Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Carrie Hoefer, Director of Pharmacogenomics

UC Brings on New Director for the Online Pharmacogenomics Program

Dr. Carrie Hoefer is the new Director of Pharmacogenomics & Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy. Dr. Hoefer recently joined the University of Cincinnati to coordinate the online Pharmacogenomics program and is highly involved in teaching several classes across the curriculum.

UC Online recently spoke with Dr. Hoefer about her career and experience in Pharmacogenomics. She provided her perspective on the growing field and her plans for growing the new online program.

Q: What is your educational background?

I obtained my Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences at The State University of New York at Buffalo (Also known as University at Buffalo or UB). I had a short post-doctoral position at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in epidemiology, and additionally, I obtained my Master’s in Business Administration from Indiana University.

Q: What motivated you to get into Pharmacogenomics?

When I was a freshman in college, I really wanted to be a Physical Therapist. I found a psychology class about drugs and behavior that really interested me, so I took it as an elective. My professor in this class (Dr. Kashino at Daemen College in Buffalo) had a daughter, Janie, who had stage IV neuroblastoma. Her stories about therapy for her daughter and how her daughter would respond really opened my eyes to what I wanted to do. I transferred to UB for my pharmaceutical sciences degree after that year.

To this day, I owe everything that I have done to Janie, because if it weren’t for her and her mom, I would have never gone into Pharmacogenomics. When I feel like things are too tough to finish, I remember that I do what I do for kids like Janie.

Q: Why did you get into teaching?

Again, I owe this to Dr. Kashino. She was an amazing professor. With everything going on in her life, with cancer therapy for her daughter and maintaining a family, she still devoted 100% to us students in the classroom and during office hours. She was prompt to reply to emails, and she truly cared about each and every one of us. I take all of her lessons and really use them in every aspect of my teaching. If I can be half as amazing as she is, then I am doing something right!

Q: What interested you in leading the PGx program at UC?

After my Ph.D. I had an amazing opportunity to help open up the first Master’s in Pharmacogenomics (PGx) at Manchester University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I loved every second of it. It was a whirlwind, and I learned more in my few years there than I ever have. The next step was to lead a program, and that is what led me to UC.

I also need to give a shout out to one of my first students at Manchester. He worked at Cincinnati Children’s after his Masters, and when the Dean of the Pharmacy School had a meeting with him, he said that he needs to call me. I think that is the most exciting part that I left an impression on a student. Leading a program allows me to continue to make a difference in each student’s life.

Q: What are your goals for the program in the next few years?

I have some big goals… it makes me panic when I think about them all at once, but I have a great team behind me. I find making an impact on the most important goal for this program. You can get an education at numerous places, but what can we offer that makes an impact?

A few of my goals include having a 1-week intensive lab course where students get to come on campus and learn the techniques behind working with DNA, RNA, and Protein. Another goal is more of a health outcome track where students get to work with leaders in the industry to solve a case study. I truly believe investing in the students by providing opportunities and experiences will make Cincinnati the leading Pharmacogenomics institution in the country.

Q: Where do you see the field of pharmacogenomics going in the next few years?

This is a big question. I think about this a lot. More and more people are getting their 23&Me results, but a lot of people truly don’t know how to read these reports. Pharmacogenomics is such a sub-specialty that it can be used in almost every field, and it NEEDS to be used. From drug development to cancer therapy to food digestion, pharmacogenomics impacts everything. One huge area I see an expansion of PGx happening is in cancer therapy. The reason why is because there are two areas genomics can make a difference is both in the metabolism of the drug itself and how the drug affects the tumor.

Q: Who is an ideal student for this program?

There are several ideal students. The first is someone who is graduating with their bachelor of science and is looking for something in the science field. It doesn’t have to be specific because our program has a wide variety of classes and tracks for the student. This program could be a great eye-opener for students to find the area of science they truly love. From there, they can continue to a Ph.D. in a specific science or find a great job in the industry.

Another ideal student would be someone established in their career that feels this could truly help them differentiate themselves. Maybe they are in the lab setting, and they want to move up to a manager position. This program may give them the edge to get there.

Or maybe there is a genetic counselor, physician, or pharmacist that wants to establish a practice that specializes in pharmacogenomics. This would be the perfect program.

Also, this program would be great for a pharmacy student. To graduate with both a Pharm.D. and an MS in PGx would differentiate themselves in a selective field of Pharmacy.

Q: What types of careers do PGx graduates have?

There are a lot of careers that PGx graduates could obtain. The one that is growing most rapidly is Curation. These types of rolls work highly with clinical trials, take the data, and put it into real-world settings. Other roles could be a lab-based role in either a genomics lab or a small-molecule lab, working in report generation companies to help design and develop PGx reports, consulting roles, and many other positions.

Q: What do you hope your students learn from you?

I 100% believe you can learn anything online. I mean, I fixed my whole kitchen by watching YouTube videos. I am just here to guide students to the information and provide them with up-to-date, relevant, real-world information.

However, some things cannot be taught in textbooks, and that is what I want my students to learn from me. I really touch on team-based learning, presentations, and writing. These are things that many science students struggle with, but these are also the things I get asked in every recommendation call. How does this student interact with a team? How is this student at presenting information to higher up people in a company? Can this student write and read a grant application? I make sure all my students can do each of these tasks and can do them extremely well.

Q: What hobbies and activities do you enjoy?

My husband and I actually travel the country for beer. My husband brews his own, and he is pretty good at it! We are also huge Bills fans. We have season tickets and make sure we hit as many road games as possible.

Another hobby we love is fostering animals. We just got a new puppy, so we are holding off for a bit, but we will begin fostering again soon.

Additionally, I play slow-pitch softball as many times a year I can. I’ve played softball since I was 4!

Learn More About the Pharmacogenomics Program with UC Online

The Pharmacogenomics program from the University of Cincinnati James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy is flexible and 100% online. Gain in-depth knowledge about Pharmacogenomics and the effects of genomics, environment, patient-specific factors on drug response to help advance your career in various fields.

Learn More about the Pharmacogenomics program with UC Online.

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