediatric pharmacist, including myself. I can only hope to one day have the influence she does.
MH: What is your most memorable experience you have had so far in pharmacy school (not including winning the OOP award)?
KB: Does receiving the e-mail about having a platform presentation count as not including the award? If so, it is that! When I first received the e-mail informing me that our research had been selected as a Platform Presentation I did a few things. First, I did a little happy dance, then I thought maybe I had misread the e-mail. I read it about five times just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming this. Then I let Nikki and Dr. Cox know about this exciting news, and called my mom! (Followed by calling my dad and sisters). Everything from putting together the PowerPoint for the presentation to actually presenting falls under my “most memorable experience.” I’m actually terrified of public speaking, and what better way to get over that fear then to speak to a room full of people?! Giving a platform presentation really taught me step outside my comfort zone, and helped me to realize that I may just really enjoy the things that terrify me! It was a very exciting time combined with a great learning experience!
MH: When do you expect to graduate from pharmacy school?
KB: May 2017 (Less than 2 months to go!!)
MH: What do you plan to do after pharmacy school? Residency?
KB: I will be a PGY1 Resident at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH. .
MH: Tell me about your interests in pediatric pharmacy.
KB: Pediatric pharmacy has been on my radar since day one of even pre-pharmacy. In high school, I was constantly babysitting, teaching swim lessons, or coaching. Words can’t describe the feeling of being able to put a smile on a child’s face. I have always known that whatever I chose to do in life needed to somehow involve helping children. I really can’t imagine a job that doesn’t make that a reality. Some areas of pediatric pharmacy that are of particular interest to me right now are ambulatory care and hematology/oncology because I haven’t had much exposure to these areas yet. I am looking forward to learning more about them during rotations and residency!
MH: Tell me about your interest in NEC? What made you research this particular question re: NEC?
KB: To be completely honest, when I met with Dr. Cox as a P1 to discuss pediatric research opportunities, I had no idea what NEC was. All I knew was that she kept saying this word over and over again, and it related to multiple project. After she discussed the possible research projects with me, I actually went home and googled “NEC” (don’t worry I didn’t use that as my only source!). I eventually started reading more and more articles about what causes NEC, what may be able to prevent it, why it is such an issue, etc. I realized that NEC really is multifactorial and so much more research needs conducted to fully understand it. The more articles I read, the more interested I became in this research topic. Needless to say, by the next research meeting I had with Dr. Cox, I was very interested in NEC and how medications may play a role.
MH: I heard that your work ethic is amazing. Tell me what your typical day (schedule) was like when working on your research project. How long did it take to complete the research (start date to end date).
KB: I began helping Dr. Cox write a protocol in May 2014. The protocol was completed and approved by IRB in February 2015. We started collecting data in May of 2015 once we received a patient list and finished collecting data during the end of January 2016. Currently, we are working on the manuscript. Over the summer months, my typical schedule was go to work (luckily it is at the Children’s Hospital!) then stay for a couple hours after work to collect data. On the days I wasn’t working, I would try to come in and collect data for an hour or two before dinner. During the school year my schedule was a little more hectic. As P3’s, we had class from 1-4 or 5pm most days. On Monday and Friday mornings I worked in our PO Special Lab up until it was time for class, on Tuesdays I took an Acute Care elective in the morning, and Wednesday mornings I had lab. So, this really left me evenings after 5pm, Thursday mornings (depending on computer availability at the hospital), and weekends to collect data. Surprisingly, I think I found it easier to collect data during the school year than during the summer. Knowing I only had limited hours to get something done really forced me to make a schedule and stick to it. If I told myself that morning I would collect data after class, then that is what I would do. I would usually tell myself “you aren’t leaving until you finish x amount of patients or it has been at least x hours” so I was motivated to stay on track. The amount of times a week I collected data really varied based on when exams were and when projects were due.
MH: Was there ever a moment you wondered if the hard work was worth it? (In other words… I want to know about the long days)
KB: Definitely. When we first began collecting data, we were hoping to have a preliminary analysis for ACCP in 2015. We had been collecting data almost every day to try and have a decent amount of patients to have an analysis on. About two weeks before the abstract would have been due, Nikki and I were both in the pharmacy collecting data together. This was a few day stretch of straight from work to data collection. It was then that we realized we had been using the overall NICU NEC rate for GutCheckNEC, when it was supposed to be the NEC rate of just those infants <1500 g. Luckily, Dr. Cox was in the pharmacy and able to calm us down and help us to realize that it wouldn’t take as long as we thought to fix the numbers, and to help us decide that a preliminary analysis at Midyear was a better timeline. But, that was definitely one of those long days where we had to take a step back and hit the refresh button and remind ourselves of the value of the research and all the hard work that we had already put into it.
