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My Manchester Story

Carrie Hoefer

by User Not Found | Jun 06, 2019

Dr. Carrie Hoefer, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacogenomics, discusses Manchester’s growing Pharmacogenomics (PGx) Program and how she adapted to life in the Midwest.

 “What excites you about Manchester’s Pharmacogenomics Program?”

“I’m most excited for the fact that we were the first in the country to have a master’s program in PGx. Now we’re starting to see a bunch of schools popping up with pharmacogenomics programs, which just increases the awareness of it. To add to that, I’m also excited that we’re offering a dual degree program. When I was doing my Ph.D. at the University of Buffalo, we had a dual degree with the pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacy, and one of my favorite dual degree students lost her brother to leukemia. She decided she wanted to go into cancer research, especially in pharmacogenomics, and now she works at the Cleveland Cancer Clinic. It’s nice to see that the dual degree is helping people further their careers and their passions.”

“Can you tell me more about the Dual degree opportunity?”

“Manchester’s dual degree program is one of the only programs I’ve ever seen that lets pharmacy students finish in four years, completely done, with both a pharmacy degree and a master’s in pharmacogenomics. It’s more challenging than the regular Pharmacy Program – you have more workload and more to balance, but the students we have are awesome and I know each one has the ability to succeed.”

“Is there an area of PGx in which you have a special interest?”

“PGx is already a very specialized science, but there are different aspects starting to sprout up like nutritionomics, which I’m reading about right now actually. It looks at how food interacts with your genes and how it can make you healthier, or which exercise habits will work best with this person. So that’s a piece of it, but my favorite aspect is epigenetics, which is a layer on top of pharmacogenomics. I think of pharmacogenomics as an instruction manual for your body, but epigenetics is a layer on top. Are you a smoker? Do you live in a high smog area? Do you live in a sunny area and have a lot of Vitamin D? Epigenetics looks at factors that can change throughout your lifetime based on different factors around you – it really looks at what makes you, you.”

What is one thing you hope students will get out of your classroom?”

“I try to teach my students the importance of communication in presentations. Everything is at your fingertips now, and you can study it until you can regurgitate it word for word, but that’s not going to help you in the real world. What’s going to help you is how you can present the information to somebody who doesn’t know it and can’t relate to it. I make my students do a lot of presentations, a lot of writing, and come up with spur of the moment ‘what do you think about this?’ conversations, because those are the real life situations you’re going to be put in. I do love teaching the science, but the most important thing to me is how students can interact once they get out of school.”

What do you love about Manchester?”

I’m an East Coast girl, so the Midwest was really hard for me to adapt to. We are go, go, go all the time, and it was really hard at first. Within my first year teaching here, my sister had passed away from complications with drug addiction. The craziest part to me is that I actually get to teach stuff like this – about drug addiction and how it changes your epigenetics. But no one else at MU taught in pharmacogenomics at the time. I told my colleagues what happened, and they just said, “Of course, go home, we’ll see you when you can come back.” It was the first time I had been in a job situation where it felt like people actually cared. That would never happen on the East Coast. When I got back, I had flowers on my desk, my students bought me this big care package, I had cards slipped under my door, and it was the first time I’d actually felt like MU was family. And ever since then it’s been this big family to me, and I couldn’t imagine not being here.”

“I see you have a lamp from A Christmas Story on your desk – I’m guessing you’re a big fan?”

“Yes! I love A Christmas Story! When I was little, I use to wake up early Christmas morning and I’d go into my big sister’s room and try to get her excited and wake up to open presents! She’d always tell me to go away and leave her alone. Since she had a TV in her room, she’d turn it on for me and, of course, A Christmas Story was always playing. So ever since then I’ve loved it and have continued the tradition with my little sister. To this day, we get the biggest kick out of singing, “Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra.” Every Halloween I’m the pink nightmare bunny from the movie; I’ve been to the Christmas Story house – everything. I love it.