What is your academic background and why is this area of research important?

Finding the optimal drug regimen is challenging in newborns, infants, and children because of knowledge gaps in pharmacokinetics (PK), pharmacodynamics (PD) and pharmacogenomics (PG) of many medications and the effects of physiological development.

Often health care professionals rely on poor quality data or extrapolate from adult medication use, which leads to suboptimal efficacy and increased risk of adverse effects. Every infant or child can have vastly different responses to a medication, so a one-size-fits-all approach does not work in paediatric practice.  I am building my career to advance clinical pharmacy practice by generating research and linking to pharmacy practice to find optimal solutions to solve complex drug problems in paediatric populations.

I have always had strong interest in this area of focus since enrolling in pharmacy school at the University of Toronto.  I continued to advance my knowledge by completing paediatric PK/PD studies during residency at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), graduate school at the University of Toronto, and by translating my research into practice in my clinical position as a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at SickKids. My goal as a pharmacist and PhD candidate is for every patient to get the right dose of medication accurately and effectively to achieve treatment success and avoid toxicity.

What led you to your current Supervisor’s lab?

The first decision that set the path for my current career was choosing pharmacy and being involved in clinical research during pharmacy school. During my fourth year of pharmacy school, I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct research under the supervision of Prof. Winnie Seto. I am deeply inspired and motivated by Prof. Seto, who was extremely passionate in paediatric pharmacy practice and enthusiastic about clinical pharmacokinetics. It was very rewarding to see my research translate into improved clinical practice at SickKids. My early undergraduate learning experience inspired me to pursue a Hospital Pharmacy Residency/Master of Science Combined Program in Pharmaceutical Sciences, which developed my strong interest in using quantitative methodologies such as PK/PD/PG modelling, machine learning and simulations to personalize dosing of medications for patients.  Based on my desire to extend my knowledge on advanced PK/PD/PG modelling strategies, I decided to pursue the PhD program under Prof. Seto’s supervision.

What are some of the challenges you had to overcome within your research?

A major challenge for me was time management in graduate school with my full-time clinical position at SickKids and the pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am incredibly grateful for the mentorship from Prof. Seto, and the support from Ms. Renu Lal, Clinical Director, Department of Pharmacy, The Hospital for Sick Children) and my coworkers. With limited statistical background prior to graduate school, it was also a challenge to master sophisticated data analysis and modelling using pharmacokinetics software and statistical tools. In addition to taking biostatistics courses and PK modelling workshops, I applied skills to practice in research or quality improvement projects, and clinical consultations for different services at SickKids. I discovered that by overcoming these challenges in graduate school, I can directly use these skills in my current clinical position to improve care for many patients, which is truly fulfilling.

AACP Poster Award Erin Chung
From left: Winnie Seto (Graduate Supervisor), Erin Chung, Renu Lal (Clinical Director, Department of Pharmacy, The Hospital for Sick Children)

How do you see your current research playing a role in your career?

With the growing amount of clinical data available in electronic health records, my current research focuses on using advanced pharmacokinetic modelling and machine learning approaches to improve precision dosing of medications in neonatal and paediatric populations.

From this research, we plan to implement innovative clinical decision making and precision dosing algorithms to help translate this research into clinical practice. After completing my PhD program, I envision starting a research program addressing the need for precision dosing. I plan to continue developing, validating, and implementing models that integrate PK/PD/PG data to clinical practice to improve health outcomes for diverse patient populations at a local, national, and international level. This is especially needed in the vulnerable infants and children with altered pharmacokinetics.

I recently had the opportunity to deliver a winning platform presentation at 2022 ACCP Global Conference on Clinical Pharmacy in San Francisco. I am thankful for the Department of Pharmacy at SickKids for supporting me. My other goal is to advance pharmacy practice on the clinical applications of PK/PD/PG models and the Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (TDM) service provided by pharmacists. I hope to achieve this through continuing education programs and supporting the faculty to educate the future generation of pharmacists.

What do you like to do when you are not working on research?

I enjoy learning new computer programs or applications to design travel photobooks and posters, which have influenced aspects of my clinical and academic career in recent educational and scientific presentations. Having received both formal and informal positive feedback on visually compelling slides and figures, it gave me a sense to keep learning new creative design methods.

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