2024 Dean Stuart Feldman Summer Science Institute ‘fast-paced and a lot of fun’

By: Mary Hotcaveg (Public Relations Student Assistant)

For Dhruket Patel, the Dean Stuart Feldman Summer Science Institute (DSFSSI) at the UGA College of Pharmacy was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. The rising junior at Thomasville High School in Thomasville, GA is torn between pursuing engineering or a medical-related career, which motivated him to apply to participate in DSFSSI. The program provided him with invaluable insight to aid his decision-making process. Patel particularly highlighted three segments from the institute that were memorable. “Dr. (Diego) Huet’s microbiology lecture, Dr. (Brian) Seagraves friability lab, and Dr. (Cathy) White’s preparedness labs were all high-level, fast-paced, and a lot of fun,” said the superstar participant.

The DSFSSI offers junior and senior high school students from across the state of Georgia a unique opportunity to experience college life while exploring the diverse career possibilities in pharmacy and pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences. This week-long immersive program is designed for students keen to pursue a career in the health profession. Participants engage in hands-on activities, interactive workshops, and mentorship sessions that provide a comprehensive understanding of the pharmacy field. 

Dr. Vivia Hill-Silcott, Director of the DSFSSI, also serves as the Director of Diversity Programs and Academic Support at the UGA College of Pharmacy. In 2009, Dr. Hill-Silcott aimed to spark interest in rural, lower socioeconomic, and ethnic minority students to get them excited and interested in attending pharmacy school. She began developing the program by approaching then-Dean Svein Øie and asking his permission, to which he responded with enthusiasm and excitement. Beginning with demographics, Dr. Hill-Silcott noticed that most admissions and enrollment at the College of Pharmacy were females. She then looked into ethnic minority, rural, urban, and white male students to see how the program could support them as well.

DSFSSI launched in 2010 with a limited 10 spots for eager participants. Since then, the program has grown each year, experiencing an increase in applicants and availability. This year’s program, which was held the first week of June, was special for the DSFSSI for many reasons. First, the College of Pharmacy received 240 applications with only 32 available spots, which is more than double the usual number of applicants. This made the selection process very competitive, so with her background in undergraduate admissions, Dr. Hill-Silcott took her time reading through each application and letter of recommendation, with some being read more than once. 

Another reason that made this year special is because it was the first year the program had former students graduate from UGA’s PharmD program. These former students were participants in DSFSSI in 2017, which made an impact on Dr. Hill-Silcott. She stated, “To see students come into the program and go on to earn PhDs, PharmDs, become registered nurses, and earn other health-related degrees brings me joy. It makes me notice that this work is not in vain, speaks volumes, and makes me proud of the investment we have made in DSFSSI.”

The program was named to honor the contributions of former UGA College of Pharmacy Dean, Dr. Stuart Feldman, who worked tirelessly to recruit and support ethnic minority, rural, and other underserved groups of students.  During the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of UGA in 2011, a dedication ceremony was held that honored College of Pharmacy dignitaries and milestones, including Dr. Marie Chisholm Burns ‘92, ‘93, a nationally-renowned prolific researcher, educator, and leader in health disparities, healthcare access, social justice, and the scholarship of teaching; William T. Robie ‘70, the first African American student to graduate from the College; and the naming of the summer science institute after Dr. Feldman.  In addition to his other accomplishments, Dr. Feldman founded SNPhA, or the Student National Pharmaceutical Association, which targets students who are dedicated to the profession and serving underrepresented populations.

Said Dr. Feldman, “The Summer Science Institute fulfills the purpose of the University of Georgia Foundation account established in 2002 to support diversity in the profession. During the last several years, the program has introduced high school students across Georgia to pharmacy, pharmaceutical, and biomedical sciences and become a model for other pharmacy colleges to follow suit. I am very proud of the achievements of Vivia and her colleagues and the students who have learned from the experience.”

Dr. Dayana Pimentel-Dominguez, a 2017 participant in the program stated, “I enjoyed DSFSSI because I was recognized as a leader for the first time in my life. I was anxious and shy, and I still cannot believe how much I opened up that week and engaged with fellow students from all over Georgia who all loved science.” Dayana graduated with her PharmD degree from the College of Pharmacy this spring and is moving to Boston, MA for a two-year residency in Hospital Administration and Leadership. In addition, she’ll be working on her Master’s degree through the University of North Carolina.

Today, the program is intentional in recruiting rural students to get them into the collegiate pipelines for many reasons; among them, the proliferation of pharmacy deserts in rural communities. 

For more information about the program, click here


Dhruket Patel (pictured below) works on lab projects during this year’s DSFSSI.

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