UW Today

April 6, 2011

UW scientist named School of Pharmacy’s Distinguished Alumna

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

The 2010 winner of the School of Pharmacy Distinguished Alumna Award in Pharmaceutical Sciences is Gail Anderson, Ph.D, ’71, ’78, ’87. Anderson, professor of pharmacy at the UW School of Pharmacy, is a nationally recognized expert on anticonvulsant medications and their use in epilepsy.

Dr. Gail Anderson

Dr. Gail Anderson

“It has been such a unique opportunity for me to attend the University of Washington as an undergraduate and graduate student and then to pursue my career here,” said Anderson. “So it is especially meaningful to be recognized by my colleagues in this way. Many of them have been my mentors throughout my academic and professional career.”

Anderson obtained her B.S. in pharmacy in 1978, M.S. in pharmacy practice in 1981and Ph.D. in pharmaceutics in 1987 from the School of Pharmacy. Her Ph.D. adviser was Professor Emeritus of Pharmaceutics Rene Levy, also a renowned expert in antiepileptic drugs. Anderson went on to complete a fellowship at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a National Institutes of Health (NIH) senior fellowship at the Regional Epilepsy Center at Harborview Medical Center.

She has been an investigator on numerous federal and industry-funded research grants and has authored more than 100 publications and book chapters. In 2009, she received an NIH Research Project Grant for $3.3 million for a study of poly-drug therapy for traumatic brain injury.

The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury annually. Many survivors of traumatic brain injury may develop long-term health issues, including epilepsy. Epilepsy is characterized by recurrent, sudden changes in the brains electrical activity, sometimes leading to seizures or convulsions.

“Clinical research has indicated that it is often ineffective to use single drug therapy for patients with traumatic brain injury,” said Anderson. “The purpose of my current research is to identify combinations of drugs that could be used to prevent long-term health issues in brain-injured patients.”

Throughout her career, Anderson has conducted research to try to improve understanding of drug treatment options and health outcomes for people with brain injuries and epilepsy. Her commitment to bettering the lives of these people extends beyond her scientific endeavors. She has served on the professional advisory board of the Epilepsy Foundation Northwest for almost 20 years. In this role, she has devoted countless hours and leadership as a patient advocate and community volunteer.

Anderson joined the faculty in the School of Pharmacy in 1988. As part of a department that focuses on pharmacy practice, she offers an important scientific perspective to Pharm.D. students.

“It is inspiring to find such a distinguished NIH researcher who also contributes such a high level of time and quality to clinical education, classroom learning and the professional mentoring of Pharm.D. students,” said her colleague, Professor of Pharmacy Peggy Odegard.

Anderson is also an adjunct faculty member in the School of Medicines Department of Neurological Surgery. She teaches clinical pharmacokinetics (the study of how the body absorbs, distributes and eliminates drugs) and antiepileptic drugs to students across the health sciences. She has served as a faculty adviser and graduate committee member to a number of postdocs and Ph.D. candidates.  She also precepts pharmacy students at the Regional Epilepsy Center. In 2005, Anderson won the UW School of Pharmacy Gibaldi Excellence in Teaching Award.

Anderson will be presented with the Distinguished Alumna Award by the School and the Pharmacy Alumni Association at the School of Pharmacys Deans Recognition Reception April 7 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.