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College of Pharmacy

Alumnus Balances Teaching and Research in the Face of COVID-19

Posted on: April 9, 2020

All our lives have been impacted in the past few weeks due to COVID-19. Several professors at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy have found themselves focused on the pandemic not only in finding alternative ways to hold classes with students but also in joining those in the fight to quell the spread of the disease.

Brandon Bookstaver, ‘04 Pharm.D., and director of the infectious diseases residency program for UofSC COP and Prisma Health Richland, is balancing his time between working with students virtually and working with data to help better understand the novel coronavirus.

As an associate professor in infectious diseases, Bookstaver now has the opportunity to follow a disease that affords new research opportunities and allows him to maximize his critical thinking skills in specialty areas that initially attracted him to study infectious disease as a pharmacy student.  “I enjoy epidemiology, microbiology and the public health aspects of infectious diseases,” he says.

Bookstaver typically has a wide array of responsibilities. “I may teach a didactic course in the morning, head over to Prisma Midlands to work on patient care initiatives alongside my infectious diseases resident, then join a conference call for a professional organization in the afternoon,” he says. “I love that my days have zero monotony.”

We’re very fortunate at UofSC and in the state of South Carolina to have such an incredible infectious diseases pharmacy and medical team.

Brandon Bookstaver, Pharm.D.  Director, Residency & Fellowship Training

Bookstaver normally rounds out his day by having discussions around research with his infectious diseases colleagues. “We’re very fortunate at UofSC and in the state of South Carolina to have such an incredible ID pharmacy and medical team,” he adds.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant changes to most of our lives, whether we are considered essential employees, working from home or teaching virtual classes. Bookstaver was on clinical service when the pandemic presented in March still managing his day-to-day stewardship activities. “I was also working with colleagues analyzing emerging data, implementing COVID-19 treatment management guidelines,” he says, “as well as figuring out how we would effectively navigate teaching and precepting from a distance.”

While he and his colleagues are still teaching and precepting, he stresses that the current health climate is dynamic. meaning data are still being analyzed and local management guidelines are being augmented.

“We are also developing a statewide registry to assess data on short- and long-term treatment safety and effectiveness in patients with COVID-19.” Bookstaver’s team from across the state will work in conjunction with South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) which currently is only tracking confirmed cases of COVID-19 rather than outcomes.

Bookstaver was unsure of what to expect as this coronavirus found its way into the U.S. “We have had these viruses in the past, including SARS and MERS, but they have been mostly isolated and really did not greatly impact the U.S.,” Bookstaver notes. “It was clear after a few weeks that this was different.”

Bookstaver wants everyone to understand that data are being produced at an incredible rate, which results in frequently changing recommendations for disease management. He cautions about interpretation of data related to COVID-19 saying, “we must be careful in reading only headlines and not abandon a healthy skepticism.”

“Currently, there are no established treatments,” he says, “although there are experimental treatments and potential options, but as of now, nothing with strong data. Hopefully, that will change, even as someone might be reading this.”

In the meantime, Bookstaver emphasizes that everyone should continue to practice good hygiene, social distancing and following all local, state and national directives. “I just want to thank everyone,” he says. “Everyone is a piece of this puzzle. Everyone is on the frontline of something in their lives and careers. Right now, it is pharmacists and health care workers in the fight against COVID-19.”


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