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Elkanah Linder PharmD’21 Lands Fulbright Scholarship to Continue Research in Sweden

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on April 22, 2021

Elkanah LinderFor Elkanah Linder PharmD’21, earning the prestigious Fulbright Foreign Scholarship is more than just a chance to conduct research abroad, but allows her to continue to investigate an issue to which she intends to dedicate her career. 

Linder was awarded the scholarship to travel to Sweden to examine the country’s environmental policies surrounding pharmaceuticals and the disposal of prescription medications. She began investigating the topic under the guidance of Julie Becker, PhD, MPH, associate professor of health policy, and with the assistance of Andrew Peterson, PharmD, PhD, John Wyeth Dean Emeritus, analyzing pharmaceutical disposal policy in the US and 7 other countries as well as the impact of prescription medication when it is released into the environment. 

“When I come back, I want to focus on public policy, probably go to grad school,” Linder said. “It opens up a lot of doors. I plan on dedicating my career to this work.”

Linder learned of a Swedish classification system that evaluates pharmaceuticals based on their bioaccumulation, degradation, and environmental risk in the water. She will spend her Fulbright year, beginning in August 2021, examining how the system was developed, factors that influenced, or hindered its implementation, and what extra training or research was needed to introduce it. Linder’s goal is to bring back what she learns in Sweden to implement a similar system in the U.S and abroad. In Sweden, Linder will be working under the mentorship of a professor of pharmacoepidemiology and PhD student at Uppsala University as well as a transdisciplinary environmental researcher at the Medical Products Agency. 

It was Dr. Becker who suggested applying to Fulbright for a scholarship to continue this work after Linder graduates in May. The Fulbright program is highly competitive, awarding grants to less than 15 percent of applicants. 

“A Fulbright scholarship is a doorway to the worldwide scientific community,” said Dr. Becker. “It’s an incredible honor for Elkanah and a tremendous chance for personal growth.” 

FulbrightOriginally from Vermont, Linder said it was her lifelong appreciation of nature and the environment that inspired her to consider the impact of pharmaceutical waste at a sub-therapeutic level. She speculates a system like that in Sweden may help mitigate the effects of pharmaceuticals on aquatic life and protect the efficacy of human pharmaceuticals.  

“I’m very passionate about being outdoors and very aware of my surroundings and resources, but as a Doctor of Pharmacy student I also recognize the importance of pharmaceuticals and the benefits to patients,” said Linder. 

As a cultural ambassador, Linder will also be helping to offer an elective on pharmaceuticals in the environment at Uppsala University, sharing the pharmaceutical disposal policies that exist in the US. She will also share her culture, spending time outdoors with her community through hiking trips and volunteering on a produce farm.

Linder, who underwent three brain surgeries for treatment of epilepsy, said she has been on a lot of medications throughout childhood and into her adolescent years. “I was inspired to pursue pharmacy because I knew I could bring an empathetic perspective to my patients and I wanted to help people to avoid some of the difficult treatment experiences I had,” she said. 

USciences’ legacy program and the ability to play tennis on the USciences Devils team made the University an easy choice for her.

Throughout the pharmacy program, Linder said she experienced a lot of different perspectives, worked with patients in different populations, and learned the science behind medications. Combined with her focus on public health, she said her education has prepared her for this opportunity to conduct research abroad. 

In addition to Dr. Becker, Linder was aided by Bill Keyes, program manager for International Students and Scholar Services, who guided her through the Fulbright application process, and her campus committee which was comprised of George Downs, PharmD, Daniel Vetnricelli, PharmD, and Cristina Hanganu-Bresch, PhD. Dr. Peterson, and David Kane RPh, JD, also wrote recommendations for Linder’s application and she said she is thankful that they provided her work and research experiences that broadened her interest in the topic.  

“I am looking forward to this incredible opportunity, and representing USciences abroad,” said Linder. “I am so thankful to everyone who helped me with this process. I owe a lot to them.”

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