Profiles in Pharmacy #4 – Karen Wilcox: Researcher
Nov 19, 2019 1:45 PM
Karen Wilcox, PhD, is in the business of improving lives for individuals living with epilepsy.
Wilcox has been discovering novel treatments for epilepsy for over 20 years, and has been passionate about patient care for even longer. Wilcox’s interest in researching the brain was sparked as a child by spending time with her grandparents, who both lived with neurological disorders. She witnessed firsthand the impact these conditions can have on an individual and their loved ones, driving her impetus to make a change in the field of neurological medicine.
As she reached college, Wilcox decided to explore her developing interest by gaining a BA in Psychology, while later moving on to work as a technician for a pharmaceutical company. Wanting to further expand her education and career, Wilcox earned a PhD in the Physiology Department of the University of Pennsylvania.
Around 20 years ago, Wilcox began working in the Anticonvulsant Drug Development (ADD) Program at the University of Utah, of which she is currently the Director. The ADD Program is actively involved in the early identification and characterization of novel investigational anticonvulsant drugs for the symptomatic treatment of epilepsy, while having screened almost all of the anticonvulsant medications on the market today. Under the direction of Wilcox, the program's work has positively altered the lives of countless individuals living with epilepsy across the world.
The most gratifying aspect of Wilcox’s career in epilepsy and neurological research has been the opportunity to make a real difference in patient's lives- many of whom have not had successful condition management in the past. "It’s really rewarding when we go out and meet patients and advocacy groups, and we find that compounds that have been through our program help their family members, people they're associated with, and sometimes even themselves," says Wilcox. "It's rewarding to know that we've made an impact."
Another perk of Wilcox's career is the chance to mentor the next generation of researchers. For PharmD students who are interested in a research career, Wilcox suggests looking into the College of Pharmacy’s PharmD/PhD Pathway or P-SURF Program. The PharmD/PhD Pathway is intended for students who are interested in a career in basic or clinical research, who’d like to graduate from a hybrid accelerated program with both a PharmD and PhD. Current students, no matter their academic pathway, can apply for the P-SURF Program after their first year at the college. P-SURF provides students with an opportunity to undertake an intensive, introductory research experience with faculty in the College of Pharmacy over the course of a summer.
The College of Pharmacy houses an abundance of research labs and programs accessible to all students. Wilcox recommends getting to know the college’s many research faculty and their teams, investigating all avenues of research the College of Pharmacy undertakes. Oftentimes, students are given the opportunity to work in one of the college’s labs by simply showing interest in the team's research and asking to help.
“Profiles in Pharmacy” is a series highlighting the people and careers of the pharmacy discipline.