A diverse class, many hopes for MS Medical Cannabis students

As the last cohort of students enrolled in University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP)‘s Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics program, seated in front of him in the large multipurpose room, Andrew Coop, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, UMSOP, extended a warm welcome while asking an important question.

Program Director Leah Sera welcomes Class 2023 to the Fall Medical and Therapeutic Cannabis Proficiency Symposium.

“Now we’re giving you the science training,” Coop said, addressing the new cohort of students. “You’re going to get the clinical background. You are going to get the background of negative results. You are going to get the training in law. You’re going to have the analytical baggage and you’re going to have it all. It’s going to be a long journey. What are you going to do with this? “

Students at the UMSOP MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, the only one of its kind in the country, were eager to answer this question as they gathered on September 17 for the program’s fall symposium, kicking off their training in booming industry. Over 200 students attended the event at Shady Grove Universities (USG) in Rockville, Maryland.

Leah Sera, PharmD, MA, Program Director and Associate Professor, UMSOP, hosted the Class of 2023, made up of students aged 20 to 73, from across the United States, Washington, DC, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Costa Rica .

“There are a lot of uncertainties in the world right now, and I know many of you are taking on the challenge of this program in addition to the increased professional and personal responsibilities,” Sera said. “Thank you for choosing to be a part of this program and for helping to advance cannabis medicine. “

Launched in August 2019, the program equips students with the knowledge and skills to support patients and the medical cannabis industry, complement existing research in the field, and develop well-informed medical cannabis policy. Based at USG, the two-year program is designed for anyone who has completed an undergraduate degree and wishes to pursue a career in the medical cannabis industry.

Sera said reading the student presentations on a bulletin board ahead of the rally at USG had made her excited about the group’s diversity.

“We have students with a background in science and medicine, students who have studied law, public health, business, political science, communication and students with a background in many other fields”, a- she declared. “I believe this diversity will make this experience all the richer for you, and for those of us who teach and support the program.”

The morning session also featured remarks from Anne Khademian, PhD, Executive Director, USG, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University System of Maryland; Carrie Hempel Sanderoff, TO DO, osteopathic physician and owner of Hempel-Sanderoff Wellness, and MS program assistant; Jon B. Gettman, PhD, associate professor in criminology and criminal justice, Shenandoah University; and Michelle Wright, MS ’21, president of Certus Consulting, and former student of the program’s first class, who shared her story about the benefits of medical cannabis for her 29-year-old autistic son.

The MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics is the country’s first graduate program dedicated to the study of medical cannabis. It aims to meet the needs of all those interested in furthering their knowledge of medical cannabis, including healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists; scientists and regulators; producers and owners of dispensaries; and policy and industry professionals. Online courses are designed to accommodate students with or without a background in science or medicine. In-person symposia are typically held once per semester to provide students with opportunities to network with their peers, as well as meet and interact with experts in medical cannabis science, therapeutics, and policy.

The program graduated its first cohort of 132 students in May 2021.

For Alexandra harris, a California field applications scientist who works in cancer biology, enrolling in the UMSOP program is a way to break down the stigma around cannabis in order to promote cannabis research. Harris was raised by cannabis advocates, who used cannabis to treat her Lyme disease and shingles. “I appreciate cannabis for its medicinal value,” she said. She is now vice-president of the Medical Cannabis Student Association, the program’s student organization.

Classmate James schwartz, a former critical care nurse and medical cannabis grower for more than two decades in Oregon, has lobbied in Washington, DC for what he calls reasonable cannabis policy. He signed up for the program to stay at the forefront of the “cannabis revolution”.

“Personally, I have found my life somehow changed and healed thanks to cannabis,” he said. “My best friend died when I was in college. It set me on the path to uncomfortable alcohol and other drug use and left me in quite a deep depression. And when I finally eliminated these other harmful toxic substances from my body and found cannabis, after using it for pleasurable reasons, in college, I really began to understand the therapeutic potential of the drug. cannabis. And that’s when I started to really dive into the research that was out there at the time, which 22 years ago was relatively small.

“As I look into the future where I want to be, the credibility of an accredited Masters program in Cannabinoid Science and Therapeutics will be helpful in continuing to stay at the forefront of cannabis science, which has become the passion of my life, ”he said. .

Carlos Hernandez, MD, traveled from Costa Rica to attend the symposium. “It was a very long journey. I had to get vaccinated, because in my country, vaccines are not available, and I had to get vaccinated a month ago in Miami, then send all this information to the university, ”he said. -he declares.

A general practitioner, Hernandez, known as “Doctor Cannabis” in his country, has prescribed cannabinoids to patients for four years.

With his master’s degree, “I hope to bring all this information to advocacy and policy making in my country, as we are on the verge of actually producing and regulating cannabis in my country,” he said. declared.

Megan Arnold, an elementary school music teacher in New Hampshire, was inspired by her husband, a nurse, who saw the benefits of medical cannabis in his work with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“His experience with veterans and PTSD, and my own personal experience with PTSD and cannabis treatment inspired me to do more research and understand what was going on,” said Arnold. “And the more I searched, the more intrigued I was by what I was learning versus what I had learned.”

After teaching music for 22 years, she took a leave of absence to immerse herself in the MS in medical cannabis program.

“Advocacy led me to this program,” she said. “To me, it seems like a way to learn and keep teaching, even if it’s not music.”

As a teacher, she has seen many children with ADHD being treated with Ritalin and Adderall with terrible results. “I see kids who have trauma and all kinds of things that could benefit from cannabis in the future, if we knew enough about it. So I’m here to do something about it.

With more free time during the pandemic, she began to research university programs in the science of medical cannabis. The UMSOP program appeared in a Google search.

“I was like, oh, that doesn’t make any sense at all. But it makes all the sense in the world, ”she said.

During the afternoon breakout sessions, students met with healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, scientists and advocates to learn about the variety of pathways. professionals in the industry.

“You are the pioneers. And you decide what you want to do. But if any of you are interested in advocacy, please contact us. Because this is an area that if we want to professionalize this area, we have to educate others. So you guys get this education, you take this trip, so you can educate others, ”Coop said.

About Mark A. Tomlin

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