"You Should Become a Pharmacist"
Rebecca Bock’s Mother Saw Her Love of Chemistry and Thought Pharmacy Would Be a Great Fit. Not Surprisingly, Mom Knew Best
Rebecca Bock always had a passion for science. “Ever since I was in elementary school, I found science fascinating,” said Bock. As she grew older and took classes in chemistry, while attending The Frisch School in New Jersey, Bock discovered a calling.
“I was always very interested in the health field and was looking for something that could incorporate my love for chemistry. One Shabbos meal, I was talking to my parents, and my mother suggested becoming a pharmacist. I looked further into what that entailed and then I realized that being a pharmacist was the exact career I was looking for,” recalled Bock.
After spending a year in Israel at the Midreshet Harova seminary, Bock entered Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women. As a freshman, Bock attended a medical conference and met Touro College of Pharmacy’s Dean of Admissions Heidi Fuchs and the two formed a relationship. “I spoke to her a lot and my passion for pharmacy solidified,” stated Bock, who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in biology.
Bock chose Touro’s College of Pharmacy (TCOP) to pursue her PharmD. “I’m Jewish and Touro is a religious institution and I know that it’s much easier for me to succeed in school if I don’t have to worry about taking off for chagim [Jewish holidays],” she said. “People at Touro understand where I’m coming from. Dean Fuchs told me a lot about the school and its environment, and it sounded like the perfect fit from the beginning.”
While she’s open to the multitude of career paths within pharmacy, Bock is leaning towards industry or clinical pharmacy. “I’m fascinated by drugs and the chemistry behind them,” said Bock. “There are so many mechanisms behind them—not only drugs themselves but how they affect the human body.”
Another drawing point for pharmacy were her future plans. “There’s so much flexibility in what you can do in pharmacy,” explained Bock. “Pharmacy is a great job for people who want to have a nice work-life balance but still accomplish something meaningful.”
Bock has a head start for her future career as she spent the last two summers working on research with Dr. Zvi Loewy, TCOP’s Associate Dean of Research. Last summer, Bock worked remotely with Dr. Loewy on a literature study evaluating the repurposing of existing drugs for COVID-19 using pharmacogenomics. “With pharmacogenomics we can personalize medicine based on a patient’s genetic makeup,” said Bock. “And of course, since we’re using pre-existing drugs, we don’t need to start from scratch and figure out how the drugs are being broken down. This allows the process to run a lot more quickly and efficiently.” Bock used her research for her thesis in college and to write a research paper; the paper was accepted into a scientific journal and is expected to be published this year.
This past summer, Bock received a Student Research Fellowship Grant from Touro University to study the effects of cannabinoids, or chemicals found in marijuana plants, as a potential treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“COPD is the third leading cause of death, and most people don’t even know what it is,” said Bock.
COPD, a group of respiratory diseases, is characterized by inflammation in the lungs that limits breathing. The standard treatment of antibiotics coupled with steroids often fails because bacteria in the lungs are frequently contained in biofilms, coated structures that block the penetration of antibiotics. Bock’s research with Dr. Loewy looked into cannabinoids and their effect on the biofilm.
“We grew biofilms with cannabinoids and let them incubate for six hours and then we took them out to see the extent of biofilm growth,” said Bock. “It’s amazing to witness. Some of the biofilms were gone. We’ve discovered that cannabinoids are effective at inhibiting their growth. This could have a huge impact on the world.”