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Limitless Opportunities

Published on 12 December 2018

At St. Louis College of Pharmacy, the sky is the limit when it comes to learning opportunities, and P4 student Dan Ilges is taking advantage of all the College has to offer. From assisting renowned researchers and forming new student organizations to attending a national standard-setting meeting, Ilges has been committed to making the most of his college experience.

During his senior year of high school, Ilges signed up for an outreach program at the College where he received his first exposure to the profession. Through the program, he spent four weeks learning about careers in pharmacy and an additional four weeks working in a pharmacy.

“After I finished that program, I knew I wanted to pursue pharmacy as a career,” Ilges said.

After spending three years at the University of Mississippi, he chose to return to St. Louis and transferred into the professional program at the College.

During his time at the College, Ilges has taken every opportunity outside the classroom to expand his knowledge and gain hands-on experience. Through these professional experiences, Ilges has broadened his view of pharmacy and the breadth of career opportunities it provides.

“I made it my mission to seek opportunities outside the classroom, not only to grow within the profession, but also to learn about the different career paths that pharmacy offers,” he said. “I have tried to take opportunities to become a competent, capable and well-rounded professional.”

During his P3 year, Ilges was accepted into the TL1 Predoctoral Clinical Research Program through the Clinical Research Training Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The program focuses on providing students with opportunities to work alongside world-renowned researchers.

Ilges collaborated with Mario Castro, M.D., MPH, FCCP, to analyze data previously collected through a multicenter study involving Washington University in St. Louis, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Columbia University Medical Center, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and National Jewish Health. The original study evaluated the impact of imatinib, a chemotherapy medication traditionally used to treat cancer, on airway remodeling in severe asthma patients using multidetector computed tomographic (MDCT) imaging.

Through the TL1 research program, Ilges worked with a research team that took a second look at the data in order to evaluate an additional endpoint.

"Being able to work collaboratively with researchers all over the country helped me see myself differently and helped me realize that I can do research," he said. "The program opened my eyes to a part of pharmacy I had not yet experienced firsthand."

Ilges and the research team mined the study's data to specifically compare MDCT images before and after treatment with imatinib versus a placebo in patients with significant airflow restriction. Their findings suggest that treating these patients with imatinib may decrease the extent of airway remodeling.

“This experience showed me that there’s a lot of room in pharmacy to make an impact overall – whether that be through research, working on the clinical or community side or other avenues I have yet to discover,” Ilges said. “I appreciate all that pharmacy has to offer.”

In his pursuit to explore the many pathways within pharmacy, Ilges and a group of his peers worked to bring a student chapter of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) to campus. AMCP is a professional organization that unites managed care pharmacy professionals, and its student chapters provide access to educational tools, professional development events, internships and networking opportunities.

Through his work with the student chapter of AMCP, Ilges is focused on helping fellow students gain knowledge about the many career opportunities available within managed care pharmacy.

“I served as a programming chair, and my duties included interviewing pharmacists and organizing events,” he said. “The opportunities to have conversations and coordinate with the rest of the AMCP executive board provided a rewarding experience.”

Last summer, Ilges had the opportunity to represent the College at the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) Joint Technical Work Group Meeting in St. Louis. During the meeting, he witnessed leaders in the profession working together to develop industry standards and solutions.

“By being part of NCPDP, you get to see how the data moves from the prescriber to the pharmacy and back to allow the clinicians to see prescription information,” he said. “Attending the work group showed me a whole other part of pharmacy that most people don’t know about.”

NCPDP leads multi-stakeholder meetings dedicated to developing and promoting industry standards and business solutions that improve patient safety and health outcomes, while also decreasing health care costs.

“Witnessing pharmacy benefit managers, payers, pharmacists, switches, and industry and government officials, many of which are direct competitors, volunteer their own time to better the future of pharmacy was an invaluable moment for me,” Ilges said. “Seeing them all come together to make changes was inspiring and humbling. I am hopeful I can find my own way to make a difference within the profession in the years to come.”

This story was first published in the fall 2018 issue of Script. Visit stlcop.edu/script to read more and access previous issues.

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