December 26, 2011
Andrea Sikora had three primary academic goals when she came to UGA: study abroad, attend the College of Pharmacy and graduate with the Honors Capstone and CURO Scholar Distinction. And the Ohio native who graduated from The Walker School in Marietta has successfully met her goals.
Doctor of Pharmacy
University highlights, achievements and awards:
When I came to UGA, I had three primary academic goals. I wanted to study abroad, I wanted to attend the College of Pharmacy, and I wanted to graduate with the Honors Capstone and CURO Scholar Distinction. Since then, I have studied abroad in the Science Maymester in Cortona, Italy. Cortona is a beautiful little city on top of a hill surrounded by countryside, and I had the opportunity to study Medical Biology and Genetics while also taking Art History and touring around Rome, Florence, and Siena. I was accepted into the College of Pharmacy during my sophomore year and am now in my third year of the program. I am very much looking forward to clinical rotations next year.
I have been involved with several different research projects in my pursuit of CURO. My first project was with Dr. Robert Arnold where we focused on the anti-tumor activity and characterization of novel selenium-based agents. Traditional chemotherapy often has severe dose limiting toxicities, and it is our hope that the free radical scavenging ability of the selenium compounds could be protective. I am currently working on a project with Dr. Susan Fagan in Augusta that is focusing on intravenous minocycline and its effects on peripheral inflammatory biomarkers after ischemic stroke. A problem with ischemic stroke is not just the initial damage due to the loss of blood flow but the subsequent inflammatory processes. It is our hope that minocycline might act to reduce some of these inflammatory molecules. I have completed two internships with Georgetown University working with an organization called PharmedOut. PharmedOut examines inappropriate promotional practices of pharmaceutical companies and evaluates their effect on patient care. A project I am continuing with PharmedOut is the evaluation of diphenhydramine in traditional practice. It is our theory that because diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is a cheap, relatively safe, over-the-counter medication, it has been given a bad reputation by companies that are making competing products. Evaluating studies for unbiased study design has been a fascinating insight into the world of clinical trials. The most important lesson I have learned is that as a healthcare professional you must take it upon yourself to know your field. You need to read primary literature, subscribe to listservs put out by unbiased organizations, and always strive to find the best evidence for your practice. I was a Chemistry 1312H Teaching Assistant with Dr. Kutal. He runs a fantastic second semester inorganic chemistry laboratory section, and it was a great learning opportunity to be involved with his course. I give him credit for insight into the teaching process on a college level. I have been involved in teaching science to younger age groups through the Georgia State Science Fair, and while both have similar elements, there are vast differences when it comes to reaching such different age groups. I’ve also been involved with the Learning Management System Committee on campus as well as the Student Technology Fee Subcommittee as the Professional Student Representative. I really enjoyed seeing this process because someday I would like to be involved in administration. It was really fascinating to see how our technology fee is spent, and I have to say it goes to a lot of good technology that benefits the students directly. The past two years I have been on the College of Pharmacy Wellness Committee, and this has been a nice opportunity to give back to the College of Pharmacy.
The Walker School; Marietta
I chose to attend UGA because...
I went to The Walker School for high school. It is a small private school and I loved my experience there. It was an academically challenging yet personalized experience; however, I felt that for my next phase in life I needed a more expansive setting. I wanted the resources of a big university so that I could explore my love of science and academia on a big playing field. However, I was also searching for a college experience that emphasized life beyond the classroom. In UGA, I saw something of the classic collegiate experience with the beautiful campus, long-standing football tradition, and location in a great college town. I love Athens and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. When I got accepted to the College of Pharmacy, I was once again in a smaller, personalized environment, so really UGA has offered me the best of all worlds.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
My favorite thing to do on campus is just to walk around and enjoy the experience. I am in Augusta now as a part of the College of Pharmacy 2+2 program, where I’ll finish out my last two years at Georgia Health Sciences University (formerly, MCG). It makes me appreciate everything about Athens and UGA all the more. When I think about being on campus, I imagine walking in different areas just enjoying the experience of other students on their way to and from class, seeing the campus tours, reading the fliers on the bus stops, etc. I love the round-about near the Science library, which has imprints of different types of leaves in the cement. I loved walking home through North Campus, and now that I am in pharmacy school, I have to say I love the Creamery and grabbing a
snack and sitting outside on the benches.
When I have free time, I like...
When I have free time, I enjoy being with my friends. Some of my fondest college memories are sitting around the kitchen table in our apartment just talking or our adventures to different local restaurants and events. I also love plants and gardening. I enjoy the process of watching things grow, and it is a nice study break to get up and walk all around to water everything. I enjoy drawing and generally always have a couple projects going. I try to keep up a good balance in life of friends and family as well as mind, body, and soul. Precious free time usually goes towards that balance.
The craziest thing I've done is...
