Meet Sean Vinh
(Sept. 22, 2020) Sean Vinh’s final year at Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy has been a bit different than he imagined it would be due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic has not diminished the sense of community that Vinh has experienced and appreciated during his time at East Tennessee State University.
“I think the friendships I’ve made here are the best memories I’ve made here,” said Vinh, a fourth-year student pharmacist from Knoxville. “We all go through tough times and good times, so it’s always nice to share that with somebody. The community here is really tight-knit, so it’s always good to have someone there for you, and you can be there for someone else, too.”
Vinh completed his undergraduate degree at University of Tennessee. He began his pharmacy studies at UT, as well. However, he transferred to Gatton in his second year because the environment was a better fit for him. At Gatton, he was able to get to know the faculty and enjoy smaller class sizes.
“I chose Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy because I really feel there is a sense of community here,” Vinh said. “The class sizes are great, and the faculty here really try to build relationships with the students.”
In fact, Gatton College of Pharmacy received a 93% student satisfaction rating according to a recent graduating student survey by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy that asked the Class of 2020 whether they would choose their college/school of pharmacy again if they were starting over. ETSU outranked the average of all pharmacy schools in the country, as well as the average of all pharmacy schools in Tennessee, 3-year pharmacy schools, public universities with pharmacy schools in the region and private pharmacy school competition.
In addition to the friendships he has developed, Vinh also has enjoyed some friendly competition while at Gatton. During his third year, Vinh and a team of fellow student pharmacists were the winners of Gatton’s annual “Shark Tank” competition, the college’s version of the popular business pitch reality show.
The students were challenged to develop business plans that addressed health care gaps in the community, region or nation with viable interventions spanning clinical and technological mediums. Each student group presented to live “sharks,” business owners, health care administrators, or related experts who serve as volunteer judges seeking to encourage highly engaged, business-ready professionals to make an impact on a community.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s competition was held on Zoom. Vinh’s group presented the winning business idea, “MedGuardian,” which seeks to help combat the opioid epidemic and reduce opioid-related health care costs through a smart dose dispenser. The product is a locked, tamper-proof smart vial with fingerprint scanner which dispenses the prescribed dosage to the right person at the right time, thus reducing the chance for accidents, diversion or misuse.
“We wanted to find something that was practical and helpful at the same time and incorporate technology to help with a very common problem in this area,” Vinh said. “MedGuardian was this idea to help combat the opioid epidemic. It’s a smart vial that can only be opened by a fingerprint mechanism, so it would be tailored to every patient. The idea is to reduce government spending on the opioid epidemic.”
Vinh is completing his clinical rotations this year and is not yet sure where his career will take him when he graduates from Gatton in May 2021.
“I hope to be a big impact in patients’ lives, whether that be in clinical or a community setting,” Vinh said.