Monday, September 27, 2010

Posted by Shelley Ling at Monday, September 27, 2010

I have always appreciated the importance of research and how it translates to the standard of care at the bedside. A PharmD Investigations Project, which gives pharmacy students research experience, is a unique component of the U-M PharmD program. We get to pick an area of interest and to conduct a guided research project, from writing a proposal, to doing the actual project, and then presenting it in a seminar setting. Students also have the option of presenting a therapeutic topic for their seminar if they so choose.

I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Stringer for my project. It is focused on a rare but potentially fatal pediatric condition known as plastic bronchitis. Its hallmark symptom is the formation of thick, rubbery, bronchial casts that take the shape of the airways where they are formed (see photograph). My project is on supporting the use of inhaled tissue plasminogen activator, a fibrinolytic approved for myocardial infarctions and strokes, in this patient population. Dr. Stringer has challenged me to think about research topics critically as well as given me great advice on presenting a research topic.

As the first student to present my PharmD seminar in my class, I felt stressed about the limited time to prepare. In response to my nervousness, Dr. Stringer said, "We are going to set the bar high!" and "I will do everything I can to make sure you do great on your seminar." Both comments were very reassuring. I delivered my seminar successfully on September 24. In retrospect, I could have prepared a little more for the Q&A session. Here are some tips I can offer anyone who is presenting a seminar for the first time.
  1. Start preparing as early as possible. If you have a rotation that is less demanding, start now! It will take longer than you think.
  2. Think of your seminar as telling a story. Give your audience enough details to understand the material. But also remember to keep it "simple and stupid."
  3. State off the bat why your topic is important, so your audience know why they should pay attention to you.
  4. Keep your slides simple. Try to follow the "7 (words across) by 7 (rows down) Rule." Your slides are just a tool that supplements your verbal presentation, not take the place of it.
  5. Practice, practice, and practice. Use tone of voice, pauses, and choice of words to inspire your audience and keep them interested.
  6. Use visuals. We are all visual creatures and a picture is worth a thousand words.
  7. Preparing for anticipated questions will make you less nervous during the Q&A session!
  8. Choose an advisor whose work habits match yours. I am very happy and very fortunate to have an advisor who is very attentive to my areas of improvement and is patient enough to teach and guide me. I could not have completed this seminar successfully without her.

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