Rasha Elkanayati becomes inaugural graduate of new industrial pharmacy program
Commencement is far from a new tradition, but becoming the first graduate of a new program is a tradition Rasha Elkanayati is excited to make.
Elkanayati is a member of the inaugural graduating class for the master’s program in industrial pharmacy at the University of Mississippi. Created in 2018, the two-year program in the School of Pharmacy focuses on the applied knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce, while equipping students to specialize in quality assurance, regulatory affairs, formulation development or manufacturing.
“It is an unrivaled experience and a great honor that I am recognized by the school as one of the first graduates,” Elkanayati said. “I can always be a reference for candidates who wish to join and need more information about the program.
“The program prepares science students to work in the pharmaceutical industry with many possible career opportunities.”
A native of Egypt, Elkanayati earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences from Cairo University and a master’s degree in quality management from the Arab Academy of Science Technology and Maritime Transport.
It was her role as a quality control analyst and quality assurance officer with the Egyptian Drug Authority that ultimately led her to return to school.
“My job at the EDA involved the approval of different dosage forms and the confirmation that they comply with the specifications and limits,” Elkanayati said. “This urged me to gain better understanding about the manufacturing processes, good manufacturing practices, and the rules and regulations that govern these processes.
“I needed to know what happened until the drug reached our lab for analysis and approval so that I would be aware of the potential problems that led to its nonconformities and possible failure.”
Elkanayati applied for and received a Fulbright scholarship, allowing her to expand her educational opportunities in the United States. She was then accepted into the Ole Miss industrial pharmacy program.
After joining the school, Elkanayati partned with Eman Ashour, research assistant professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery, to develop a product that would provide relief for patients who suffer from xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth. Elkanayati used advanced technologies available in the school’s labs, such as hot-melt extrusion and 3D printing, to make the small white strip that sticks on a person’s gumline.
“It was not an easy thing,” Elkanayait said. “It takes lots of hard work, reading and resilience. The product we are working on would be unique to the market, which is a motivation for any researcher to provide a new contribution to patient care.”
Walt Chambliss, professor emeritus of pharmaceutics and drug delivery, had a tremendous impact on Elkanayati. She noted he helped her to think critically, analyze and solve problems, while emphasizing to never stop learning.
Chambliss’ experience and knowledge helped develop the program so that graduates, such as Elkanayati, are positioned at the forefront of the best career opportunities.
“The industrial pharmacy master’s program was designed to complement the school’s existing graduate programs in order to prepare students with chemistry, biology, pharmacy and engineering degrees to excel in the pharmaceutical industry,” Chambliss said.
“The multidisciplinary and practical nature of the curriculum, designed with the assistance of an external advisory group from the pharmaceutical industry, coupled with projects focused on development of potential commercial products, result in graduates with the knowledge and training needed by the industry.”
Though her experience and education have her ready to immediately enter the workforce, Elkanayati is staying in Oxford to complete her Ph.D. in pharmaceutics and drug delivery. She looks forward to continuing to work on her project with Ashour and learn more about hot-melt extrusion from Michael Repka, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery and a pioneer of this technology.
“My biggest takeaway from my time in the master’s program is to believe in yourself and invest in developing your skills and capabilities,” Elkanayati said. “Try new things and ask questions.”
Story by Whitney Tarpy/School of Pharmacy