Wided Najahi-Missaoui, MS, PharmD, doesn’t know the meaning of the word "can't." Since arriving in the United States from Tunisia in 2000, she has earned two graduate degrees (a close friend says she collects degrees like others collect stamps), and accolades. Her mentor, Dr. Michael Griffith Bartlett, who is Professor and Director–BS Program at the University of Georgia (UGA) College of Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical & Biomedical Sciences, says she is "a delightful person and a first-rate scientist." Wided now can add one more accolade to her resume: the first recipient of ISPE's Women in Pharma (WIP) award.
ISPE Board director Fran Zipp spearheaded the formation of the WIP group to support women in the industry. She was co-chair of the initial series, which was launched at the 2016 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo. Donations helped establish a scholarship fund for students at UGA. At that first event, Zipp stated, "In building a career, there are sacrifices. We've all made them. But opportunities don't happen, you create them."
Wided may not have been present at that meeting, yet she lives by those words. She earned a pharmacy degree in 1999 and worked as a retail pharmacist for eight months before moving to Georgia with her husband, Ali Missaoui, who holds a PhD in plant genetics and genomics. She came to the United States with a PharmD from the College of Pharmacy in Monsatir, Tunisia, a scant knowledge of English (Arabic is her native tongue and French her second language), determination, and passion. She went on to earn two master's degrees: one in pharmaceutics from the University of Iowa and one in biochemistry and molecular biology from UGA. "I have known I wanted to be a scientist since I took my first biology class since I was about 13 years old," she says. "I love research, I love science, and I want to use my knowledge to save lives."
Her doctoral studies sometimes had to take a back seat to family responsibilities, "this is my third try", as she raised two boys, now 10 and 13. But it seems that nothing can stop her now.
Wided is currently a fifth-year doctoral student, investigating nanoparticulate drug delivery systems such as liposomes to target therapies for prostate and breast cancer. Her overall goal is to integrate the pathophysiology of cancer with the pharmacology of these drug delivery systems to develop more efficient targeted cancer therapies.
"I want to be a role model to my children, but also to other women," says Wided. "It is hard sometimes to manage it all, but I love all that I do: as a scientist, a student, a mother, and a spouse. Graduate school has been a hard journey, but a gratifying one as well. I did it, and continue to do it, because I love it—not because I expect any reward or recognition. Yet I have to admit that I feel honored and excited to receive this Women in Pharma award."
Join Wided at the ISPE 2017 Annual Meeting & Expo this October. You can send her a note of congratulations at firstname.lastname@example.org.