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photo of winner, PLS members, emcees and event organizers
Winner of the inaugural UHCOP Spelling Bee Samantha Sangabi, front row center, celebrates with her fellow Phi Lambda Sigma members, event organizers and emcees, front row from left, Ngan Nguyen, Anna Cantwell, Sara Mirjamali, Stephanie Crowley, Angelica Asadi and An Ngo; and, back row, Rafael Andujar, Ryan Winslow and Luke Mann.

More than Buzz Words

SCCP Chapter's Inaugural UHCOP Spelling Bee Tests Students, Teases Faculty on Pharmaceutical Names and Medical Terms

Don't think spelling is important to a pharmacist, huh? Have you tried to read some physicians' handwriting? Although the emphasis was on fun, the inaugural UH College of Pharmacy Spelling Bee hosted February nonetheless underscored an often-underrated skill of pharmacists, especially in the community setting.

The event masterminds — SCCP Chapter President Anna Cantwell and Chapter Vice President of Interdisciplinary Development Stephanie Crowley — said they borrowed the idea from another SCCP chapter and started planning for the UHCOP event a year ago. To whet the appetite of the competitors and the organizations they represented, SCCP charged an entry fee of $10 per competitor with the spoils divided between the individual champion and the sponsoring organization.

The event drew 38 competitors — two from each of the college's 19 student organizations — who ranged from first- to third-year students. Through three rounds of grueling and humourous competition, the event concluded with Samantha Sangabi taking the crown for a nice purse of $152 for herself and $228 for her sponsoring organization, Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society.

'F-U-N' for All

Inclusivity, fun and audience participation were high on the priority list, with hyped introductions of contestants, surprise guests and "spot me a letter" and "phone a friend" options for struggling students. Students who got knocked out in an earlier round could also "steal" their way back into the game by correctly spelling a missed word by another player.

"Last but not least, the event was made a million times better by our amazing emcees, Luke Mann and An Ngo," reported Cantwell and Crowley. "We didn’t anticipate how much buzz the event would receive and were very pleased with the finished product."

The organizers put together a bank of words originating from their old class notes, web searches for "complex medical terminology" and "rare diseases," and solicited submissions from registrants. Once all the words were sorted into one of four levels of difficulty and defined, the words were electronically randomized.

Revenge, a word best spelled correctly

For an added dimension of fun (and perhaps a little good-natured dose of "just deserts"), the organizers recruited some "surprise guests" in the form of faculty members Tahir Hussain, Ph.D.; Jeffrey Sherer, Pharm.D., MPH, BCPS, CGP; and Matthew Wanat, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCCP.

In an effort to keep the Spelling Bee fun and interactive we came up with the idea to have “surprise guests” mixed in with the student contestants during round one. Faculty contestants "knew ahead of time that they should add a comedic element to the event and engage in some light, competitive trash-talk." While the faculty members didn't know their exact words ahead of time, they were warned the words would be extremely difficult.

  • For example, the word posed to Wanat in the "easier" first round was "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis," while student contestants in the same round were given such words as "epinephrine." (Wanat's word is actually an invented synonym for silicosis— and the longest English word published in a dictionary — meaning a lung disease caused by inhaling fine ash and sand dust.)
  • Hussain was jokingly given his favorite catchphrase — "hakuna matata" — as his first "word" because it holds a special place in UHCOP students' hearts. Yet, worry did in fact find him when the emcee delivered the real word challenge: "acrocephalosyndactyly."
  • For his part, Sherer (mostly) feigned shock and disbelief when given the oncological medication "tisagenlecleucel," as the organizers knew how much Sherer "enjoyed" the oncology segment of his own pharmacy education.