It started out, years ago, as a little freckle.
But as the spot on Carol Stegall's foot over time grew larger and different in appearance, it worried her to the point that in 2008, the Terry resident visited her family physician.
He performed a freezing procedure on the suspicious spot. It got worse. A plastic surgeon's diagnosis of melanoma was the beginning of years of surgeries, drugs that left Stegall feverish and barely able to crawl across the floor, and a sinking feeling as melanoma popped up in another area, then another.
Today, Carol Stegall's cancer hasn't disappeared. But a promising injectable immunotherapy treatment she's receiving at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is helping to shrink the spots, giving Stegall hope that her disease will retreat.
“We've been told that with all of the advancements being made, that if someone is going to have melanoma, now's the time to have it,” Stegall said. “I feel good. If I didn't know something was wrong, most of the time I wouldn't.”
UMMC physicians Dr. Shannon Orr, assistant professor of transplant surgery and a surgical oncologist, and Dr. Natale Sheehan, assistant professor of medicine and a medical oncologist, are collaborating to provide Stegall's care just miles from her house. She was faced with driving eight hours to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston every two weeks to receive injections of the drug Imlygic, an oncolytic virus therapy that received Federal Drug Administration approval in October 2015 for the treatment of melanoma lesions that can't be removed completely by surgery.
It was the longstanding relationship between Dr. Merrick Ross, a surgical oncologist at Anderson who Orr trained under while a fellow there, and a conversation between Stegall and a friend who works at UMMC, that got Stegall's treatments started earlier this spring. Imlygic is administered nowhere else in Mississippi. No physicians administer it in Alabama or Louisiana, with the closest location being Memphis, Orr said.
It takes about an hour for Stegall to receive the treatment at the Multidisciplinary Melanoma Clinic at the UMMC Cancer Institute. The clinic is the only one its kind in Mississippi.
Giving patients the best of care may happen as much at the Legislature as it does in the variety of pharmacy practice settings, according to Lauren Lyles of Jackson and Cody Clifton of Walnut, two 2016 University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy graduates.
The two founded the University of Mississippi Advocacy Council (UMAC) within the School of Pharmacy to encourage students to let their voices be heard on public policy.
The council, said Clifton, “was founded when two students, Lauren and I, knew that there was a need for additional policy and advocacy awareness and involvement among student pharmacists at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy. Student pharmacists need to be engaged in these types of advocacy activities as young professionals because events today determine what the future of pharmacy will be when we begin practicing.”
With help from Dr. Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs in the School of Pharmacy, Lyles and Clifton put the inspiration from participating in Dr. Ross's Leadership and Advocacy Class and attending the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and American Pharmacists Association conventions to work by forming the council while students in Oxford. The mission of UMAC is to provide opportunities to develop students as advocates, coordinate policy impacting pharmacy and health-related issues, and engage external constituencies to advocate for policy and legislative initiatives. Since its inception, the council has taken a leadership role in coordinating student involvement in Pharmacy Capitol Day at our state legislature, providing support for students who attend advocacy-focused national meetings, and hosting guest speakers to discuss public policy.
“While at the NCPA meeting, Cody and I attended different student sessions about leadership, advocacy and entrepreneurship,” Lyles said. “We learned that the profession of pharmacy is dependent on inspiring practicing pharmacists and getting pharmacy students involved to promote awareness and education on pharmacy legislative affairs to help facilitate optimal patient care throughout this health-care reform.”
“Our ultimate goal,” said Clifton, “is to ensure patients are getting the absolute best care possible. We all know that health care and pharmacy are ever-evolving. Now, more than ever, student pharmacists' role in advocating for our profession can help usher in the new era of pharmacy that we are striving for - provider status. The University of Mississippi Advocacy Council allows an avenue for student pharmacists to become involved in these aspects and to encourage them in discovering their voice.”
Growing up in Madison, Miss., John Henry Dasinger wanted to be a dentist, just like his sister and brother-in-law.
However, during his time as an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut, Dasinger admits he wasn't the best student in the biology department. He jokes he “majored in swimming” instead while competing for the Division I Huskies.
After graduation, someone told Dasinger to go work in a laboratory to become a more competitive candidate for dental school.
"It was the best advice I ever got,” Dasinger said. After a year in the lab, he shifted his career goal to biomedical research. On May 27, he will graduate from the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences with a Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics.
And while UMMC does not have a swim team, Dasinger stays competitive by playing intramural sports. His favorite is volleyball, playing with two-time reigning intramural champions Can't Block This.
An assistant professor of radiation oncology will study gamma knife surgery in New York as part of an exclusive fellowship, while six School of Medicine residents receive the Gold standard in teaching excellence at UMMC.
The Medical Center is proud to announce the following additions to its faculty and leadership staff.