UMMC pharmacy graduate C.J. Lowe looks ahead to asthma, COPD research in AstraZeneca fellowship
C.J. Lowe knows the subject he will be researching well.
Lowe, who will graduate this spring from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy with a Pharm.D., grew up with asthma. After graduation, he’ll research treatments for asthma and COPD, short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as a fellow with the biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
“Asthma can be scary,” Lowe said. “It feels like your throat is closing up. I’m allergic to a lot of things – fresh-cut grass, cats and dust mites are among them – and I can get out of breath. I keep an inhaler in the car and learned to know what my body needs.”
Those lessons started with his hometown pharmacist in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.
“All my life, I’ve had a lot of prescriptions, and he took the time to really care and to explain my medications to me,” Lowe said. “I felt like, if that pharmacist made the effort to talk with me, that pharmacy would be a way for me to help people live healthier lives.”
Lowe understood asthma well enough to run track at the University of Mississippi, competing in the 100- and 200-meter dash and the 4-by-100 relay. “There were a few times when I was out of breath running track and knew I needed an inhaler within the next 15 minutes.”
With a mother from Moss Point, Lowe was familiar with Mississippi but wanted to see it up close. “I wanted to get out of Pennsylvania and see other places,” he said.
What he found at UMMC and the surrounding Fondren neighborhood was a blend of intense study and a more leisurely pace of life.
“In Mississippi, most people aren’t in a rush or honking their horns in traffic. In Pennsylvania, people are always in a hurry.”
At the School of Pharmacy, Lowe said he found the perfect balance of encouragement and challenge. “I have dyslexia, and UMMC was the first place where I was not discouraged and where I was told, ‘You can do it.’”
Mississippi’s more relaxed speed of life was a respite from Lowe’s pharmacy studies, with coffee at The Bean, trivia with classmates at The Pig & Pint or shopping at Swell-O-Phonic among his favorite ways to relax. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic began. A year later, and he is back enjoying time at The Bean and other haunts in Fondren.
“Fondren feels like a small town,” he said.
While studying at UMMC, Lowe also spent time off-campus at Murrah High, volunteering in the school’s Pharmacy Club under the direction of Dr. Meagan Brown, clinical associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice, coordinator of community pharmacy development and director of community-based pharmacy residencies.
“I wanted to show students all the different jobs that are possible through pharmacy,” Lowe said. “It’s not just working at a pharmacy. You can work in research or clinical development with a drug company or work in a hospital like UMMC or the VA.”
Dr. Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs and director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science in the School of Pharmacy, said the study of pharmacy offers many options to graduates.
“Pharmacy provides different career tracks, all of which can positively impact patient care,” she said. “Fellowship training in the industry setting is an excellent example of this, and we are thrilled for C.J.’s pursuit of this opportunity. We look forward to following C.J.’s and other graduates’ career paths and their many contributions to improve health care.”
Ross praised the Class of 2021 for their determination during the pandemic.
“We are extremely proud of all of our pharmacy graduates,” she said. “This class has encountered unique challenges and demonstrated perseverance and a commitment to their education and to patients throughout the pandemic.”
Brown saluted Lowe for his volunteerism as well as his focus on the professional goal of working in the pharmaceutical industry.
“It is refreshing when you can find students who have purposeful and intentional goals, ones who pursue their desires,” she said. “I am very proud of him for pursuing and aligning his volunteer and summer opportunities to support his desired career path of pharmaceutical industry. Even though it may have been an uphill battle, he did not give up. I have no doubt he will be successful, and I am immensely proud of him.”
Finishing a rotation at the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Lowe said training at UMMC in the School of Pharmacy and in interprofessional settings at UMMC with students from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health-Related Professions has prepared him for collaboration and communication as a pharmacist.
He discovered this while on rotation at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis.
“A patient was prescribed an anticoagulant, and I was talking with him and his wife about the medication,” Lowe said. “He told me I was speaking to him in a language he understood. He said I wasn’t talking above him or below him, but to him. That’s what a pharmacist’s goal should be.”
Story by Annie Oeth/University of Mississippi Medical Center