Student Spotlight: Clarissa Klein, Pharmacogenomics

Master’s Degree Student’s Connection and Commitment to Pharmacogenomics Field

Student Spotlight: Clarissa Klein, Pharmacogenomics
Clarissa Klein is an MS Pharm Sci: Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Healthcare program student – a 100% online degree that attracts students from Ohio and beyond, including internationally.

There’s no shortage of data in the pharmaceutical industry. Organizing it in a way that makes it accessible to healthcare professionals is a particular skill, and Clarissa Klein has that skill in spades.

Clarissa is a student in the Masters (MS) of Pharmaceutical Sciences: Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Healthcare program from the University of Cincinnati (UC). She also works full-time coordinating programs and curating information for two projects funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants.

Add to that the fact Clarissa works and studies remotely from Albany, NY, and has genetic health conditions, it becomes apparent she is a go-getter whose goal is to make a tangible impact in the world today.

The operative word here is “tangible.” Clarissa’s work compiling pharmacogenomic information from the myriad of studies conducted throughout the U.S. and globally gives medical professionals the ability to find needed information quickly. “It’s difficult for researchers to figure out who has covered what. So, the goal of one of my projects is to communicate what we know and don’t know,” Clarissa says.

Much of Clarissa’s work focuses on pediatrics and making pharmaceutical information easily accessible for health care providers of children.

Love of Science Fuels Educational Pursuit

Clarissa’s interest in science and an undergraduate degree in English intersect perfectly with her roles as a curator and coordinator at the Clinical Genome Resource at Stanford University School of Medicine and FDA recognition coordinator for PharmGKB. PharmGKB is an NIH-funded resource that offers comprehensive information on the impact of human genetic variation on medication response.

Clarissa has even more things on her full plate. She administratively supports several working groups, with one focusing on balancing data confidentiality with transparency in access for researchers and clinicians. “One of the biggest issues is that people get confused about the available resources,” she says. “Trying to figure out how to make this data as useful as possible, while protecting data privacy, is an ongoing challenge.”

Pharmacogenomics Defined

Pharmacogenomics is the study of how a person’s genetic makeup impacts their body’s ability to process medications. UC’s pharmacogenomics and personalized healthcare master’s program is closely related to the university’s drug development master’s program, also offered through the renowned James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy. Though there is some cross-over between the two graduate-level programs’ coursework, drug development focuses on how drugs are made from start to finish, and pharmacogenomics explores how drugs affect certain types of people and their genes.

Additionally, pharmacogenomics combines diagnostic data with an individual’s medical history, allowing healthcare providers to better understand how a person’s genes could react to specific drugs or treatments, enabling them to develop precise and effective treatment plans.

UC’s pharmacogenomics master’s degree courses are led by faculty with real-world experience. The program is a logical next step for people who believe in an advanced degree’s value and want to stand out in their allied health, biology, chemistry, nursing, genetic research, or other health field career.

UC’s What is Pharmacogenomics article explores this dynamic niche of the pharmaceutical industry
and highlights growing careers in the field, including geneticists, data scientists and clinical genomics curators.

Pharmacogenomics What is PGx
UC’s What is Pharmacogenomics article explores this dynamic niche of the pharmaceutical industry and highlights growing careers in the field, including geneticists, data scientists and clinical genomics curators.

Online Pharmacy Program Ideal for Working Adults

Because Clarissa works full-time, she needs a flexible educational program. Our fully online format for our pharmacogenomics master’s degree made Clarissa’s choice to attend UC an easy one — that and the way instructors value students in the program.

Clarissa says,

I’m struck by the respect faculty has for students. First, they understand we all have constraints with work and other life commitments. The professors are truly here for us students. They want to make sure we can participate in the coursework to the best of our abilities and work with us throughout the master’s program.

Student Diversity is a Big Draw

Clarissa’s UC experience includes collaborating with fellow students from various backgrounds. She sees her UC peers as being highly respected in their fields, with occupations ranging from genetic counselors to educators to people with PhDs. “The students’ experience is broad, too, ranging from those who worked in the pharmaceutical industry for decades to others being brand new post-bachelor students,” Clarissa says.

Clarissa sees students quickly stepping up to support one another, something the UC staff encourages through discussion boards and interactive sessions. She believes having such diversity and differing perspectives within the student body helps everyone, saying the mix has been invaluable for her.

Managing Her Health While Living Life and Educating Others

Clarissa says that having a genetic connective tissue disorder and autoimmune deficiency means her health concerns can sometimes throw a wrench in plans. “It’s a little bit unpredictable at times, so having a flexible, online program is helpful,” Clarissa says.

Pharmacogenomics isn’t a term with which most people are familiar. But for Clarissa, it’s personal. She’s committed to educating others about the field and family and friends, too. “This work becomes even more important when it’s so personally relevant,” she says.

The Pharmacogenomics Field is Growing

According to the Pharmacogenomics Market Report, the pharmacogenomics field is expected to grow 10% during the next five years. Like other highly technical professions, pursuing a higher level of education opens doors to more job opportunities, higher salaries, and greater responsibilities.

UC’s master’s degree in pharmacogenomics prepares a student for a career as a genetic sales consultant, geneticist, clinical curator, medical scientist, research project manager, and other well-paying roles in a field that combines the disciplines of pharmacology (the study of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions) to develop personalized medicinal approaches.

Following Her Passions and Interests Into the Future

No matter where Clarissa chooses to go after she receives her UC degree in 2024, she knows she’ll be making medicines safer and more helpful for patients in the future.

Clarissa says her Stanford supervisors are encouraging her to earn her doctorate. “I’m looking into a couple of programs,” she says, “and want to concentrate more on the data science side.”

No matter what Clarissa decides to do after graduation, it’s evident she’ll stick close to her passions. “I’m deeply committed to health equity, which comes into play on several different fronts — pre-existing health conditions, race, gender — all highly relevant right now.”

Get Information About This Master’s Degree

Students like Clarissa typically complete UC’s Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Healthcare master’s program in six semesters or two years if they study part-time.

To learn more about the program:

  • View curriculum that covers pharmaceutical biotechnology, drug development and other relevant areas.
  • Explore admission requirements, which include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
  • Find upcoming start dates in fall, spring and summer.
  • Watch program director Dr. Pankaj Desai’s video about the pharmacogenomics program, online education and more.

If you’re considering enrolling in the program and are ready to take the next step, chat online with a UC representative, complete this contact form, or call (833) 556-8611 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

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