It’s awards season at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), and every year the Health Sciences program honors an outstanding undergraduate student and graduate student for their excellence in academics, service, and leadership. Katherine Lemming, a graduating student with a Bachelors of Science in Health Sciences in the pharmacogenomics program at SMHS, is the recipient of the health sciences outstanding undergraduate student award. This is Lemming’s second bachelor’s degree. She earned her first bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a minor in chemistry from the University of South Carolina. Joshua D’Angelo, a third-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student, received the health sciences outstanding graduate student award. Lemming and D’Angelo received their awards during the Health Sciences program graduation celebration, May 18. Also honored was Larissa May, M.D., M.S.P.H., assistant professor of emergency medicine and associate director of clinical research in the department of emergency medicine at SMHS and a student in the Clinical and Translational Research (CTR) program in the department of clinical research and leadership in health sciences. She received the alumni association prize for her commitment to the university and its community, academic and extracurricular accomplishments, and leadership.
Honored to be recognized for her hard work and research efforts in pharmacology and genomics, Lemming is extremely humbled by this distinction. “It’s a great honor to be selected among such an elite group of students,” she said. Lemming’s list of accolades is growing; earlier this year she was honored by GW President Steven Knapp and GW Provost Steven Lerman as the distinguished scholar for SMHS at the University-wide academic awards dinner.
Pharmacogenomics combines what Lemming calls her two favorite subjects, chemistry and biology. It involves analyzing how the genetic makeup of an individual affects his or her response to drugs. This also includes reducing a patient’s side effects to drugs and determining the correct dosage for a patient, says Lemming.
As a senior at the University of South Carolina, Lemming found out about the Pharmacogenomics program at GW. The program offered what she saw as the right combination of real world experiences, coupled with intensive online and innovative in-class learning. The Pharmacogenomics program is the product of a partnership between SMHS and Shenandoah University's Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy, and is taught at the George Washington University's Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, Va. “The ultimate goal of pharmacogenomics is personalized medicine,” says Lemming. “I am extremely interested in pharmacogenomics because it is the future of pharmacy.”
Last summer, Lemming considered forgoing pharmacy to purse a Ph.D. It was the mentorship of Travis O'Brien, Ph.D., associate research professor in the department of pharmacology and physiology at SMHS, which helped Lemming determine that pharmacy was ultimately what she wanted to do. “Professor O'Brien put me in contact with people from both sides—pharmacy and the Ph.D. program—not necessarily steering me in one direction or the other but really helping me determine what the benefits of each program are and what was best for me,” said Lemming. Lemming embodies the ideal future clinician according to O'Brien. “She has a real passion for biomedical science and research, which she hopes to someday incorporate into her clinical practice as a pharmacist,” O'Brien added.
After graduation, Lemming plans to spend her summer mentoring young girls as part of the Genomic Opportunities for Girls In Research Labs (GO GIRL) program. This educational outreach program is designed to provide a unique opportunity for young women interested in gaining hands-on laboratory experience in molecular biology and genomics. “I love being a part of this because it exposes young girls to what the field of science has to offer,” she said. “It shows girls that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.