College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Online Symposium Focuses on Combating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease

From Left to Right: Judith L. Beizer, Pharm.D. BCGP, John Conry ‘92P,’96Pharm.D., Sum Lam, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP Kimberly E. Ng, ‘12Pharm.D., Sharon See, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP.

Judith L. Beizer, Pharm.D., BCGP; John M. Conry ’96P, ’98Pharm.D.; Sum Lam, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP; Kimberly E. Ng ’12Pharm.D., BCPS; and Sharon See, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP

May 21, 2021

As the number of Americans suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease continues to increase, pharmacists are well positioned to positively impact the lives of patients living with these conditions.

To that end, clinical pharmacy faculty from the Department of Clinical Health Professions of St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (CPHS) applied for and received a medical education grant of more than $20,000 from Biogen, a biotechnology company specializing in the discovery, development, and delivery of therapies for the treatment of neurological diseases.

Using funds from the grant, CPHS hosted a geriatrics symposium entitled, “Neuropsychiatric Disorders in Older Adults.” This was a four-hour Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education-accredited continuing education program for pharmacists.

Held online on April 8, the symposium’s goal was to provide pharmacists with the latest, evidence-based research and tools needed to successfully optimize drug therapy in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and support caregivers, according to Sharon See, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP, Clinical Professor and Assistant Chair, Department of Clinical Health Professions.

Dr. See served as Primary Investigator and her Co-investigators were Judith L. Beizer, Pharm.D., BCGP, Clinical Professor; John M. Conry ’96P, ’98 Pharm.D., Clinical Professor and Chairperson, Department of Clinical Health Professions; and Sum Lam, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP, Clinical Professor. Dr. See noted that the College has traditionally run many types of symposia on topics such as HIV and cardiology, but this was the first of its kind in this subject area.

Held in conjunction with the Office of Continuing Professional Education, the symposium was offered to pharmacists in the tri-state area, including, but not limited to, alumni and preceptors of CPHS, with 100 pharmacists registering. Dr. See, Dr. Beizer and Dr. Lam as well as Kimberly E. Ng ’12Pharm.D., BCPS, Assistant Professor, each presented on the following topics: Medication Considerations in Older Adults, Pharmacotherapy for Alzheimer’s Disease, Management of Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia, and Management of Parkinson’s Disease.

There was an interactive component where participants could ask questions in real-time. Dr. See noted St. John’s faculty members had considerable expertise in these areas.

“There’s a growing need for this kind of education. Most of us know someone with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease. This was a perfect opportunity to share best practices on how to manage these neurologic disorders.”

Dr. See said that participants received surveys before the symposium to determine baseline knowledge and after the symposium to gauge how much knowledge they gained from the presentations. The overwhelming majority indicated they felt their understanding of these topics was substantially increased.

Originally planned as an in-person event, Dr. See noted they faced several challenges when COVID-19 forced them to adopt a virtual platform, which was not part of their original proposal. “We purchased an online platform, which we had to learn very quickly,” she recalled. “It really revolutionized the way we reach out to our potential attendees and register people. It streamlined the process, which we needed to modernize anyway.”

Dr. See was surprised to learn that more than 75 percent of attendees indicated they preferred the virtual setting over in-person. “People are getting used to this,” she remarked, adding that registrants were also able to view the presentations at their convenience after April 8. Presentations remain available to registrants on the platform for three months. “I was very happy with the way the program worked out, and I’d like to make this an annual event,” Dr. See added.

A symposium like this plays to the strengths of the University’s Vincentian mission, Dr. See stressed. “There’s no one else like us in this realm.” A faculty member since 1998, she appreciates the collaborative environment of St. John’s. “I love my colleagues. In my department, most of us have been here 10, 15, and 20 or more years—and that says a lot.”