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Saving Lives

Sarah Bliese'16 helps health care workers in Kenya uncover counterfeit pharmaceuticals

 

Imagine being hospitalized but knowing that the antibiotic the doctor gives you might not work because it wasn’t stored properly or it was counterfeit. It’s a problem patients in developing countries often face. Sarah Bliese ’16 is trying to change that with a pharmaceutical test card she helped to develop when she was a student at Hamline.

In developing countries, “a lot of antibiotics are left at room temperature, which can cause the active ingredients to become degraded and ineffective,” Bliese said.

Hamline chemistry professor Deanna O’Donnell encouraged Bliese to apply for a research position at the University of Notre Dame in her sophomore year. For two summers, Bliese and Notre Dame faculty researcher Marya Lieberman developed a test card to quickly and inexpensively determine if certain medicines are degraded or fake.

Last summer, Bliese and Lieberman traveled to Kenya to test the cards in clinical environments. Bliese saw the challenges health care workers there face, such as limited lab equipment and frequent power outages. Once, the hospital where she was working ran out of water, she said.

After Kenya, Bliese and Lieberman traveled to London to present their test cards to members of the World Health Organization and Interpol.

Currently, Bliese is pursuing a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry at Notre Dame.

Videos

Watch a Fox9 video featuring Sarah Bliese.

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Sarah Bliese