HAMPTON, Va. (May 4, 2020) – Hampton University Pharm.D. student Margaret “Morgan” Morales has been named the winner of the 2020 Student Investigator Award during the 29th Annual Pediatric Pharmacy Association (PPA) Meeting, April 29- May 3, 2020. Morales presented her poster virtually when the conference had become a virtual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Congratulations to Ms. Margaret Morales for winning this prestigious award. Her recognition by the Pediatric Pharmacy Association shows the quality, high-level education she has received at Hampton University,” said Dr. William R. Harvey, Hampton University President.
Morales, who is originally from Fayetteville, NC, will be completing her Pharm.D. degree this month. While on a five-week pharmacy practice experience at CHKD, Morales was learning from clinical pharmacists in pediatric critical care.
“Children in the hospital may require IV or liquid oral controlled substance medicines, like morphine, especially in intensive care units. On the units, there are specific waste management systems designed to safely and securely dispose of any excess controlled medication not given to the patient. Oral medications have lots of sugar in them and are sticky, which leaves residue on the systems. This could potentially harbor harmful microorganisms. While on rotation at CHKD, some pharmacy mentors and I decided to investigate,” Morales said.
Once Morales saw the culture findings after their investigation, she conducted literature research to determine if the specific types of bacteria or fungi that were found have been documented to cause infections in people at other institutions. Bacteria and fungi are found everywhere in the environment and even in some parts of the body. Some bacteria are normal flora and do not cause infections, and some bacteria will usually only cause infections in people who have a compromised immune system. Morales found that some of the systems contained microorganisms that have been documented to cause infections in these vulnerable populations.
“These systems are not touched by patients. We just want to avoid any potential reservoirs for potentially harmful microorganisms in patient care areas,” Morales said.
Around the time of Morales’ research, CHKD was updating a cleaning protocol of those systems. The research presented at the meeting may prompt other hospitals to check their own waste management systems and update their cleaning procedures. Morales’ research concluded that despite some drains appearing clean, they could still harbor potentially harmful organisms and should be regularly cleaned.
Morales presented the poster of her research and findings at the 2020 PPA Meeting, along with many other students from around the country. The judges looked at the posters and then announced the finalists, and Morales found out that she was a finalist. After that, she had a separate virtual conference where she had to answer questions about her poster. On Sunday, May 3rd, it was announced that Morales was the winner of the Student Investigator Award.
“We are extremely proud of Ms. Morales’ achievement. Margaret has excelled throughout her time at Hampton and represents the quality of our program and our students,” said Dr. Anand Iyer, Dean of the Hampton University School of Pharmacy. “On behalf of the entire School of Pharmacy family, I extent to her my heartiest congratulations.”
This summer, Morales will be working a 1-year, post-graduate residency at Riverside Regional Medical Center, where she is currently interning. Her husband is in the Navy and she has two sons, a 4-year-old, and an 8-month-old.
“I’ve had a great experience at Hampton and in the Pharm.D. program. I appreciate the small class sizes for pharmacy and the relationships that I have developed with faculty. I think that my participation in the Student Society in Health System Pharmacists has also helped me develop clinical skills and prepare me for my career. Working with sites like CHKD to provide enriching rotation experiences really helps students get the experience that they need to be good pharmacists. I’m really looking forward to my future,” Morales said.