Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rotation 4: Nuclear Medicine

Posted by Alison Van Kampen at Sunday, October 28, 2012

My fourth rotation this year was at Covance Laboratories in Madison, WI.  This was a unique experience because I not only learned a lot about nuclear medicine but also about Phase 1 research.  I spent the majority of my time at the Clinical Research Unit where they primarily conduct research in humans examining the AME properties of new products.

In this setting I was able to observe how radio-labeling is used to detect drug serum concentrations, route of administration, route of excretion, and length of time that the medication is in the body.  The role of the pharmacists in this setting was primarily drug preparation, determining if and how client specifications could be met, and participating in meetings with clients for quality assurance.  The pharmacists also were responsible for ensuring equipment integrity and that all staff were knowledgeable and followed standard operating procedures.  

I learn a lot about how phase 1 research is carried out, about imaging studies, precautions that are taken during preparations with radioactive or "hot" material, and why and how these products are used.  While I was there I primarily attended client meetings with my preceptor, observed preparations, helped with equipment qualification, worked on projects, and went on "field trips."  

Client meetings were interesting because I was able to see all the work that goes into setting up research.  Several times each week, a company with a new product that is currently working with or may work with Covance on a study, will have a teleconference with employees at Covance.  This meeting can be anything from going into great detail about how the study will be conducted (number of participants, types of participants, route of administration, special monitoring, etc) to periodic checks during a study for quality assurance.

The preparation was different for each study and so each presented it's own challenges.  Each study needed to have a mock preparation that was evaluated for appropriate strength, purity, and contamination.  They prepared sterile and non-sterile as well as "hot" (radioactive) and "cold" (non-radioactive) products.  Products were prepared on regular lab benches, in vertical flow hoods, and in ISO class 5 glove boxes, which, by the way, are very difficult to use. Just putting on the three pairs of gloves was  very difficult on it's own, let alone try to avoid contaminating the products.  I also did a qualification of two of the pipettes.  Twice a year they need to check all of their equipment to ensure that it is working properly and is accurate.  This was a way that I could learn and contribute to the clinic, and I am proud to say that I was able to pass both of the pipettes, which is more difficult that it sounds.

I was also given some small and large projects to work on during the rotation.  The main projects that I worked on were two journal clubs that were related to nuclear medicine and that I presented to the pharmacists, medication coordinators, and the physicians working at the clinic.  I also had two other presentations to give which were related to some of the work being done at the clinic.  One presentation was on appropriate aseptic technique using non-sterile product and the other was a large project about vaccines, specifically influenza vaccine produced in tobacco plants. This second project I found to be especially interesting and was comparable to a second seminar presentation.  So even though this was a lot of work, I now have two projects that I can possibly present, should it be required in any future interviews.  Not a bad deal. :)  I also had a few small projects like calculating the amount of hot and cold drug needed for a study, calculating how much radioactivity each patient would receive per dose, and looking up information on different radioactive products.

Finally I was sent on "field trips." The field trips were day trips to nuclear pharmacies so I could see how radio-labeled products were used in imaging and treatment of certain disease states. This was really cool when I visited the University of Wisconsin Hospital and saw not only how they prepared the products but all the imaging equipment and even where they were able to create radioactive particles in their cyclotron.  I know sounds like a mad science project and that is what it looked like too, but it was really neat.

Last thing, Madison is a really cool city.  There are a lot of fun things to do there and even though the rotation has a lot of projects, you get time to work on them during the day and can still spend time enjoying the city.  Cool things to do include going to the free zoo, Saturday farmers market, Wisconsin football games, trails near Picnic Point, lots of bars and restaurants down town Madison, and you must try cheese curds, delicious.  Overall, this was a pretty good rotation, very different and very interesting.

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