Today is Wednesday, April 20, 2022. I don’t typically publish podcast episodes on Wednesdays, but I have a good reason to publish one today! According to a Time Magazine article, both marijuana smokers and non-smokers agree that April 20 (or 420) is recognized as a national holiday for cannabis culture. In honor of 420, today’s episode is an interview with Leah Sera, PharmD, Program Director of the Master of Science Degree in Cannabis Science and Therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. It’s the only MS Program in the US devoted to the comprehensive and holistic study of cannabis science. If you want to hear about the program and how Dr. Sera uses her voice as an educator, you’re in the right place.
Thank you for listening to episode 145 of The Pharmacist’s Voice ® Podcast!
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Dr. Leah Sera is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science and Program Director for the Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics (MCST) program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. Dr. Sera received her PharmD from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in 2010. She completed a pharmacy practice residency at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, MD and a specialty residency in pain management and palliative care at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. She is a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist and completed a Master of Arts in Instructional Systems Development at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2017.
Dr. Sera teaches in several courses in the MCST program, including an introduction to medical cannabis history, culture, and policy; a course introducing students to patient care and the clinical uses of medical cannabis; she also mentors students in their capstone projects. In the Doctor of Pharmacy program, Dr. Sera teaches a variety of topics in required and elective courses in the Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum. Additionally, Dr. Sera holds an associate faculty position at the University of Maryland Graduate School. Dr. Sera maintains an active clinical practice in the Transitional Care Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, MD.
Dr. Sera has been invited to speak on pain management, palliative medicine, and cannabis therapeutics topics at professional pharmacy conferences and at medical centers such as the National Institutes of Health. She received a Leader in Healthcare Award in the category of medical cannabis from the Baltimore Business Journal in 2020.
Mentioned in this episode
Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana by Michael Backes
Cannabis: A Clinician’s Guide by Betty Wedman-St. Louis (Editor)
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Highlights from the interview
It takes 2 years to complete the MS Degree in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics at The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. 30 credits are required. Classes are primarily online. An in-person visit to campus in Rockville, MD is required once/semester. Classes are asynchronous, which is great for full-time working professionals and parents.
Dual degree opportunity!
PharmD students can also earn a MS Degree in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics and graduate on-time.
Who pursues the MS Degree in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics?
Students must have a BS Degree or higher to enter the program. Past/current students have included pharmacists, physicians, nurses, physical therapists, grad students with basic sciences degrees, attorneys, public health professionals, patient advocates, entrepreneurs, business professionals, and more.
What can graduates do with their degree?
It’s not just one thing. Depending on the graduate’s background and academic goals, they can take what they learned and apply it to their area of expertise. Because this degree is fairly new (2019), there is limited data. Some students have used the degree to
- Expand their practice
- Become an educator
- Pursue entrepreneurship
- As a stepping stone to something else, like quality assurance in industry or pursuing a PhD or other MS Degree (ex: pharmacology, psychology, or business)
What is a common myth or misconception about the MS Degree in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics at The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy?
- It is not a PharmD program.
- Completing the MCST Degree does not lead to any type of clinical licensure.
What’s the program like?
There are foundational courses and electives. To learn more, visit the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s website. The electives help students customize the program to suit their interests, such as law, clinical therapeutics, analytical testing, etc.
Which resources can be useful for learning about Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics?
What’s NOT in the curriculum?
- There is NO hands-on interaction with the cannabis plant.
- There is NO training or education on the cultivation of the cannabis plant.
(**The focus is on therapeutics, health policy, and pharmaceutical sciences.)
- It’s a MS Degree, not a certificate.
- The Program is comprehensive.
- Networking opportunities with other students in the program who are also passionate about medical cannabis science and with industry professionals.
- Diverse learners – not just pharmacists.
- Stepping stone to another degree, if desired.
What if students can’t afford the time or tuition to pursue their MS Degree in Cannabis Science and Therapeutics (MCST)?
- Self-study is an option. There are some professional organizations devoted to medical cannabis advocacy
- Financial Aid is available at the University of Maryland.
- This 2-year program can be stretched beyond 2 years (up to 5 years from the time of enrollment).
How do program graduates keep up with changes?
Get updates sent to you automatically! (Brilliant idea…thanks Dr. Sera!). Ex: keyword searches on PubMed or sign up for newsletters from cannabis societies. Get the information sent to you!
Go to conferences. Examples: Cannabis Conference West in California and Cannabis Conference East in Baltimore, MD. To learn more, visit https://www.cannabisscienceconference.com.
There are textbooks about Medical Cannabis
- Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana by Michael Backes
- Cannabis: A Clinician’s Guide by Betty Wedman-St. Louis (Editor)
What does the future hold for medical cannabis science and therapeutics?
- There will continue to be advances in medical cannabis research in the US and around the world.
- Improved acceptance of cannabis as medicine.