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FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: NIMISH PATEL

January 29, 2016

Nimish Patel, Pharm.D, PhD, AAHIVP, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Would you briefly describe your educational background and training?

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I was a student at the Albany College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences (ACPHS) and received a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2006.  Upon graduation, I moved to Canada to complete a specialty pharmacy residency in HIV medicine in a joint-affiliated position at the University of Toronto/University Health Network – Toronto General Hospital Immunodeficiency Clinic and McGill University Health Center – L’Institut Thoracique de Montreal.

In the fall of 2007, I returned to my alma mater to pursue a 3-year fellowship in infectious disease outcomes research under the tutelage of Dr. Thomas Lodise. The fellowship was instrumental, helping me to refine my interests in pharmacoepidemiology. During my fellowship training, I completed a Master of Science degree in Epidemiology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, School of Public Health. In 2010, I joined the faculty at ACPHS. Concurrent to my faculty appointment, I worked on a part-time Doctor of Philosophy degree in Epidemiology, which was conferred in 2014.

And would you please describe your current research interests and position at ACPHS?

Since 2010, I have been an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the ACPHS.  As a faculty member, I have found my calling within the domains of HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) infections. My research mission is to expand our understanding exposure-outcome relationships in HIV and HCV via a pharmacoepidemiologic approach. Recently, there has been considerable drug development in these domains, which is incredibly timely as heroin use is on the rise among young and middle-aged individuals.

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The Rise in new HCV Cases due to Injection Drug use, Stratified by Urban and Nonurban Locales (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

There have been outbreaks of HIV and HCV as a result of heroin use, most notably in the Midwest.  As a result, there is a strong interest to use these medications to treat existing infections and minimize new infections (Governor Cuomo’s blueprint to end AIDS). This growing need has enabled me to secure funding to evaluate the pharmacoepidemiology of these medications. More specifically, my focus is the population-based frequency of drug-drug interactions if HIV/HCV-infected populations are administered novel therapies. These efforts have transpired into a collection of peer-reviewed publications that have gained traction among individuals who are considering adding medications to formularies for health-systems and third-party payers.

A large component of my research program is the involvement of students. I utilize students to collect data, engage them in research and inspire them to pursue higher order careers in pharmacy. I value their contributions and try to find professional development opportunities for them such as co-authoring papers. My involvement with students led me to create a 3-part professional elective series entitled “Applied Methods in Epidemiologic Research”, whereby students are exposed to a variety of research activities from data collection to manuscript preparation. The goal is for students to have a published abstract or paper upon completion of the series.

Other teaching that I do at ACPHS involves the Infectious Diseases therapeutics module and Epidemiology I and II electives. My applied clerkship teaching occurs at the Stratton Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center where I maintain a clinical practice site on the inpatient antimicrobial monitoring team. My service occurs in a variety of venues. 

Locally, I collaborated with one of the nurse practitioners at my practice site to develop an HIV/hepatitis C coinfection clinic. The goal of this interprofessional clinic is to eradicate hepatitis C in all coinfected Veterans by the end of 2016. Nationally, I am involved in the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists’ Recognitions Committee and served as Chair in 2013-2014. I am also a member of the American Academy of HIV Medicine and have served as a credentialing examination item writer.

Who or what influenced your career most?

Without a doubt, Dr. Thomas Lodise influenced my career the most. I met Dr. Lodise when I was 20 years old and our relationship spans nearly my entire adult life. As a student, I spent the summer between my P1 and P2 years collecting data for Dr. Lodise’s research program. After that summer, he hired me to continue doing research for him. My responsibilities in research grew. I was immersed in higher order tasks. We prepared abstracts to be presented at an international meeting. He subsidized travel costs for a fellow student and I to go to Nice, France to present our research, where I fell in love with presenting data and talking to people about the research I was doing.

During my residency, Dr. Lodise and I kept in touch. I started interviewing for infectious disease fellowships and I would constantly complain to him that there was nothing that suited my tastes. He used this information as a vehicle to develop his own fellowship program and invited me to come back to ACPHS as his first fellow.

Any advice to offer prospective students and/or pharmacists?

My best piece of advice is to treat what you’re passionate about like a business. If you neglect a business for three months, it will fail. If you neglect your research/teaching/service/relationships/health for three months, guess what will happen? For myself, a big part of my success has come from being proactive and making a plan. Planning is key. I try to plan my professional activities four–six weeks in advance. These activities are usually tied to a realistic and measurable goal. These goals do not necessarily have to be large or all-encompassing. I find that I accomplish much more when I set smaller, attainable goals.

In all aspects in life, there are setbacks that may derail your ability to achieve a certain goal. This is a natural part of life. In your planning process, give yourself an extra 10% to account for unforeseeable setbacks that may hinder your ability to achieve a goal. These setbacks are important for growth and help you realize that you can maneuver multiple situations simultaneously and keep moving towards what you want. If you fall short, re-evaluate what went wrong and create a catch-up plan. Once you achieve your goal, challenge yourself and something more ambitious. It is an iterative process that will contribute to your professional growth and help you achieve several tangible accomplishments in the course of a year.

Finally, what’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?

…that I left ACPHS after my freshman year. Prior to college, I was an avid figure skater in Canada. During freshman year, I met my ice dancing partner in Montreal. Our body types were perfectly aligned and our on-ice chemistry was strong. At the end of my freshman year, I told Janis Fisher (the former ACPHS registrar) to pull me out of the Pharm.D. program so I could pursue my skating career.

We spent that summer doing 20 hours of on-ice and 12 hours of off-ice training each week. What is underappreciated is how expensive competitive ice skating can be. It is a sport that can accumulate costs in excess of $30,000 per year. My skating partner and I came from very similar white-collar backgrounds and education was a critical component of our families’ identities. Training over 30 hours each week was not conducive to surviving a full pre-med course load at McGill University. At the end of the summer, we made the difficult decision to choose education over skating. My skating partner went on to attend medical school at McGill and is now a pathologist. For me, it made no sense to do pre-med degree since I’d already finished one year of pharmacy school. I frantically called Janis Fisher days before classes started and asked if my seat had been filled. She said ‘no’ and told me to have my dad bring his checkbook when he dropped me off. The rest is history.

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