College of Pharmacy Recognizes Outstanding Faculty for 2020

By Ben Boulden

“Because of health safety guidelines in-person classes gave way by March to real-time, online classes, and the College of Pharmacy faculty provided the continuity of instruction and stability to students that was key to helping them complete their studies and degrees,” said Dean Cindy Stowe, Pharm.D. “All of the college’s faculty rose to the challenge in ways seen and unseen that are worthy of thanks and praise.”

In keeping with tradition, several individual members of the college’s faculty were selected by their peers and students for their accomplishments in teaching. They are: Antino Allen, Ph.D.; Melanie Reinhardt, Pharm.D.; David Caldwell, Pharm.D.; Dwight Pierce, Ph. D.; and Grant McElwee, Pharm.D.

An associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences’ Division of Radiation Health, Allen received the Jonathan and Donna Wolfe Faculty Excellence Award. The college’s faculty votes each year to select the awardee.

In 2013, Allen accepted a tenure track position and joined the college’s faculty. In his research, Allen examines how inflammation and oxidative stress affect neuronal anatomy and cognitive function after exposure to chemotherapy, x-rays, or heavy ion irradiation as encountered during missions in deep space.

“In addition to being an excellent scientist, Dr. Allen is an excellent teacher and is dedicated to advancement of graduate education. His laboratory is a magnet for young, enthusiastic talent,” said Marjan Boerma, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the UAMS Division of Radiation Health.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in animal behavior, Allen completed his doctorate in ecology and behavior at Indiana University Bloomington. In 2013, he completed postdoctoral work in the Department of Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco.

Reinhardt was named Rho Chi Teacher of the Year. Through an email survey, students select as the awardee the educator who encourages them to be the best pharmacists they can be and who goes above and beyond for all students.

A lifelong Arkansan, she received her doctorate in pharmacy from the college in 2008 after completing her undergraduate education in pre-pharmacy at the University of Arkansas  at Fayetteville and her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from UAMS.

Reinhardt worked in community pharmacy for several years before taking a position with The Upjohn Company as a pharmaceutical sales representative. As her family grew, she returned to community pharmacy practice. Later, Reinhardt went to work at the John L. McClellan Memorial VA Outpatient pharmacy where she worked until 2005. She has been a member of the college’s faculty since 1995 and is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice.

“The students see Dr. Reinhardt for what she truly is — one of the kindest, most caring people I know,” said Amy Franks, Pharm.D., associate professor and chair of the College’s Department of Pharmacy Practice. “Her heart and genuine love for the students comes through from day 1 in the classroom. They simply adore her.”

Caldwell received the Class of 2020 Department of Pharmacy Practice Outstanding Faculty Award. He is an associate professor in the department. The students of the graduating class vote to select the awardee.

“Dr. Caldwell has a true connection with students, which comes from him investing his time to get to know them personally,” Franks said. “Students see him as the fun, lighthearted teacher who is not afraid to take chances with his classroom teaching.”

He came to UAMS in the fall of 2017 as a member of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and the director of assessment and faculty development. In these roles, Caldwell has the opportunity to teach first-year and second-year students in the classroom as well as work with many students one-on-one to support their success.

Ashton Cheatham, Pharm.D., a graduating member of the Class of 2020, worked with Caldwell through the College’s Ambassador Program. He formally presented the award to Caldwell at the College’s Honors Convocation ceremony June 13 and shared a memory of taking a preparatory exam for the national pharmacist’s licensing exam.

“I remember sitting down and taking a deep breath in preparation for the patient interaction portion, and, right before the exam started, I felt a pat on my back,” Cheatham said. “I turned around to see that it was Dr. Caldwell, and he said these words to me reassuringly, “You’re going to do well. You’ve got this.” I’m sure we can all agree that Dr. Caldwell’s professional accomplishments are admirable. But I’m here to emphasize that moments such as the one I just mentioned exemplify important character traits and soft skills that may not hold a designated spot on a résumé, but are valued and meaningful nonetheless.”

Pierce received the Class of 2020 Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Outstanding Faculty Award. He is an associate professor in the department. The students of the graduating class vote to select the awardee.

He has been a faculty member of the College of Pharmacy for 15 years.  After earning his undergraduate degree from Iowa State University, Pierce completed his doctorate in anatomy at the University of Iowa.

In 1988, he came to Arkansas to teach at the University of Central Arkansas. There, he taught gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, and physiology to physical therapy and occupational therapy students for 17 years.

In 2005, Pierce joined the faculty of the College’s Pharmaceutical Sciences Department.  He teaches in the anatomy/physiology/pathology course where he has been a course coordinator for 13 years. His research focuses on the effects of alcohol exposure on the development of the cerebellum.

“Dr. Pierce is a role model for our faculty,” said Peter Crooks, Ph.D., D.Sc., chair and professor of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “He is a gifted, inspirational and compassionate teacher and mentor and loves interacting with our students. He consistently has the best student teaching evaluations among all our faculty. As one of his students commented: ‘I could tell Dr. Pierce loved his job and that made me want to be the best student I could for him.”

McElwee received recognition as the Class of 2020 Preceptor of the Year. The students of the graduating class vote to select the awardee.

He received his doctorate in pharmacy from the College in 2010, and since shortly after graduating, has served as the assistant chief pharmacist at the Pawnee Indian Health Center in Pawnee, Oklahoma. He is a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist.

McElwee has worked to facilitate the experiential education agreement between UAMS and the Indian Health Service and to increase the experiential education opportunities available to fourth-year students each year at his practice site. He has served as the experiential education coordinator at Pawnee Indian Health Center since 2014 and as a preceptor for students from three colleges of pharmacy.

The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps commissioned him as an officer in 2011. Now a lieutenant commander, he has deployed in support the 2017/2018 hurricane responses.  He received a master’s degree in health informatics from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2018.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists across the state had to adapt their practice as well as their rotations to help our class graduate on time,” said Brent Curry, a member of the College’s Class of 2020. “The class of 2020 will forever be grateful for the devotion of these preceptors to our education. I am honored to be presenting this award today to a preceptor who greatly impacted my career as a student pharmacist during my rotation with him this school year. Lt. Commander Grant McElwee.”