How I Spent My Summer: White Studies Diabetes Treatments With Eli Lilly

HSOP student Kara White with Auburn alum Dr. Carl McMillian at Eli Lilly

July 22, 2016

By Sarah Russell

AUBURN, Alabama – One of the benefits of the Advanced Pharmacy Practice Program (APPE) at the Harrison School of Pharmacy is the opportunity to get out and learn in a real-world setting. That experience becomes even more special when you have the opportunity to work under a fellow HSOP alum, as Kara White did this summer.

White, a rising P4 from Uniontown, Alabama, has been in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Auburn alumnus Dr. Carl McMillian’s research and development group at Eli Lilly and Company.

“No day is ever the same,” White said. “Having this opportunity to come work at Lilly has given me the opportunity to work not only in the Pharmacokinetics/Pharmacodynamics department but in the cross-functional roles, and reach out to other specialists in other departments, even medical doctors to get a feel of what they do.”

White’s project for the summer involves facilitating the development and testing processes of diabetes treatments.

“Right now I’m working to formulate a model for diabetes,” White said. “So I’m taking preclinical data, looking at the raw data, extracting it from a PDF and feeding it into a model to analyze it so that we have a better outcome when we do clinical trials and predict the potential toxicities that may arise.”

The project’s aim is to make it easier to model and predict when blood glucose levels drop in animal testing of their diabetes medications. This also helps them maintain humane testing environments for their animals.

Aside from her project for the summer, White has enjoyed taking the opportunities to network and explore the wide variety of careers for pharmacists outside the traditional roles.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen numerous career opportunities for a pharmacist,” White said. “It’s given me a chance to shape my career path not just doing research on the internet, but actually working hands-on, side-by-side with the different individuals in the company so that I can broaden my career aspirations to see what’s out there.”

Even more than the work she’s been contributing to, White said she has enjoyed the work environment and professional relationships that come with it.

“My favorite experience so far has been not being treated like a student, like you would on a normal rotation,” White said. “I’m actually treated as if I am an employee here. I get to participate in different activities and network with so many people. We got to tour the manufacturing plant, so that was really exciting to be in the atmosphere.”

McMillian, who graduated from Auburn in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and again in 1993 with a Ph.D., in medicinal chemistry has been thrilled to have White on his team.

“I’m delighted to host the first Auburn student as part of the APPE program,” McMillian said. “I have a personal affection for having someone from Auburn, from Alabama, from the South to join us and actively and engagingly contributing to the work that we’re doing.

“I recognize that what Kara’s doing doesn’t represent the majority of pharmacy students, but we’ve hosted a group of students with an interest in the aspects of industrial research and development and how their pharmacy training and background can be better leveraged there,” he continued. “We try to balance the experience with having an individual project with giving them a breadth of opportunities to see the broader aspects of research and development.”

McMillian said he hopes the new relationship White has helped from between Eli Lilly and Auburn continues with other students participating in similar programs.

“Hopefully she’ll be the pioneer that blazes the trail for others, that if they have an interest, we’ll look for the opportunity,” McMillian said.

White agreed, adding that she would encourage pharmacy students to reach out.

“I would like to challenge all the pharmacy school students—P1 through P4—to reach out and see what experiences the industry may have. You would be surprised, aside from the clinical and retail routes, how many opportunities a pharmacist can have here.”


About the Harrison School of Pharmacy
Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit

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Last Updated: July 22, 2016