Patti Ormiston, a pediatric nurse clinical coordinator, discusses her path to the MS in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics (MCST) program.
Read other student stories in the My UMSOP Story series.
What has been your career path?
I graduated from the University of Maryland School of Nursing in 1988 with a BS in Nursing and in 1996 with a Master’s in Nursing. I have been a pediatric nurse and advanced practice nurse for more than 30 years, working as a pediatric nurse clinical coordinator with medically fragile children in my most recent role from 2010 to 2022.
In May 2022, I received a Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. I consider this degree to be my finest achievement. After graduation, I registered as a clinical director with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to better support Maryland medical cannabis patients.
What interested you in learning more about medical cannabis?
Around 2013, about a year prior to the legalization of medical cannabis in Maryland, a friend was experiencing serious side effects from breast cancer treatment. There was always a neighborhood source for illegal cannabis, which many were using as an alternative treatment. It was very scary observing the dangers associated with obtaining and consuming these products that were otherwise helpful in relieving symptoms from cancer treatments. Even after Maryland legalized medical cannabis, the lack of authority around medical cannabis dosing and guidelines alarmed me. Budtenders in local dispensaries and health care providers were making recommendations to eligible patients without clear and established education.
What was your experience like in the MS in MCST program?
Being in the second class and having a class above us was great, as we all continue to support each other. Despite the pandemic, our faculty offered excellent opportunities for networking and student connections with symposiums, guest speakers, and office hours. The faculty and instructors are accessible and support the students throughout the program and beyond. I feel a personal connection with the faculty, even post-graduation, and continue to interact with them regularly. The MS in MCST program also continually refines itself through student feedback.
What were your favorite aspects of the MS in MCST program?
The most important part of the program for me was the connections I made and the daily networking opportunities I had with fellow students through social media, blogs, podcasts, live events, emails, and phone calls. As MS in MCST alumni, we continue to support each other in finding opportunities and networking. Students come to the program from diverse experiences and businesses, which gives all of us a broader perspective into the many aspects of the cannabis culture. We are the trailblazers!
How much did you know about medical cannabis before starting the program?
I was not familiar with the endocannabinoid system despite being in the medical field for more than 30 years. The MS in MCST courses taught me so much about cannabis as medicine: historic medicinal use, politics and prohibition, legislation across the US and internationally, medical benefits and side effects, plant analysis, pharmacologic and dosing considerations, etc. The challenge is to keep up with the evolving medical cannabis industry, legislation, products, and research as we all move forward in the medical cannabis world. I feel uniquely and well prepared with the education and connections I received in this program.
How will you apply your knowledge and skills from the MS in MCST program into practice?
Because of the education I received, I can confidently educate others, especially the nurses and providers I interact with, about the endocannabinoid system and medical cannabis considerations. Although a stigma sometimes persists around cannabis as a dangerous drug, it is widely available throughout the US in legal and illegal markets. My goal is to continue to advocate and consult in support of accurate recommendations of product, safe dosing, and proper delivery methods in all patients. Earning a master’s degree in medical cannabis science and therapeutics was an excellent opportunity to make a difference in the field and continue my education in a more formal setting.