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UW School of Pharmacy Student-Led Research Articles Published in National Journal

February 4, 2021
Megan Meier and Mark Menghini

Two University of Wyoming students’ research papers have been accepted in a national pharmacy journal.

UW School of Pharmacy fourth-year student Megan Meier, from Colorado Springs, Colo., and Cheyenne’s Mark Menghini, a master’s degree candidate in molecular biology, collaborated in 2019 on a “mixed methods” project that was subdivided into two related areas -- resulting in the publication of their two separate research papers.

Meier’s research is titled “Consumer’s Opinion on a Pharmacist’s Role in Nutritional Counseling,” and Menghini’s project is titled “Understanding Food Preferences and Their Connection to Health Perception among Lean and Non-Lean Populations in a Rural State.” Menghini’s paper recently was published in the journal INNOVATIONS in pharmacy, and Meier’s paper has been accepted for publication in the same journal. It is the first publication in a national journal for both UW students.

Meier’s focus was on data analysis and writing results obtained from interviewing Laramie community members on their understanding of nutrition and the role a pharmacist can play in supporting them. Menghini was given the assignment of understanding food preferences among lean and non-lean individuals in a rural population.

Baskaran Thyagarajan, a UW associate professor of pharmaceutics and neuroscience, and Reshmi Singh, a UW associate professor of social and administrative pharmacy, along with Meier and Menghini, divided their responsibilities in analyzing data in the mixed methods study.

Meier collected data from audio-recorded interviews conducted with a variety of Laramie community members for the project. She focused on respondents’ understanding of nutrition, their interactions with pharmacists regarding nutrition, and the consumers’ perception of pharmacists’ role/education surrounding nutrition.

“With these topics in mind, we also analyzed if lean or non-lean consumers responded differently. We set out to gain perspective on how many consumers receive nutrition counseling from pharmacists,” she says. “After the interviews, we did gain an understanding of how often consumers interact with a pharmacist regarding nutrition, but I think there was a more important finding.”

Meier says most consumers were unaware of a pharmacist’s role in nutrition counseling and did not believe a pharmacist is educated to provide the counseling.

“However, pharmacists are educated to provide nutritional counseling, and this is something our profession should broadcast,” she adds. “Pharmacists are trained in a variety of areas, not just dispensing medications and drug interactions. As a profession, we should educate the public on our training and background more. This way, we can become even further integrated into the health care team and be more highly regarded in our patients’ eyes.”

Over the past few decades, pharmacists have made great strides in increasing health care’s role, and her team’s research should be motivation to continue that effort, Meier says.

Singh says Meier’s focus on nutrition education in pharmacy is noteworthy, and Thyagarajan adds that her lead on the project produced “elegant research work.”

“Megan took a lead on analyzing and establishing the role of pharmacists in nutritional counseling. This will form the foundation of future studies to advance the role of pharmacists in the generation of individualized nutritional plans, patient monitoring and health care,” Thyagarajan says. “It is an amazing experience working with her. She has set a high bar for students to work on such an application-oriented research.” 

Menghini’s part in the study was conducted via analysis of consumers’ food choices and compared the data based on age, gender and body weight. The participants in audio-recorded interviews were residents of a single town in a rural state. The study shows that most participants were aware of the implications that food choices had on their health status.

“Mark has taken clear leadership to demonstrate the food preferences between lean and non-lean populations in the rural state of Wyoming,” Thyagarajan says. “His research stems from our benchwork research suggesting the role of spice-rich food in metabolic health.”

His research as a molecular biologist focuses on the pathogenicity, infectivity and potential biohazard of a newly discovered viral contaminant of cells commonly used in the baculovirus-insect cell system.

Meier will graduate in May and hopes to secure a residency position to further her pharmacy training. She plans to work as an ambulatory care pharmacist within a clinic and is considering becoming a university clinical faculty member.

Menghini received his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from UW last May and, once he receives his master’s degree, he plans to study to become a physician.

“I am very pleased with this outcome and persistence of Megan Meier and Mark Menghini in not only leading each of the papers, but also taking it to the finish line of publication,” Singh says. “As educators, it is heartening to see our students understand and work so well on the research process.”

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