Three UNMC students named Purdue Pharma Scholars

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | February 20, 2017

Image with caption: From left, Justin Grassmeyer, Richard Sleightholm and Jamie Gehringer

From left, Justin Grassmeyer, Richard Sleightholm and Jamie Gehringer

UNMC Graduate Studies has announced its first cohort of Purdue Pharma Scholars, a program that provides funding for UNMC graduate students conducting neuroscience, pharmaceutical science or pain research. The annual scholarships are just one aspect of larger, ongoing partnership between UNMC and Purdue Pharma L.P.

The relationship is a win-win, said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.: "Pharmaceutical companies are looking more toward academic medical centers like ours for the talented graduate students and research scientists who will develop the next generation of potential therapies and products."

UNMC's inaugural Purdue Pharma Scholars are:

  • Jamie Gehringer, a third-year Ph.D. student in the medical sciences interdepartmental area, a mentee of Max Kurz, Ph.D. Gehringer studies the relationship between pain and somatosensory cortical activity in children with cerebral palsy;
  • Justin Grassmeyer, a second-year Ph.D. student in pharmacology and experimental neuroscience and an M.D./Ph.D. scholar, a mentee of Wallace Thoreson, Ph.D. Grassmeyer studies calcium-dependent properties of neurotransmission in mammalian photoreceptors;
  • Lee Sleightholm, a third-year Ph.D. student in pharmaceutical sciences and an M.D./Ph.D. scholar, a mentee of David Oupicky, Ph.D. Sleightholm studies chloroquine-altered polysaccharide drug delivery system for reducing neuropathy and enhancing tumor uptake of oxaliplatin in the setting of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Each student selected receives funding for a one-year graduate assistantship, as well as an additional scholarship of up to $10,000, half paid immediately and the rest paid when the student successfully competes for a national fellowship award (federal or national-society funding).

The scholars will have access to research facilities at Purdue Pharma during the year, with travel expenses paid by Purdue Pharma. Purdue Pharma research personnel also will visit with the scholars on the UNMC campus at least once a year. Scholars will present their research at upcoming Purdue-UNMC Neuroscience Research Conferences, held annually on UNMC's Omaha campus.

The greater partnership between UNMC and the biopharmaceutical company promotes, develops and expands research and educational exchange in the neurosciences , related to diseases of the central nervous system.

"The partnership blends UNMC's extensive and growing expertise and training programs in many health disciplines with Purdue Pharma's strong track record of drug discovery, formulation and development," said vice chancellor for academic affairs Dele Davies, M.D.

"Having more and deeper partnerships with industry is critical to helping our investigators understand and commercialize their intellectual property as well as help our investigators identify trainees that might be interested and prepared for job opportunities in the commercial sector," said vice chancellor for research Jennifer Larsen, M.D.

Hazel Williams
February 20, 2017 at 11:02 AM

To Lee, my nephew, so very proud of your accomplishments! Congratulations! God bless you!

Hazel Williams
February 20, 2017 at 10:57 AM

Congratulations to all! May the Lord always be with you all! Great work!

Jerrie Dayton
February 20, 2017 at 9:25 AM

Congratulations to all of you. Very impressive work.

Sara Pirtle
February 20, 2017 at 6:53 AM

Congratulations to all three, and a special shout-out to Lee Sleightholm, a very active member of the Student Alliance for Global Health.