During my study abroad program in Italy, a group of us embarked on a weekend trip to Cinque Terre not realizing that the Italian train system was about to go on strike. This meant that although some trains were running, a majority of trains were halted, so while we were effectively able to leave our home base of Cortona, we ended up stranded in a city several stops before our destination and with no great alternatives for returning home Sunday evening. We could have hopped on a train going to a major city that might have increased our chances of getting home, but the crazy thing is we didn’t do that. We stood outside the train station in some little town whose name I’ve forgotten, looking rather lost and pathetic. I should also mention we embarked on this trip with only one person who had taken one semester of Italian. Stranded outside the train station that would take us no further, an off duty bus driver took pity on us, and we somehow communicated our situation. He then drove us thirty minutes to our hotel and refused any compensation. Our journey ultimately consisted of a number of hitchhiking experiences to different towns and then subsequently running through the streets to catch last minute trains that happened to still be running despite the strike. I am proud to say that we both made it to Cinque Terre (it is stunningly beautiful) and back to Cortona in time for class on Monday morning.
My favorite place to study is...
My favorite place to study is in my room. I keep a box on my nightstand with a pen, pencil, highlighter, and magic erase marker as well as paper and a dry erase board in the drawer. That way I can just plop down on my bed and start working. I was always jealous of those who could study for long hours on the North Campus lawn, but I’ve found that short intense bouts of focus work better for me.
My favorite professor is...
My favorite professor is Dr. George Majetich, though he will insist that you call him George. He taught Honors Organic Chemistry II my sophomore year and made chemistry absolutely come alive for me. It sounds hard to imagine looking forward to OChem, but I really did because he made every lecture like a performance, lively and fascinating. It has remained my favorite course that I have taken in college. An interesting side note is that I almost dropped the class because I had heard he was too difficult, but a friend of mine who enjoys reading the Amazing Students section told me that a recent student had named him as his favorite teacher. This helped convince me to remain in the class, so I am passing the good deed forward.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
There is a movie where a character likens himself to “the dog that can see the rainbow.” He says, “Of course, dogs are colorblind.” In essence, he is saying he is looking at something that has always been there and yet seeing it for the first time or in a completely new way. There are so many people in history who have ‘seen the rainbow’ so to speak, and I’m not sure which person I’d pick. My thoughts range from John Newlands (the man who helped pioneer the discovery of the Periodic Table) and Charles Darwin to Ender Wiggin (who first thought of the enemy gate as down), but I’d be happy with anyone in between because anyone that can show me a new way of looking at something is worth meeting.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
If I knew I could not fail, I would revamp our entire health care system. I feel like a lot of people might answer ‘cure cancer’ to this question, but I feel like even if we had the cure to cancer, we don’t have a good enough system to deliver the cure effectively, much less cost-effectively. There are places where we overspend, and places where we underspend. There are times when we over-treat and then times when we under-treat. I think we often spend too much time reacting to diseases as opposed to preventing diseases. There is something called Evidence Based Medicine, and it is where you use objective findings to guide medical care. I fear that often there is way too much profits and politics in the way of practicing the best available medicine and that ultimately this is detrimental to the patient. If I could not fail, I would devise a system that delivered rational and optimal health care to everyone, and I am just crazy enough to believe that this system might even be within our budget because it would be a more efficient system too.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to...
If money were not a consideration, I would love to have a vineyard. I love being outside, growing things, and I think the chemistry involved with wine making would be an absolutely fascinating process to understand in detail. I imagine being on a porch overlooking the fields and perhaps horseback riding through the rows and also being in a dusty cellar sipping red wine with friends and family and recalling a good vintage from a past year.
After graduation, I plan to...
I love to teach, and I thoroughly enjoy the world of academia. After graduation, I hope to complete two years worth of residencies to become a clinical specialist in a field before returning to teaching and research. The practice of medicine is both an art and a science, and I believe it will be flat out fun to illuminate this world to students every day. I have to admit that I am pulled in many directions in terms of what field interests me specifically, but I do know I love the quest for knowledge and in turn bequeathing that knowledge to the next generation.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
The one UGA experience I will always remember was the blackout game against Auburn my freshman year. I was in the end zone wearing my new black Dawgs T-shirt I had bought earlier that week in anticipation. It was rumored, of course, to be a blackout and pretty much everyone in the stadium had dressed accordingly, but the team was warming up in the traditional red. After warm-ups, the team went into the locker room. I remember the crowd buzzing, unsure but hopeful. Also, it was a night game, which added another element to the excitement. When the team re-emerged for the start of the game in black jerseys the crowd just erupted. I have never been so gripped by any sporting event in my entire life, but I, as well as the crowd, hung on every play. Right when it was starting to lull just the faintest bit, Knowshon Moreno started dancing to Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” during a timeout. The whole team started dancing, and the crowd followed suit. I played sports in high school and always thought the team’s performance was independent of the crowd; yet that night, I felt it was the entire Bulldawg Nation that brought home the victory. I remember walking home after the game in the dark and suddenly realizing how cold it was for the first time. The energy from the stadium had literally warmed the air around us.