MH: How were you able to balance your regular pharmacy school obligations AND conduct this retrospective study? (Did you have to sacrifice fun?)
KB: I was able to balance my pharmacy school obligations and conduct this retrospective study by prioritizing what was most important that week. Each week, I figured out how much time I could devote to research and how much time I needed to devote to different pharmacy school organizations and studying. Somehow, I didn’t have to sacrifice fun. I have some very patient and flexible friends to thank for that, though. (They probably got really used to hearing “I promise just one more patient, give me thirty minutes then I can meet you for dinner!”) I also made a point to try and be done collecting data each night by dinner time so I could use dinner to take a break and then get to studying. I am also the type that likes to get a lot done during the week, so I am able to have more free time on the weekends to do fun things!
MH: How did you decide to work together on this research project?
KB: Nikki and I are both in the Honors College at USC and met during our freshman year. As part of the requirement to graduate with honors, you have to complete a senior thesis project. Dr. Cox and I knew there was a lot of data that was going to need to be collected for this project and had discussed bringing on another student to help us if we wanted to have data collected in a timely manner! She had some students that had talked to her about an interest in research, but I had remembered Nikki telling me she needed to complete research for her honor’s thesis. I knew Nikki was a hard worker and that I could count on her to be just as excited about this project as me. Nikki met with Dr. Cox and me one day to make sure she had an interest in the research, and then familiarized herself with what we had completed so far and jumped right in!
MH: Is there any one you’d like to acknowledge for this success? Advisor? Someone at the hospital?
KB: There is no way we could’ve done any of this without Dr. Christina Cox. She was always willing to help us any way she could. From answering any question we asked, meeting with us whenever we asked, to encouraging us, and constantly reminding us that this research was going to be GREAT! And on top of all of that, she would always find time during our research meetings to chat about life and help talk us through any mid-life pharmacy school issues we were having! If you could give a mentor a grade, she would get an A++++. (I also need to thank the pharmacy staff at Palmetto Health’s Children’s Hospital for always allowing me to use a computer and for keeping me company while I collected data!)
MH: Do you plan to conduct more research? What’s the next project?
KB: Right now my research focus is on finishing up the manuscript for this project. This research really helped us identify more areas of research that are needed involving NEC. Of particular interest to me is the role of medication use and association with late NEC (>21 days of life), so hopefully we will be able to start looking into that soon!
MH: You’re both very involved in the SCCP student group of PPAG. Why did you join? What has your experience been like so far?
KB: I joined PPAG as a P1 to learn more about what exactly pediatric pharmacists do. But, PPAG has offered me much more than that! If someone asked me today why they should join PPAG (especially our student chapter), I would tell them it is a great opportunity to become a leader, give back to your community, and get involved in pediatric pharmacy. This past year, I was able to have the opportunity of being Vice President of the SCCP student group of PPAG, and this has by far been my favorite year in PPAG. I think this was because I was able to help shape what our small group’s goals were and what projects we wanted to devote our time to. My absolute favorite project we did this year was Adopt-A-Family. In past years, I had always donated a gift, but had never actually delivered the gifts to a family. This year, I was able to bring the gifts to the family, and the smiles on their faces and genuine appreciation for all that we had done made me so proud of our student group! I also really enjoy talking to the elementary kids about “Mr. Yuk” during Children and Healthcare Week at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. It amazes me how much information kids can absorb in such a little amount of time! (And all the things kids consider to be a poison!) I look forward to seeing all the great things SCCP PPAG will accomplish in the coming years, and hope to be able to stay involved in their success!
MH: Thanks, Katie, for a great conversation.
KB: Thank you.
Top: Katie Bull giving the Platform Presentation during the 25th Annual PPAG Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia
Middle: Nikki Corbin, Dr. Christina Cox, and Katie Bull celebrate after receiving the Outstanding Original Paper Award
Bottom: Nikki Corbin and Katie Bull presenting their poster.