Introducing PharmD students to medical research through the Wexner Project Match

April 3, 2024
Leah and Diya

On West 12th Avenue, The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy is surrounded by activity. To the north, towering residence halls and the iconic Ohio Stadium. To the south, just outside of arms reach, is The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC) campus, humming with activity 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

With such close proximity to OSUWMC, students and faculty of the college have found ways to share resources and opportunities with medical center collaborators. Among those collaborative trailblazers is Lynn Wardlow, PharmD, MBA, MS, BCIDP, AAHIVP, infectious diseases clinical pharmacy specialist at OSUWMC and PGY2 infectious diseases residency program director. 

Dr. Wardlow recalls the early days of her career, before joining Ohio State, when she teamed up with pharmacy students to complete research. 

“I enjoyed being a part of a student’s journey to understand how much providers still have to learn in order to find the best therapy options for patients and how a well-designed study can provide those answers,” she said. “I envisioned a program at Ohio State that would allow students to get involved in research projects that fit their stage of learning and interest areas.” 

In 2020, Dr. Wardlow launched the Wexner Project Match program to offer Ohio State PharmD students a way to wade into medical research. The program pairs College of Pharmacy students with an active study at OSUWMC. Students accepted into the program are matched with a research project and team that aligns with their expressed interests and availability.  

With many PharmD students considering residencies or fellowships after graduation, gaining research experience offers a peek at what their futures might hold. Plenty of the students joining the program have no prior research experience, so they can consider whether it’s a good fit while adding game-changing experience to their resumes. 

“Regardless of students’ capacity or research focus, the development of leadership skills, analysis and self-discovery are at the core of the program,” Dr. Wardlow said.  

At the program’s inception in 2020, 13 students were matched to projects. Four years later, over 40 matches are being made per year to accommodate the rise in participation from students and medical center staff.  

Dr. Wardlow and co-coordinator Brianna Archambeau, PharmD, BCOP, oncology specialist at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James), have enlisted the support of third-year PharmD students Leah Jones and Diya Patel to triage the application and pairing processes.  

Jones and Patel became the program’s administrative interns in 2022 and developed the student application materials. Since both serve as interns at OSUWMC (Jones at University Hospital and Patel at OSUCCC – James), they provide first-hand insights into both practitioner and student perspectives. 

“Through my clinical role at University Hospital, I connect with residents regularly,” Jones said. “When Diya and I receive all the student submissions, we can look at the different projects and residents available, then use our personal knowledge to make a match that plays on the strengths of both parties.” 

These personalized pairings offer huge benefits to both mentors and mentees. By smoothly integrating students into their research team, primary investigators (PIs) have greater capacity and are pushing the boundaries of what research OSUWMC conducts.  

“Having a student involved in research opens the door to expanding the breadth and depth of a project,” Dr. Wardlow explained. “Their involvement in data collection and analysis allows for the completion of projects that have historically been too large of an undertaking for a resident or a practicing pharmacy specialist. By allowing us the opportunity to conduct more challenging projects, it increases the amount and impact of research at our medical center on a daily basis.” 

Program administrators consistently return to those collaborative relationships as a highlight. Jennifer Booth, PharmD, MS, BCPS, assistant director of pharmacy at OSUWMC, joined the Wexner Project Match program in 2022 to facilitate participants’ completion as medical center interns.  

Jenn Booth

 By becoming an integral part of these teams, students create a special connection with research preceptors. These preceptors can become students’ most valuable mentors. Seeing those connections and relationships develop is incredibly rewarding.

Jennifer Booth, PharmD, MS, BCPS
Assistant Director of Pharmacy at OSUWMC

By building connections between students and research conducted in their community, Ohio State PharmD students can enter their careers with a greater understanding of the vital intersection of research and practice. 

 “Past participants demonstrate a deeper appreciation for medical literature, including strengths and limitations of treatment pathways,” Dr. Wardlow said. “I'm confident that our matched students can critically evaluate what to do based on patient information and recognize more clearly that they’re applying research anytime they’re treating a patient in the field.” 

Although the team is thrilled with the program’s growth, they’re still looking toward the horizon. Jones and Patel are hard at work expanding the program to other hospital systems in Columbus. The two will move on from their positions for the 2024-2025 academic year, but they’re still meeting with administrators from health systems around the city to lay the foundation for future partnerships. 

 “Incorporating other partners would not only expand the capacity for student involvement, but it would offer research benefits to these other health systems,” Patel explained. “We have four other major hospital systems in Columbus with just as many avenues for discovery as OSUWMC. We’re excited to see our students branching out into new specialties and advancing the medical discovery in Columbus.” 

Students participating in the Wexner Project Match

J-Cheng Sung

J-Cheng Sung, P3

Leah Jones headshot

Leah Jones, P3

Mira Haddad

Mira Haddad, P3

Diya Patel

Diya Patel, P3

Caroline Cyranek

Caroline Cyranek, P3

Alec Leaman

Alec Leaman, P3

Academics, PharmD News